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Joshua Taylor

Beginning Tools/Where to Start?

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Hey guys, fair warning, this thread will have a lot of rambling and random questions I couldn't seem to find the answer to, or at least want a second opinion on.

So I've been looking around here, researching practically everywhere, and I've come up with the same answer. Which, makes sense given what the tools I need are used for;

Something hard and solid to shape the metal on

Something hard to whack the metal with

Something hot to heat the metal to a working temperature

I doubt I'll have a single issue with any of these at all, seeing as how I live in NC and I know of several scrap yards in my near area... Now, that being said, I want to know what /else/ I might need for the work that I want to do. (That'll come into play later.) I want to ideally get to the point of making knives, and possibly in the future, swords/medieval style weaponry.

With that, I figured I'd need an angle grinder, potentially a welder incase I need to do any sort of pre-forging fabrication. Before I jump right into making a knife, I want to work on the basics of forging and hone my skills (IE tapering, upsetting, beveling the metal prior to grinding, twisting, riveting, etc.) I looked around and couldn't seem to find anyone in my area (or within a two-three hour drive of me) that I could take lessons and such from. That being said, I feel like I'm going to have to self teach myself via youtube and forums like these. While learning those above-mentioned techniques, I figured I may as well use them to make more tools for the future. It'll be a good way to start out, and if I mess up, it won't be that much stock wasted.

Coming out of that small monolouge, this is where I want your guys opinions; Should I get a bench grinder, angle grinder, welder, or any other tools beyond those primary 3 you absolutely need to forge with? If so, what do you recommend? (Keeping in mind budget, I want a fairly mid-lower line tool that I can use and abuse as a beginner and not regret when it breaks.)

Honestly, where should I start to begin teaching myself those key techniques? I watch a lot of Alec Steele videos, and I was figuring doing some small trinqute work like making leaves and such. (I know the obvious answer is 'Well just go out there and start banging away with a hammer!' but I want a little more elaboration on it than that. Also, if there's any blacksmiths near Jacksonville, NC I'd love to speak with you.)

The big question, coal vs gas, which one would you all recommend I use? Honestly, it seems like personal preferance from what I've read as they both do the same thing. Coal is fairly inexpensive, and I feel like it'll teach me heat management as well. I was thinking about taking a page out of everyone elses' books and making one out of a 55 gallon drum. Do any of you guys have any decent schematics or tutorials on that, seeing as how I've honestly never welded anything in my life.

I don't want to forge in my garage, simply because I'm in a rental and if I'm working with coal, it could cause a fair bit of damage to the house, with the possibility of those noxious gasses leaking into my house as I work. I don't want to work in my drive way, because from what I've seen it's fairly difficult to judge the heat of the metal in the sun. I was thinking of getting some 4x4s, plywood, and other things of that nature to build myself a rag-tag hutch on the backside of my house to work in. Your thoughts on that?

And lastly; any advice for a beginner like me? As I said in my introduction thread, I'm currently deployed to Afghanistan and won't be home for several months so I'm doing a lot of my research and planning now so I can efficiently execute it when I get back and get a good idea on what kinda money I need to set aside for my newfound hobby!

Thanks a million everyone! (I know it was a lot, but I would love to hear what everyone has to say!)

-Josh

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Welcome aboard!

Yes to the angle grinder. Dewalt makes great tools, and their 4.5'' angle grinder is no exception. The welder can wait. Bench grinders are good for some things, but even a 4x32 belt sander would probably be more useful to you (just stick with the angle grinder, if you are on a tight budget). You're going to want a good vise (preferably a leg vise), and some proper sets of tongs. You don't need many hammers, but make sure to get one that is the proper size for you. Don't forget about good sharp files, if you don't already have some. As for the forge, gas or charcoal is the way to go if there are other houses near by. Look up the JABOD threads, if you are interested in a dirt cheap (literally!) starter forge. I love working with coal, but make sure you have a hood and good ventilation, because it makes a lot of nasty smoke.

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Thanks, I'll absolutely check out those threads! I like to learn as much as I can so I know what I'm heading into before I jump in the deep end. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll probably stick to a charcoal forge seeing as how I'm a newbie. Less things to go wrong. ;)

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Greetings Josh,

         There is what I feel the best school for blacksmithing in N.C.  John C Campbell.  Check it out on the web . 

     Forge on and make beautiful things

     Jim

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Angle grinders are just files and hacksawas, they are realy helpful but you still want the hand tools. 

Tongs, you need tongs..

I like pressure treated fence panels, as most folks don’t use in ground rated lists they are easy to find used or scrap this time of year. Also the steel Carlotta work great and can be closed in for the cost of roofing. 

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I second the angle grinder. It's just a handy all around tool if you're working metal. A small MIG welder (with gas bottle) was about the handiest tool in my shop when I bought it (Lincoln 135 Plus). Then I built a 2 x 72 belt grinder out of an old treadmill and some square tube. You'll love having one of these if you're making knives. Don't know how I lived without that tool (It's the handiest tool in the shop now). A vise. Tongs are useful. Some rebar to weld on to billets for handles. A Winco BR-9 butcher block brush for scale removal. Ear muffs, goggles or face shield, welding gloves and helmet, other PPE.

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I bought an ancient Lincoln "Tombstone" AC  welder and it's been a great addition for making tooling for my shop---and every once in a while I get a commission that uses it too.  They generally can be found on CL or other *local* source, *cheap* and older may be better if you get s copper wound one.  (Mine is probably older than I am and I have 8 grandkids...)

Angle grinder is a must and an industrial quality used one is better than a "light duty" brand new one.

