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Interested in Blacksmithing as a Hobby


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Hello everyone, my name is Brandon and I live in Peoria, AZ. I have always been fascinated in metal work, especially blacksmithing, ever since I was a child. I've always loved going to my local renaissance fair, or pioneer village and watching the blacksmith hammer away. I have recently been thinking more about diving into blacksmithing as a Hobby, but I'm not to sure what is recommended to get started. I have researched local classes for beginners, as well as found my local ABANA chapter here in Arizona. Though, I am mostly interested in the old school fashion of blacksmithing which seems to be more rare nowadays. Since I have no experience or knowledge in this field, I'm looking for any advice possible as to what is recommended to learn more about blacksmithing and how to get involved. Thank you for any comments!

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Welcome to the forum. Mind if I ask what you mean by "old school fashion"? The craft has been around for thousands of years,  so a time period would be helpful if we are going to do you any good with advice. Also be aware that, although doing things using antiquated methods is fun and educational,  there is a reason they are antiquated. opting for a rough rock instead of a belt grinder may be a heck of a cool thing to try, but PLEASE don't limit yourself unnecessarily. Again, welcome to the forum and the craft. 

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Tubalcain2, my apologize I should have been more specific in my post. By "old fashioned", I mean not with all of the electric machinery and power tools that modern day businesses would use. I'm a big history buff and the old school way could be anywhere from medieval times to the early/mid 20th century. Though I have to say, some modern day tools sound appealing to make life a bit easier. So, I guess I could say a mix of both worlds is what I am interested in. Since I have no experience, my preferances most likely would change down to road. Thank you again for your response!

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It all depends from what the goal is. if your goal is to make things by forging them, blacksmithing is your thing. However, unless you are going to have reenactment shows and be a curator of a museum, old fashioned methods are fun to watch but not fun to do. Mind you blacksmithing is old fascion per se, but you use all the help you can from modern tools. Blacksmiths of old contrary to popular belief, would not back away from new tools or new ways of doing things. And "traditional" and "modern" are meaningless expressions most of the time.  

I have scratched my head a few times at people who buy pedal driven pedestal drills and restore them and use them in their shop. Cute sure, not practical. 

Having said that, it can be fun as a hobby any way you choose to do it. Blacksmithing groups are the way to go. 

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Great Medieval times allows you to use power hammers and large water powered grindstones and coal (if you are high to late medieval.) Also remember that early smithies would have at least 3-5 people working in them. If you try to do it all by yourself IT IS NOT OLD FASHIONED!   That crept in when electric motors allowed you to replace helpers pretty much in the last 100 years.

For an interesting take on Renaissance technology look through De Re Metallica.

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One of the great things about blacksmithing as a hobby (rather than as a livelihood) is that you get to play with just these kinds of things, trying out different techniques and tools and going with what's fun rather than what's economical. Sometimes, though, you can discover that primitive-for-the-sake-of-primitive has limits to its appeal, and that  a more "modern" (mechanized, electrified, not-found-before-1830, etc) method can be both more enjoyable and free your time and energy up for other things. For example, the first knife I made was completely by hand, including filing and hand-sanding. Took forever. The second one got a lot of attention from the angle grinder, and went much faster.

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If you are interested in traditional smithing, then start with the basics. That is a forge, post vice, anvil, and a good cross peen hammer.

The more you learn about this very simple, setup the more this craft will "fire" up your life, so to speak. All other tools will fall into place as your knowledge grows.

And, for what it's worth, those simple tools are as pertinate today economically as they were years ago, should you choose to pursue this great craft for more than a hobby.

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12 hours ago, bluesman7 said:

I use electric tools in my shop, but I attended a four day hammer in [Loveland CO] where there were seventeen forges and no electricity. All of the tools and blowers were human powered. It was pretty cool and inspiring. 

When the Y2K scare was orbiting the earth, I began collecting tools that did not require electricity. It was a very calming/humbling experience and to this day I will use them for that reason. Not being able to use the power hammer does have it's drawbacks though.:) Anyone need some kerosene lamps?

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I flew on a commercial plane Jan 1 Y2K, Well I was scheduled to fly; they didn't have a crew with enough non-drinking time to fly us out... Working in the technology field, I had no fears about Y2K and bought a lot of hand powered stuff at garage sales *afterwards*.

IDF&C; I still use my kerosene lanterns for camping and when we get the power knocked out.  I have a lantern and matchers where I can find them in the dark

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Turns out I like the light from the lanterns better than the large coleman propane lanterns or the electric lanterns.  Never understood why folks wanted to be night blind on a campout .  Of course out here in the high and dry I once read a page of a standard print book by starlight!

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Thank you all for the responses, I greatly appreciate it! A couple questions I have are, what is the best homemade setup you all have used/seen? I hear alot about brake drum forges and other similar ideas (BBQ forge, etc.), as well as a railroad tie for an anvil. But I'm not sure what is a good basic setup for a beginner. 

