JHCC Posted December 18, 2018 Share Posted December 18, 2018 As you get started in blacksmithing, you will be tempted to make at least some of the following basic mistakes. Resist that temptation! Mistake #1: NEGLECTING SAFETY. You only have one set each of eyes, ears, and lungs. Protect them from dust, sparks, flying scale, etc. A two-dollar pair of safety glasses or a twenty-dollar respirator can save you thousands in medical bills. Mistake #2: GOING IT ALONE. You are a beginner, a novice, a newby -- you are, by definition, inexperienced and ignorant. There is no shame in that; that's simply where you are right now. However, trying to learn on your own is incredibly slow. In order to get better, you will need information and help. Information can come from books, this forum, good online videos (see below), and especially from actually spending time with other smiths, whether in a class, a smithing association's meetings (local, national, or international), or just getting together with smithing friends to smack some metal with a hammer. Just remember that to work from descriptions, you need the background and jargon to understand them (for example, "cherry red" is a bright orange color, based on the old pie cherries and not the "modern" Bing cherries). Help comes from submitting yourself and your work to the critique of more experienced smiths -- whether online or in person -- so that you can learn what you're doing wrong. Just spending an afternoon with a smith that knows what they are doing can cut 6 months off your learning curve! Get help whenever you can. This leads us to: Mistake #3: NOT TAKING CRITICISM. No smith is perfect; no-one is so good that they can't improve. (Indeed, the very best smiths are often those who are never satisfied with the quality of their work and are always trying to get better.) We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes, but only if we are willing to look at those mistakes with clear eyes and a commitment to do better next time. Listen to the voices of people with more experience than you, because they can help you understand what you did wrong or what you can do to improve or what's holding you back. Don't get offended if the criticism can seem a bit harsh at times; the general assumption here is that if you post your work for critique, you actually want people's honest opinions. Mistake #4: WORKING TIRED AND THIRSTY. Fatigue and dehydration cloud your judgment, weaken your grip on your hammer and your workpiece, and destroy your hammer control. Stopping to rest is almost never a bad idea. Take a drink of water while you're at it. If you have limited time for forging, ask yourself this: would you rather take a little extra time to get it right, or spend a lot of time fixing the mistakes you made because you were tired? STOP before you make an unrecoverable mistake or hurt yourself! (See Mistake #1.) Mistake #5: GETTING ALL YOUR INFORMATION FROM YOUTUBE. There is some excellent information on YouTube (some of which is linked HERE), but there is a LOT that is questionable, inefficient, or downright dangerous. Look with a critical eye: don't take someone with barely more experience than you filming their own learning process as an authority or a model to be copied. (See Mistake #1.) Until you have the experience and background to be able to evaluate if the person actually knows what they are doing, it's just the blind leading the blind. (Also, video cameras and the human eye sense the color of glowing steel very differently, and YouTube is NOT the place to learn how to judge your workpiece's temperature!) Mistake #6: NOT PLANNING AHEAD. Always think about what's next. Where's the next hammer blow going and why? What tool(s) do I need right now? What's the next book I'm going to read, class I'm going to take, skill I'm going to learn, project I'm going to try? Do I have the skill/tools/strength/materials to do X, and if not, how do I get them? What kind of budget do I have for this, and am I using it wisely? Not planning ahead -- whether you're talking about the most immediate decisions or the longest term -- wastes fuel, money, effort, and (the most precious and irreplaceable resource of all) time. Mistake #7: GRINDING OR MILLING THE FACE OF AN ANVIL. The hardened face is quite thin and many an anvil has been destroyed by folks trying to improve it *before* they know what makes an anvil good! (Sharp edges are generally a BAD thing for instance). Use your anvil for a year (2000 hours) before you make any changes that can not be undone. That flaw may very well be a feature that you can use. Mistake #8: USING A HAMMER THAT'S TOO HEAVY. It takes time to build up the strength, control, and hand-eye coordination necessary for swinging a big hammer. Start small. You'll get more done with less risk of injury. (See Mistake #1.) Mistake #9: USING PORTLAND CEMENT OR PLASTER OF PARIS IN A FORGE. It doesn't matter what you saw on YouTube; that stuff will degrade -- sometimes explosively; see Mistake #1 -- at forging temperatures. It's ineffective and a waste of time and money. Mistake #10: TRYING TO HARDEN MILD STEEL. It's a frustrating exercise in how to waste time and fuel, and at the end of the day, it'll still be soft. If you want it to harden, use a hardenable material. Mistake #11: TRYING TO MAKE A SWORD FOR YOUR FIRST PROJECT. Unless you're working under the close supervision of a qualified instructor, a sword -- any blade, really -- is way beyond your skill level as a beginner, and any sharp object that you make is very likely to be a hazard to you and others. (See Mistake #1.) Mistake #12: USING REBAR. Everyone starting out wants to make things from rebar, probably because it's readily available and cheap. Don't. There are other materials that just as inexpensive, that handle better, and that don't have rebar's drawbacks. Use those. (NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list, as the human capacity to make mistakes is practically infinite. Suggestions for additions are welcome. There are some other good IFI threads on basic mistakes, especially https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/28858-common-beginner-mistakes/; take some time to read those too.) Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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