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Josh you've covered things pretty well.  I like that you are thinking things through before jumping in.  

My two cents.......spend your money on a good anvil.  Certainly buying a new solid tool steel anvil is nice, but you can also buy a used one it just takes time to find one.  Many people has said in past threads that what you spend on an old anvil could get you a new anvil made of tool steel and they are right, but, I think you can buy a larger old anvil.  I spent $300 on my first anvil but it is 179#'s.  It's not perfect, but I think I got more anvil for my dollar than what I could have afforded with a new $300 anvil.


Network to find tongs, but I must also agree that you should buy a good pair of wolf jaw tongs or V-bit tongs.  V's can hold round and square stock / wolf jaws can hold several different types and sizes of steel stock.  You could easily buy a pair of wolf jaws to get started then look around at flea markets and junk shops.  I picked these tongs up for $7 each and they are Champion brand.  Price the equivalent pairs bought new.  The solid steel piece in the middle was thrown in free.  I plan on cutting it off and making a hardy tool out of the T section.  Picked up a third pair from the same junk shop for $10 on another stop there.  So that's $24 spent which is probably not even the price of one set of new tongs.  But....it takes time to find these places and work on relationships with the owners.


I second the eye and hear protection as well as having your fire to the side of your tarp.  Keep your anvil in the shade under the tarp as that is where you'll be standing 80 % of the time.  I bought my first gas forge new.  You can make them for cheap, way cheaper but I just unboxed it, hooked it up to gas and started forging.  Some things you need to take your time doing and other things are more efficient to just buy them to get started. 

If I were you, I'd come up with the total budget you can afford to spend and then maximize that money by listing what you want to buy.  You may find that buying this or that used allows you more money for a new anvil or that you have a few hundred more dollars to spend on tooling. 

Good luck and keep your head on a swivel over there.  There are those of us who keep you and your brothers in our thoughts daily.  We haven't forgotten about the good work being done and the good work that still needs to be done over there. 

Oh, and the hammers hanging from my anvil stump - the ones on the left are two Harbor Freight specials and all the other ones were bought at antique shops or on ebay for cheap.  I had to put handles or re-wedge all of them.  I bought the HF hammers first to just get started - nothing at all wrong with how they move metal once profiled correctly and handles slimmed down to the correct diameter for good forging.  But........it's taken me 2 years to build up the tools I have and it wasn't an instant thing.

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How true swedefiddle.  I was at a family thing today and my cousin said "Anvils, I have like 12 of them on my property in the garage and in all my outbuildings, I'll give you one.  I just gave a 300# anvil away to my friend last year."  Um, yeah, I'm going to be calling him right away for sure.  They could be total garbage, or they could be very nice, you just never know 

Biggun - yeah I feel blessed to have my Trenton and a year isn't bad but felt like an eternity.

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Well, thankfully I get paid a little extra for my time over here in Afghanistan. I should have a fairly decent chunk of change to invest in a hobby. My wife is all for it, as she's a huge fan of Forged in Fire just like me. So I'm sure I could get away with spending a few extra bucks for some decent equipment without her getting angry. (Happy wife, happy life, right?) I'm probably just going to shoot for a smaller sized anvil, nothing to major, and probably drop a few hundred on it. In my opinion, having a decent anvil is one of the more important bits. You can make, upgrade, and change a forge fairly easily without spending too much money, same thing for most tools. An anvil is really the only thing that if you wanna upgrade, you're going to have to invest quite a bit.

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I would say to try and find one around 100 pounds Josh. Again, I have very little experience to draw from, but in that little experience I've found you will outgrow a small anvil (like a piece of track) rather quickly, and a 100-ish pound is fairly decent all around and easier on the budget. If you are making the investment  it is harder to outgrow rapidly. I have a 110 pound currently. While I would like a 300 pound German anvil, there is nothing that I am doing that mine won't do. It has sufficient mass and working area, and it is easy to move if I need to. 

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What I started with and still use often, instead of tongs, are vice grips.  They were invented by a Dewitt, NE blacksmith about 1910 who was tired of dropping hot iron on his feet.  Get the real Vice Grip brand, not the cheap Chinese ones.  Also, get the ones that are marked Dewitt, Nebraska.  The family owned Vice Grip Company sold out to a Canadian firm some years ago and the Canadians closed the Nebraska plant and moved production to China, cheaper costs, more profit, and blew the economy of a small mid-western town to xxxx and gone.  Personally, I refuse to buy the new ones made overseas.

As an old geologist, I have to disagree with the notion that air blast has much to do with how much clinker you have to deal with in a coal forge.  Clinker is the portion of the coal that is incombustible, also known as ash content.  It will vary from coal field to coal field and sometimes between particular seams in an individual field.  The best coal for blacksmithing is one that has a good coking ability since that is what we are actually burning.  I think that many of the poor experiences that people have had with coal forges result from not using a good coking coal and not understanding how to manage a coal fire.  You say that you are a Forged in Fire fan.  You will recall how some of the folk have had a very hard time heating their steel when they are required to use a coal forge.

Also, if you are setting up your shop in close proximity to neighbors consider using coke instead of coal.  It produces little, if any, smoke and odor.  However, you have to keep an air blast to it all the time or the fire will die out.  You can leave it for a few minutes to go into the house and get a cold beverage or attend to bio needs but if you take time to eat lunch your fire will be out when you return.  If you are using an electric blower you may be able to leave it on low.  I have just gotten used to having to turn the crank every few minutes if I am working on the bench.

PS As an old Viet Nam infantryman on this Memorial Day weekend I will tell you to stay safe and keep your head down.  Stay out of harm's way.

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Dear Arkie,

Thanks, but please, this Memorial Day, think of the young men and women who weren't as fortunate as I was and never got to come home and grow old.

