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I Forge Iron

Is it ever like the first time again?

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G'day all!

To celebrate International Blacksmith day I finnaly got a chance to put hammer to hot iron. Okay, I didn't realize it was this much fun.

Here are some pictures of the set-up and I'll try to get a write-up of the experience for everyone to read if I can get away from the chores I didn't do this afternoon. :o






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nice job the level of fun only goes up from here
you will get better heat and less downtime if you skip the briquets find coal charcoal wood corn (yes i have used all of these and they all work well) or something that dosent contain a mass of limestone most of your heat goes to makeing quicklime and not to the iron
thus more hammer time

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As a matter of fact, yes, it does just happen to be a horse chestnut. I thought it was fitting.

As for the coal, it is heating anthracite, all I could get for now but I did notice that once the fire had burned down some it lost all its heat. I have a good stash of charcoal to use at the moment, but I suspect that will be burned through pretty darn soon. Thanks for the tip.

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Breaking that coal into walnut size may help with keeping the fire hot. After a period of time checking to make sure that a clinker hasn't blocked the tuyere may help the air flow. Of course, now that you're a blacksmith, you already knew all of this.

"Is it ever like the first time again?"
NO. Thankfully.
It's like kissing women(for me). It got better with practice and I found out that there's more than one way, then the wife caught me and I took up blacksmithing. 8o)

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It gets better, it gets harder, you learn stuff, repeat ad infinitum.

I like the part where someone will ask, "Where did you buy that, that is cool?".
And you casually reply, "I made it."
Gasps of awe and admiration all around, thank you very much.

Fire, hammers, poundin' on stuff, YEE HAW!


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Breaking that coal into walnut size may help with keeping the fire hot. After a period of time checking to make sure that a clinker hasn't blocked the tuyere may help the air flow.

Yea, I bought "nut" sized coal, but it came in much larger chunks than I expected, I had planned to crunch it for next time. I couldn't find any clinkers while I was working, and I had my ash dump refuse to open for some reason. I had the blower open last week to weld a blade back to the fan and the ash dump didn't seat properly apparently.
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Lol, you tell me Stonetrooper, but they warned me that it is an addiction. I can tell you just the way the metal felt under the hammer and the shapes of it as it came off the anvil are worth the effort, THEN you get to also create something unique.

I'll try to get the time to post a more detailed account of what I did tomorrow, my chores took longer than I expected!

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Can somebody explain to me why I love blacksmithing so much and yet I have never hit a piece of red hot iron. I'm already hooked and cannot wait to get started. Good for you Gobinu. Hopefully I'll be joining you soon.

Hmmmm. Let me see, why DO guys love blacksmithing?

You HAVE to play with fire, not just any old fire either one that'll melt steel.

You HAVE to hit things with hammers. HARD!

You get to make STEEL do what YOU want.

You HAVE to make lots of noise and not just any noise, it's noise most people enjoy hearing.

Most people think that the dirtier you are the better you are.

You get to see the results of your endeavors right then and there.

Hmmmm. Why DO guys like smithin?

Beats me. :cool:

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Way back when I was a kid,(many years ago), my dad had a little forge in a shed behind the barn. He was not a blacksmith really, but rather a farmer who used the forge to make simple repairs. A lot of those 'simple repairs' he made are still holding well after 40+ years.

Like any farm kid, I wound up cranking the blower, fetching water for the slack tub, packing coal to the forge, and occasionally was the 'striker'. I got to tinkering with the forge all by myself........burning up pieces of iron.........twisting/mangleing iron into unrecognizable shapes. At some point early on, I remember saying to myself "I like this!"......and I always have liked blacksmithing.

James Flannery

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This is the boat I'm in. I too create things. I'm am a graphic designer for The Home Depot in marketing and advertising. I spend months upon months sitting in meetings, sitting in front of a computer, pushing a mouse around, making requested changes to an ad (move this down a little, make that a little bigger). All this just to sell some products from The Home Depot and make someobody else a lot of money. After all of my effort and stress of sitting in Atlanta traffic driving a 50 mile, one way commute, the thing I create runs in the paper, is glanced at by millions then is unceremoniously put in the trash or under a puppy or bird. By then I've already moved on to others ads where the process is repeated over and over again. The reason I love blacksmithing is the act of taking something like a 1/2" square iron bar, heating it till it's pliable and shaping it into something functional that will outlive me by hundreds of years. I do alot of woodworking building furniture and other pieces that are functional. I've always thought what would happen if you left one of your iron pieces out in the weather and a piece of wood furniture. Even though the iron piece may rust, it will outlast that wood furniture by many, many years, centuries perhaps. I have found pieces that had been on the ground in my barn for I know 60-70 years that I know were created by a blacksmith. You just know it was not bought at Walmart or made in Chinese factory. I cleaned them up and they are still usable. Longevity. Leaving something behind once we pass from this earth that people will be able to say: "This was made by my great great grandfather in 2008 and I'm now passing it on to you."

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For such a reactive metal the longevity of iron is amazing. On a dig last summer we were excavating on a manor house abandoned over 300 years ago and we were pulling all sorts of iron out of the ground; broadhead arrowheads where the barbs and socket were still intact; door hinges; over a hundred nails; I found a stick-tang knife in a few pieces in what was once a drain, and later someone found another, just missing the tip, just where I'd been standing a few minutes earlier. Probably the most amazing find was this. And all these finds were in a fairly acidic soil; no wood survived, just building materials like stone, plaster, mortar etc., metal, some shells (only a fraction) and some bones (most quite delicate). A fair amount of coarcoal though.