Also, I've read online about blacksmithing beginner classes and open forge days. I hope to take a beginner class to learn the basics, but would there be any point in going to an open forge day. Not to actually work but to observe and ask questions? Not sure if there is any benefit in that for newbies yet. Thanks again for all the help!

RR Tie make terrible anvil as the wood burns

 

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When I respect anyone's choices to do their work anyway they please, I am usually curious about the motivations behind the idea of "traditional" workshop.

for example ... in response to people asking questions about anvils in this forum, sometimes others post videos of smiths working in appalling condition crouching in the dirt using a rock and an old pipe as anvil and hammer. When well intentioned this examples miss the mark. Those smith would take up good quality tools in a heartbeat if they had half a chance. therefore their ingenuity is driven by desperation and not by choice. A blacksmith 300 year ago was a professional at the peak of the metallurgical knowledge in his time and had the best he could possibly afford his "traditional" methods were not a choice but only limited by what was available in his time. So once more a top notch blacksmith in the 1700 did not work that way to be part of some cultural traditional way but because that is the best way to do it back then. 

Short of the Amish who have their own peculiar interpretation of the bible and chose to limit the technology to pre-electricity yet still have air driven power tools, no one today has explained to me the reason behind choosing to do something the hard way because of this ethereal notion of tradition.

Take that little and very interesting discussion we had not long ago about the 3 way join in that window grill. After much umming and ahhing it was decided that it must have had a pin in the diagonals. (I wasn't convinced but it does not matter) So lets say they used to do it with a pin. And yet the way the Op did it was to drill a hole, with an electrical drill, make a pin with a lathe, drill a hole in the diagonal with the lathe and mill the diagonal in a mill to make it fit the corners. Is the result a traditional joint?

Filing the diagonal edges, MIG it in place and file the weld flat would have been just as good. 

But that is only my (traditional) opinion :)

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A number of people have quite rightly mentioned that "traditional" depends heavily on the time period you're looking for. One thing that gets overlooked is the "where" of it, too. Modern, up-to-date blacksmithing being used to forge tools for farming uses a simple block of steel set on the ground, wood burned to charcoal as it's being worked and a hand crank blower .... If you're in Kerala, India. You can probably find people using double animal-skin bellows and a hole in the dirt if you look around today in rural Africa.

The United States used charcoal longer than England did due to details of industry. I think that the nailmaking shops in post-colonial times were still hand drawing individual bars rather than using slit nails as was common in England at that time. Technology, time, geography all matter.

It's possible that there never was a place-time that used the technology as you envision it. I think the overall theme of the responses was to not make things harder than they need to be to get started. It's hard enough. As you learn more technique and history, you can narrow in on what you prefer.

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Perhaps a fairer and less contentious description of one's workshop would be low tech as opposed to high tech.

I mostly chose to use low tech ways to do things whenever practical but go for high tech solutions if they save me time and produce the same result. 

There are situations where high tech produces low quality work, for example using a hebo machine. And the opposite, for example if you use a CNC table for silhouette cutting instead of a bunch of chisels files and a hammer and anvil. 

I think ... and that is my personal perception, that some people get stuck into this concept of traditional, as if it encompasses some form of virtue, and that other 'non traditional' ways are some form of betrayal to be avoided. 

I remember my old boss when I was 15 who thought he was sinning when using an electric welder instead of drilling and secret riveting the scrolls in a grill or a bedhead. 

Bottom line, if you just get started, you start any way you can, and the most important is to learn how to do things properly without adding another layer of handicap. Properly meaning how to achieve the target result and not so much about the elegance or otherwise of the method used. 

I wish you all the best in your new endeavors and don't forget to post photos of your journey. 

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Ok, I found this ad of Craigslist from a person very close to my house. Would any of this stuff be worth haggling for? 

<commercial link removed>

Edited by Mod34
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Craigslist is your friend

Be patient stuff comes up all the time be ready to pounce.

It took 8 months but I got a 4.5" leg vise on a huge mobile post mount, 100 lbs anvil and a nice little rivet forge with blower for $340 all in.

I am also a newbie but now have a couple dozen fires unnder my belt and im hooked big time!!  Good luck

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Back a decade or two ago; someone was posting that they were a "true path" blacksmith; because they were using an ahistorical mix of stuff they thought was "traditional".

In reply another poster coined the term "twisted path" blacksmithing and I've adhered to that ever since.

I can do a demo using Y1K tools, materials and methods I have the kit for that; but my knees and back greatly prefer I use Y2K+ kit or Y1.9K kit.

I feel people should use what they are comfortable using HOWEVER *never* misrepresent what you are doing!  You are not doing "viking" smithing using A36 and a coal forge!

Many people get their ideas on how smithing was historically done from movies, video games and fantasy books; unfortunately these sources are seldom accurate.

Well time for lunch and reading more of "The Sword and the Crucible"  A history of the Metallurgy of European Swords up to the 16th century...

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