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I Forge Iron

Hello from Oregon


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Greetings to All,

My name is Seth Holbert. I have been lurking in the background for a while now, reading posts and researching as much as possible. I figured it was time to introduce myself. I have wanted to start blacksmithing since I was in high school. But, without anyone around me who knew anything about the craft it has been reading and wishing that has kept the dream alive. At this point I haven’t fired any metal yet and hopefully by winter I will have a spot to do so.

To give you a little more about myself. I currently work as an RF test engineer. I have worked as an engineer for the past 8 years. Previously, I owned my own cabinet shop, worked as an electrical apprentice as well as multiple different manual labor and service industry jobs. Being “engineer minded” I tend to overthink the room and plan my way into inaction. But now I finally have the space and my list of “needed” tools and equipment has grown to a point that I think I can make fire and hopefully I will be pounding iron soon.

My wife and I bought a plot of land out in NW Oregon where we raise Icelandic sheep as well as other animals. I am in the process of setting up my shop and after reading through many of the forum post regarding shop setups I have some serious reconsidering to do. Most of my work on the property requires me to have a woodshop and through reading am now realizing that combining my wood shop with my metal shop isn’t the smartest idea. I think my next move is to convince “The Boss” that I need another outbuilding to create all of the “beautiful” metal work that she already has on order. :) In regards to setting up a new shop, is a low ceiling a big issue if you are forging with coal?

Currently my list of equipment is not large. I will try and post some pictures better pictures in the future but as of now my camera/cell phone took a beating from my boys and the selfie camera is the only one that works. That said, my equipment is as follows:

-        “privately fabricated” break drum coal forge (will need to figure out venting for sure)

-        Hay Budden anvil (not sure what the exact weight is)

-        Champion blower (Don’t have a stand. Will need to fab something)

-        6” Bench Vice

-        5” post vice

-        A lot of ideas and no idea how to make them :)

As far as what I want to make, I am hoping to be able to create my own tools for myself as well as for my wife. She if a hide tanner and a lot of the tools she uses could easily be made by a skilled blacksmith. As always, I think it would be fun to make an axe or a knife in the future. But for now, I am hoping to be able to make hinges, door hardware, brackets, etc. I look forward to interacting with everyone here and hopefully someday I will be able to contribute as well.





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Welcome!   As far as the ceiling goes,  Take the longest handled hammer you will be using, grab the bitter end and hold it straight up above your head: That's the Minimum Height!  

As for coal; the height doesn't matter as your chimney will take all the smoke out RIGHT? Look into the side draft chimneys like the supersucker chimney---plans are on the net!

If you feel the need to know the weight of your anvil; put it on a bathroom scale, or the scale at the local feedstore.

May I commend to your attention "The Backyard Blacksmith" Simms and "The Complete Modern Blacksmith", Weygers and perhaps "Country Blacksmithing" by McRaven    See if you can ILL them at your local public library and then go out and buy the one(s) that suit you best.


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There is a good video on youtube from Technicus Joe about rebuilding/rehabbing that blower (or close to it) which is worth watching.  I believe the one he was working on is a Champion 400 if that helps narrow it down.  He also has a ton of wonderful videos that will teach you more than you knew you needed to know--great for a rainy Oregon day.

It looks like you might be a little shy on tongs.  When just starting out, I highly recommend picking up a couple of commercial tongs from one of the suppliers (I used "Quick & dirty tools") because that gets you rolling right away with some useful ones--and they aren't that expensive.  Tong blanks are also sold to roll your own with less hassle than going from complete scratch.  Save scratch tong making until you have a bit of practice under your belt and can decide what you like and dislike about tongs in general.

You didn't mention much on coal.  The cheapest is the Tractor supply coal (not great but cheap in the NW if your nearest store carries it or will bring some in)--however, it prefers a constant airflow so you probably need an electric blower rather than a cranker.  Proper smithing coal is EXPENSIVE in the NW and takes some effort to get hold of.  Charcoal....well, I can't speak to that one except if that's your choice, you'll go through a lot of volume and that makes making your own (not a hard process) worth looking into.

And welcome to the wonderful world of soot, slag, and smoke:  It'll become an addiction for sure.

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I have picked up the Backyard Blacksmith and the Complete Modern Blacksmith. I will look into Country Blacksmithing as well. Thanks for the recommendations! Sadly, I live far enough out that I don't have a local library that I can be apart of without paying a yearly membership fee. Oh well. :) Amazon it is.

Regarding coal, the guy I bought the forge from recommended a coal supplier in Monroe, OR. He also recommended that I use an old hair dryer or electric motor as well. My only hesitation is that I would like to learn how to work the coal by hand before I move on to an automated system so that I can better understand how the coal burns. I admit, that may be a bit ridiculous but we will see I guess.

As far as tongs go, I was told the best project to start on was tongs, so I have held off on purchasing any. Other than garage sale finds. I will look into the tong blanks. That seems to be a better option for my first crack at it. 

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Traditional blacksmithing coal is bituminous coal and will work well with bellows or a hand crank blower.  If you are working with anthracite than you really need an electric blower.  Really; it can go out while you are at the anvil. It also doesn't coke up like bituminous coal. So if it's anthracite you WON'T learn how coal burns when working it by hand;  Just how it goes out.

If it's bituminous and a good blacksmith grade, (hundreds if not thousands varieties out there!), then it should work well with a hand crank blower.  I started with an electric blower and then moved up to a good hand cranked blower and moved up again to a wonderful double lunged bellows, Then after about 10 years of that; I had to leave it when I moved and went back to the hand cranked blower---which takes up a lot less space.

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