Knife/swordmaking you will need a belt grinder (and definitely a good one for swords!  Rigid, adjustable speed, fast belt change, good tracking, etc)

Don't forget BOOKS!  Start out with basic blacksmithing books, move on to the $50 knife shop and introduction to knifemaking, then JPH's series,...you will run out of money before you can run out of books! 

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JT, I only have a couple of years of forging down and <gasp> I haven't made a knife yet.  I've been doing exactly what you plan to do, which is making hooks and hardware.  In fact I just made two lantern hooks for kerosene lanterns we have in our dining room.  We lose power 6-8 times a year where I live and the lantern hooks just saw service last weekend when we lost power.  Don't think there isn't satisfaction in making the "uncool" stuff because there is.  When the power went out, I knew my lantern hooks were made to specs to be just the right height and distance from the wall & ceilings with a hook at assures that it won't be knocked over.  I definitely felt a measure of quiet & silent satisfaction seeing the hook function as planned.  Try to find one at the big box store that's perfect for what you need.  Could I make a knife?  Yeah, I know I could and may get around to that this year but I'm having too much fun learning the other stuff.  I think you short-change yourself if you just set out to make knifes and swords.  There are plenty of guys here who've never made a sword that are super skilled blacksmiths.  

On tooling, I bought a Porter Cable angle grinder (much cheaper but not the cheap of the cheap) and I've been grinding stone axes and metal work with it for 8 or 9 years and it's going strong.  You can find serviceable hammers new at Harbor Freight, just get the wooden handled ones and made the striking surface radius rounded (there are threads about this).  Buy a few pairs of tongs to get you going and as your skills progress there is a product called Quick Tongs sold buy a guy that are fairly easy to make and much cheaper than buying new.  Black Bear Forge did a nice video on them and how to forge them.  Go to flea markets.  My uncle lived in Fayetteville and worked on base at Bragg.  There are a ton of flea markets in the area where you should be able to find tongs and hammers much cheaper than buying new.  The belt grinder.......well, you may not need one right away.  Better to save up for that and put the money you have toward an anvil in my opinion.  When your skills rise to the level of knife making, you can then go out and make or buy a decent grinder.  I think one should do some hand filing and angle grinding in order to appreciate a nice belt grinder when you get it.  I still don't own a nice belt grinder.  I want to build the skills to not rely on heavy grinding to make things. 

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MCH living in rural areas in a state with high winds we use the S hook that hangs from  the kitchen light on a regular basis too.  I keep a filled kerosene lantern in a known place along with matches that I can find in the dark  and it's no problem having light without power.  (Propane kitchen stoves too---keep the refrigerator closed and it will cost for a day...)  Actually the first s hook goes on the light's chain. Its on a chain over the kitchen table in the casita and on a chain NOT over the kitchen table at the house.  So at the casita I have a small S hook to take up chain so it's high enough I don't bang it with my head on a regular basis. At the house we installed a hook on a ceiling joist and then hang the light so it's directly over the table without having to move the electrical connection. (side effect is to raise it out of head banging height...)

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In a small kitchen eating nook I tend to lean forward as I get up from the table. (And a bad habit of setting the table from one side; taking the plates from the hutch and leaning over and setting them on the far side of the table...) It's my house I'll engineer it to suit myself!

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The one tool I haven't seen mentioned yet is a hand drill and index of drill bits! You don't need a welder for most steel fab, holes and screws, nuts and bolts or rivets do for most things. If you get one of the better ones with the impact setting they're a treat for driving wood screws too.

A good beginner practice project are shelf brackets. A little decorative forging, accurate bending and punching or drilling to hang on the wall and attach the "hip" brace. It's a win win, you'll have a place to put all the tools you'll accumulate.

Say, basic hand tools, smooth faced hammers under 2 lbs. I recommend 2 lb. drill hammers the shorter handle makes control easier. Cross peins are very useful once you get the hang of them. Maybe the type hammer I use most is the rounding hammer, again, 2 lbs. till you've developed proficiency. too heavy tends to make your mistakes permanent more quickly, tires and even injures you. Next you need to be able to cut your stock, a hack saw is a must hand tool even if you have power saws you  need a hack saw. Chisels are a must for cutting hot steel. Punches are good projects. Files are good. Old horse shoe rasps are excellent for hot rasping steel. Various TPI and shape bastard and draw files are a must have.

Hmmm?

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thomas - My lantern hooks are the standard "L" shape with a nice scrolled hook on the end that sticks out from the wall.  I have hand hewed beams from an 1860's barn that I put up in my dinning room so the hooks look good screwed into the beams with flat wood screws.  This time I counter sunk the screws so that they looked nice and flush with the surface of the forged piece.  I could have counter sunk them on the drill press but decided it would look better if I did them with a punch so I punched the holes from one side then drilled the hole later.  I couldn't find matching colored / sized screws so I found 4 (made two lantern hooks) that were the same size and just let them get hot in the forge after it was shut down then applied bee's wax and they matched the hook perfectly.  I have to make one for the living room & bath room at some point but am thinking about one that pivots on a rivet so it can extend out when in use and back in when not in use.  Dang this stuff is fun!!!  What I like the most is that it's custom to what I need.

JT - think about a drill or a drill press too.  Both will help a lot, but don't shy away from learning to punch holes the old fashion way.  I still have my first slug that came out of my first punched hole.

 

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I appreciate the insight from everyone! I definitely will need to make a working list at some point, and go on a shopping spree at Lowes, or glance around flea markets as they pop up. I posted another thread deeper in the forums about making my own forging hut... I think that would be the best place to start, as having a dedicated space for working will make a huge difference as I'll know what tools to dedicate to which spots. Keep the info coming, it's definitely a help!

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A hut will be a good place to put the shelves you're going to make brackets for. Perfect! :)

Frosty The Lucky.

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