"They will not grow old, as we who are left grow old,

Age shall not weary them or the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them."

                         -Laurence Binyon, "The Fallen"

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The Peterson Wrench company was sold by Mr. Peterson's heirs  to the Black and Decker corporation of Stanley tools. That company is still resident in the United States. It is not Canadian as far as I am aware.

Yes that conglomerate behemoth has closed their plant and off-shored it to China.

The innuendo that a Canadian company is guilty of off-shoring American jobs is erroneous.

Mr. Peterson, a blacksmith, invented his locking pliers in 1924 and not 1910.

I can expand as to the real U. S. tax law causes that make U. S. job reduction attractive but it is not a proper subject for this site, so I will desist.

Permit me to quote a paragraph from Wikipedia that succinctly states what I have averred above.

"  In 1924, another blacksmith, Danish immigrant William Petersen of DeWitt, Nebraska, invented the first locking pliers[4] and named them Vise-Grips.[5] In 1934, Petersen formed the Petersen Manufacturing Company to produce them.[6] In 1957, Petersen added an easy-release trigger to the design, creating the modern locking pliers design.[7]

In 1985, the Petersen family American Tool Companies and bought out Petersen Manufacturing.[clarification needed] In 1993, American acquired the Irwin Tool Company, and in 2002, Newell Rubbermaid acquired American. In 2003, the company officially changed its name to Irwin Industrial Tool Company.[8]

In 2008, Irwin announced the closing of its DeWitt, Nebraska plant, ending 80 years of American production for Vise-Grips, citing a necessity to move production to China "to keep the Vise-Grip name competitive."[9]

In 2010, Irwin closed the customer service office in Wilmington, OH and moved the customer service department to Huntersville, NC.

In October 2016 Stanley Black & Decker Inc agreed to buy Newell Brands Inc.’s tools business for $1.95 billion in cash. The acquisition was completed in March 2017."

I hope that this note helps correct misstated facts and absolves Canada and Canadians of job stealing in  the United States.




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Well said George.  Memorial Day is a time to remember those that gave all they had.....their life.  We cannot forget.

I second what Sfeile said as well on the anvil size.  100 - 150 pound anvil is a good size that can do just about anything you need to do.

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Sweet, sounds like I'm gonna shoot for about a 100 pound anvil. May not be a top of the line one, but I sure as heck don't need one seeing as how I'm going to ding the ever loving... You know what, out of it. George, thank you for serving brother. It's men like you that the Corps likes to idolize, as do I. And I feel the same way about Memorial Day... My family posts all about me, though I always politely correct them that I'm active duty. I'm still alive, I'm one of the lucky ones. Memorial Day is about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty for our beautiful God-given country. I'll be sure to keep my head down, seeing as how I look forward to meeting as many of you lovely people as I can face-to-face.

I'll leave you all with a few words of wisdom;

"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." -John F. Kennedy

Semper Fidelis,


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Note: as an old geologist I have to say that airblast DOES play a part in how much clinker is produced; as increased airblast burns coal at a faster rate and so more coal burnt means more crud in the coal is left to form clinker.  It can also lead to an oxidizing fire and part of clinker is scale from the workpiece too.

George; are you in N.M. like I am? There is an ABANA affiliate around Albuquerque; I'm in the southern part and in central part (work:home).

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I agree that scale will add to the weight and volume of the clinker. Scale is added material from something other than the coal.

Please explain how a 5 gallon bucket of coal burned slow produces less clinker than the same 5 gallon bucket of coal burned fast. Clinker is a percent of the product as listed in the analysis of the coal.

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Dear Slag,

Thank you for your correction re the corporate history of vice grips.  I looked at it a few years ago. I apparently erroneously recalled that the Peterson Family had sold to a Canadian firm.  I can still hold a grudge against the Peterson successors for closing the Dewitt plant and sending US jobs overseas.  Also, thank you for your date correction.  I had been told 1910 years ago and that had stuck with me.  My apologies to the Maple Leaf folk.

Thomas, I am in NE Colorado.  However, we are looking at relocating.  Northern NM is one of the locations on the short list.  We've been putting lots of effort into renovating our house and that is where my focus has been.  That is why I haven't been to Battlemoor for the last couple of years.  I hope to be more visible here, at SCA events, and blacksmithing events in the future.  I'd rather be hitting hot iron than tiling or sheet rocking or stripping paint that the previous owners had put on the hardwood trim.

More coal burned means more ash left behind as clinker.  Also, at a higher blast there may be more air incorporated as bubbles in the clinker which would increase volume without increasing weight.  I find that coke still produces clinker but it seems to be less than when I burn green coal.  The coking process only drives off volatiles, not the ash.


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On 5/24/2018 at 3:34 AM, Joshua Taylor said:

And I do my best, we just got a couple of angry fans that like to throw mortars at our base and shoot at us... Nothing a little return fire won't help though! :)

Truth! I spent many a night in the scud bunkers of Camp Victory in Baghdad in 2004-05. They liked tossing mortars at us too.

Keep your head down brother.

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Rigid  Ridgid tools also sells good double horn cast forged steel anvils, and as any one who seeks Ridgid tools (just about any one dealing in plumbing) can order them for you they are available. With the inflation of used anvil prices this is affordable. 

Now let this old grunt remind you, if the wife like hot steel get her butt in the smithy with a hammer! JLP services (aka Jenifer) is a great example of an inspirational Smith, the fact she is an easy to look at woman is just icing on the cake. 

Embrace the suck young man, hope to see you in the real world.

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4 hours ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Rigid  Ridgid tools also sells good double horn cast steel anvils

FYI, it's "Ridgid". I'm normally happy to give Charles's creative spelling a pass, but we don't want to misdirect our neophyte.

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