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Okay, so I finally have a half hour to sit down and describe how the day went yesterday as promised.

It all started the day before when I cut a nice stump from a tree that fell last fall. It was the perfect width for the anvil and I cut it to about 20.5" to give me a nice height to the anvil. I can rest the iron I am using on it with only a slight bend to the elbow.

Once I was done with the morning chores on Sunday I went out and fabricated up the 2'x2' base out of some 2x8 pressure treated scraps. The anvil I acquired from a friendly local smith a PW (0 3 23) at 107# for about 2.50 a pound. The forge was a find in an antique shop, and only required a case of beer to get the blower welded back together.

I had the setup above under my chestnut tree completed pretty quickly and poured the coal into the forge. Hmmm, how much I wonder? There was a layer about 2" deep all the way around the pan by the time I was through pouring, it looked good and blacksmithy. Of course, it was anthracite coal, so very hard and in larger chunks than I had thought it would be.

So, I set about to light this puppy. Two balls of paper as per the blueprints, careful now, pump the blower some, not too much air, scoop some coal over, a little air now, pump. Nope.

Okay, the wife carves and has been saving the hardwood chips for kindling, a ball of paper and some kindling, just like that other blueprint said. Careful now, not too much air, scoop some coal over, little air now pump the blower, more air, oh, pump pump, oh! Nope.

Hrrrm. I read a suggestion on the web somewhere that a blowtorch might do the trick. Out comes the small plumber’s butane torch that I have. Five minutes of blowing with the torch, is this thing even warm yet? I pick up a piece of coal from the middle and hold the torch to it. Barely gets warm, so nope, that ain't going to work either.

Now what? Well, I'm going to push that coal to the side; I was iffy with it anyhow since it was anthracite. I have been saving all the charcoal from my wood heater for the last year and read that traditional medieval smiths used it. So, paper balls again, a little wood kindling, and a mountain of charcoal over the top of it all. Light her up, careful now, just a little air. Good, good, pump a little harder, give it more air. Very good, the charcoal is catching. Pump my boy, pump! Slowly, almost imperceptibly, a low roar starts in that forge. It grows and grows as the coals turn orange, then white. Did I mention that Anthracite has to be heated thoroughly to 900F to catch? Yep, one blacksmithing type fire, with a nice cheery glow, and some music too it.

Whew, luckily, I knew this was going to be the really tough part.

I take my 18" long 3/8" rod and put it in the fire, letting the first 3" get up to a nice orange colour. Says here in my book, think while in the fire and drawing out is the basis for most other smith work. Okay, so how do I draw this thing out? Out of the fire, impressed that I can easily hold the other end of this glowing orange rod in my hand. Tap bang tap tap bang KLUNK bang tap. Okay, hammer control, exactly what is this medium hammer strike they talk about. I think it's about a bang, but I also begin to realize that my hammers are a little big for the work I'm doing. Oh well, only got the three hammers. Flip it over quick, before it cools, draw out the other side and make it straight again. Couple of quick taps to make it flat and back into the fire. Pump pump pump.

Whew, okay, think in the fire. Well, that was kinda neat, actually, more fun than I thought it would be. The metal is so plastic on the anvil I almost imagine grabbing it and forming it like play-doe. The feel of it through the hammer and in my hands is not what I expected. Next step, draw out the 90degree face so I have a point.

Out of the fire, and ting ting clank! Xxxxx, hit to close and not over the edge of the anvil, least I still hit the now bent work. Straighten it out, tap tap, over the edge, ting ting, flip, ting ting ting tang tang. Heat is leaving, it is getting too red.

Okay, really pump that blower, think in the heat, get it good and hot and I'll neaten it up and put a curve in it over the horn. Too much thinking.... ooooh sparkler! A little too hot, good thing this is just plain steel and nothing special.

Flatten, flatten, start the curve, WOW that curved a lot and quick, invert, uncurve, over the horn and volia, a nice little curvy end. Let's see if I can get some of the hook curved with this heat. Nice, wonder if I can tap on the end there, sizzlesteamsteamsizzle into the slack bucket with the end. Nope! Too thin going to have to hammer that open again, but at least the hook is looking good, back to the fire.

Pump pump, think in the heat, the curved end will have to wait now, let’s get the rest of the hook done. Just two more hits on the horn ought to do it, then a flip over the edge and make the 90 to go into the wall.

Bang bang, flip, bang bang. Darn, wasn't paying attention, the 90 is too low. No problem back into the fire....

Ummm, fire? Hello, pump pump, why won't you heat my metal anymore? Oh well, I'll fix her up next time. I'm still happy with how this all went.

Hope you enjoyed reading my first experience!

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Nicely written.

I was watching as you worked but found myself unable to kibitze.

Sounds like you had a good first session and don't worry about the time it takes. I start people out with a leaf coat hook if they have time for a full session. I demo it with commentary, careful descriptions of technique and tool, answer questions, etc. in about 15 mins.

Then I sit on my stool (have the stool for a good reason) for the next 3-4 hrs while the student produces his/er own leaf hook.

Good job.


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Thank you for your words of encouragement. I feel that I had a good first time too, especially since I've only ever read about it. (My preferred read is "New Edge of the Anvil", btw, and I recommend it.)

I also feel that it will be a matter of practice to get the speed and quality out of me. When I've done other trades, like carpentry and such, I've always found that I never have had the feeling that practicing will make things better. To this day, my cuts with hand saw, table saw, or power saw are all over the place.

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