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Blacksmithing at Fairs

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My brother and I are considering opening up a stall for glass and ironware at a summer craft fair this summer. I'm just opening the floor to discussion about blacksmithing for crowds, what things sell well, stall setups etc.
Thanks eversomuch,
Merry being,

Edited by Archie Zietman
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Well me & jeff make nail hooks for demos. Also a guy I forged with a week ago at a demo made leaf hooks. The demo me & jeff did when it got slow I beat on a spike makeing a rr spike knife which seemd to bring a crowd . Also tell them some history and facts about blacksmithing. I use my demo coal forge . a 55 lb. anvil




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That's a pretty nice looking set up Chris. Your's?

A basic rule of thumb for demos is do things you can do, while keeping up a patter, answering questions and regularly showing the piece as it progresses, in a bout 10 mins +/-.

Much longer than that and you'll lose spectators. What the crowd generally wants to see is flames, smoke and metal changing shape. So if your demo piece requires a lot of small finicky work to iron out details it won't go over as well as one that's changing shape with every blow.

Nails are good if you're fast. Hooks are good if they're useful and you can knock them out quickly. People like to see hot bending and twisting too.

Safety, you absolutely MUST keep people from getting very close. Nothing will ruin your day like the father or mother of a toddler that just got burned by a piece of flying hot scale.

Best of all, enjoy yourself. Nothing transmits to a crowd like your mood. If you're glum or sullen people might watch but nobody will buy and most won't stay around long.

If, on the other hand you're cheerful, have a few smithing jokes, answer the silliest of questions like it was a good one, etc. Word will get out that you're something to see and people will come.


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You may want to do some searching on this site as I think this subject has come up before...

You also need to define "success" since a living for one person might not be worth doing to another. I used to do the craft show rounds and never made more than $1000 a month - most weeks were MUCH less. One July, I made $100 across three craft shows. However, some folks are very successful - the best craft income I ever heard stated (that I believed) was about $50K annualized but he was selling wood furniture and doing a show every weekend, plus that was long before gas was $4 a gallon.

You can demo if you want but it's more to worry about and a lot of places will only let you sell wares because other vendors won't appreciate the coal dust landing on their quilts and antique dishes. Therefore, you need to take plenty of stuff before you go - no sense running out of wares. People like choices so if you sell iron crosses, try taking three types. I was most successful with fireplace sets, plant hangers, BBQ tools, hooks of all types, iron crosses, triangle dinner bells and pot trivets. However, you just never know - I once sold 3 sets of fireplace tools one weekend at $300 a pop. It never happened again but like I said, you never know...

The primary problem with craft shows is that they put you in the same category as cheap Chinese junk. People attend with $50 to $100 in their pockets but they don't intend to spend it all in one place. I was given some advice 25 years ago that I have found is still true, which is that you will quickly become known as a custom commission 'smith or you will develop into a craft's fair vendor. Neither one is better than the other but I have always been more successful with architectural and custom work since the budgets usually fit the amount of work involved.

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I tend to stay away from craft shows and tractor shows. They just don't seem to work with what I sell. I like to do reenactments, French and Indian War to the Civil War. I like to make things that are 18th century reproductions(or as close as I can) and items for modern campers. I bring a lot of stuff and can make 80% of the items in front of the public while they watch. Some things are best done in the shop. I like to take orders at the show to make something longer, shorter or whatever they like. It helps to know what some are looking for. I become the village blacksmith and repair the camps ironware, straighten their tent stakes or make the thing they have been dreaming about for awhile. Keep stock on hand to keep the anvil ringing and the forge burning. Have something (or somethings) for quick demos. I make a leaf for school day demos. It takes me about 8 minutes and I have a talk to fill the time while it is heating. As far as how much money can be made it depends. When I started it wasn't much but I've become more well known and better at what I do and the income has come up. I'm been full time about 5 years and business, even now, is still growing. I just came back from a show Sunday night and have three more in the next four weeks, but the fall will be the busiest. You can see what I make and some of the pictures from shows on my web page. MT Forge


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That’s really nice stuff.

I was at the Harrisburg Artsfest yesterday – usually there is some forge work for sale and there was this year. This time around I was looking at prices, and I’m sure they vary according to multiple factors such as locations. This guy had a stand, and lists his prices here: R.J. Askren

So, Mark… your prices look a lot lower than Mr. Askren. For example, his rush light is very similar to yours, but he sells it for $100.00.

Comments from anyone?

This topic may have its own thread…

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I'll just link a few threads on bestselling items I found:
Blacksmith Forum - Search Results

There, answering to my own thread a bit. Can people shed any light on howyou keep the audience back from your workstation? Also, what to do if the weather is bad?

Thanks again!

P.S. We just booked the stall for thursdays in the afternoon through the summer. We're sharing it with some crochet-ers, and a girl whom I'm helping make glass-bottle-and-iron lamps. Very exciting!

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I demonstrate at re-enactment and also a 1797 homestead/ grist mill called Union Mills Homestead. I demonstrate more at Union Mills because there I can choose what to demo instead making custom orders at the re-enactmants.

Like what has been said before, the attention span of most people is 15 mins. Keep things short and sweet. Something good to demo and will sell well are dinner bells. Make up a jig to bend these. They like to watch them being made and will buy them right there because they saw it being made. It means something more to them than buying it off the rack.

S-hooks, leaf key chains, horseshoe nail rings for kids, find a really made swage block paper weight and use the ladle indentions to make ladles from horse shoe nails. These all do well and will keep their attention.

If you mix up what you make, alot of time you will find the same audience hanging around for a hour watching the different items being made.


To keep crowd control make some stanchions and run rope through them and sit them back from your area about 10 ft from your anvil site. If you can see in the photo, I use stanchion to border my smithing area. In situation where you are not demoing for other smiths but regular spectators, don't forge weld.


The Civil War Blacksmith

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