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Hello, I am a High school student and I am doing a persuasive essay and I had a couple questions. 

  1. what are the pros and cons of blacksmithing?
  2. what are the pros and cons of gas and coal forges?
  3. in your mind what is the pros and cons of the money put into the forges?

Thanks!

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If you have not already read it, please READ THIS FIRST

IForgeIron is visited by over 150 countries of the world each month. A lot of your answers will depend on your location.

Blacksmithing is a craft where you can make most of the tools you will need. You can also make many of the tools for other crafts. You need to choose a fuel that is cheap and available locally to you, and build a forge to use that fuel.

To get started you only need a box of dirt (JABOD) and some solid fuel. An anvil can be anything you hit on, rocks, chunks of heavy metal etc. You do not put money into the forge unless you are making Mokume. 

I suggest that you locate a blacksmithing group or organization near you and go to the meetings. You will learn more in a few hours that you can ever imagine. You can actually try out blacksmithing first hand.

BLACKSMITH GROUPS FORUM

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Ok well to start you would have to understand a few things about the metalworking process itself. Not counting those who work with mild steels a smith will usually heat the steel to cause a transformation in the grain structures, for blade steels usually austenite, and then soak the metal for a sufficient amount of time until the grains have grown to allow forging. There is plenty of videos of armature smiths using a torch to heat the steel and not maintaining phase transformations and then just hitting it, mild steel doesnt seem to care but for tool steels and high carbon steels this is a big no no, the steel requires heat and time to maintain a transformation.

The higher the heat for a longer period of time the easier the steel is to forge. As well when the grains sufficiently expand through a process of diffusion they break apart and reform into larger grains. if the same heat is applied for a period of time the grains will grow at the rate of the heat. This makes the steel ductile enough to forge, too cold or the wrong phase state and the steel will break (applying again to medium, high carbon steels and alloy steels)

(a grain is a collection of iron and carbon as well as other elements in a crystalline structure which acts as a single particle)

So onto propane. It is very easy to adjust the settings to maintain an exact heat, it is also fairly clean but without special methods the steel can experience decarborization during welds (see the bessemer process) welding is less effective using propane due to oxidation, a smith may use flux to compensation for this or spend time cleaning the steel outside the forge and welding not using the forge to bypass this, it wastes alot of material though.  unless the forge is specifically rigged to create a reducing atmosphere. Some smiths will mix carbon in with their flux to compensate for this. The advantages is that it is very consistent allowing a smith to reference sites like this one and others, gather information and then use the desired parameters to heat work and quench the steel for something like a tool or a knife. 

Charcoal has the advantage that is very easy to create a reducing atmosphere, has a much higher potential heat and has less loss of metal if a proper reducing atmosphere is applied thus the steel can gain carbon content. you can make your own steel using charcoal and nails welding steel together and carborizing them in this method. Welds are easier to preform because the reducing atmosphere has lower oxygen content, the added carbon gets absorbed into the welds making them stronger. 

Maintaining a charcoal forge however is a skillset of its own making, you can stir and pile the coals and adjust airflow but it requires the smith to actively monitor and be vigilant about everything, including crap that gets in it like decomposing firebrick that can ruin the steel or drain heat. its also messy and causes pitting moreso then propane, a smith has to do alot more cleaning of the steel using charcoal as well as the surroundings, the smith also gets soot and lots of other crap on them. when forging with charcoal I usually come away covered in black when I use propane I dont worry about sitting down on my couch afterwards.

Cost wise I would say charcoal is a little more expensive but I prefer propane for the forging and heat treatment process because its cleaner and pits less, but for the welding I use charcoal and flux.

Alot of smiths will have their own experiences with both methods and each smith usually has their own unique forge and tools. Each person you talk to will have their own opinion and experiences, im sure there will be follow ups with: I get different results, but they are doing different things im sure.

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Pros and cons of blacksmithing FOR WHAT?  Artistic endeavor? Self actualization?  Meditation? Making a living? As a means of using the plasticity of metals? Making knives? Speed vs machining?---You have asked a question that would take thousands of pages to answer in full.  Can you narrow it down?

Pros and cons of gas forges has been discussed here at length; may I suggest you do your own research. It will be a learning experience!

in your mind what is the pros and cons of the money put into the forges? As compared to WHAT? Drink?  Taking up arson as a hobby? I have very little money tied up in forges; less than a dollar a week for the 37 years I have been smithing. I've spent more money on books about metals, smithing and historical work than on forges.

Please review this with your instructor and ask for help in generating a specific thesis that can be addressed in a High School essay.

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7 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

Pros and cons of blacksmithing FOR WHAT?  Artistic endeavor? Self actualization?  Meditation? Making a living? As a means of using the plasticity of metals? Making knives? Speed vs machining?---You have asked a question that would take thousands of pages to answer in full.  Can you narrow it down?

for this one i will say just overall smithing you can choose any thing will work well. im just looking for good opinions. mainly because i am a novice and while writing this essay i am working on it i am doing research so i am doing 2 in 1  money would be propane? how much propane do you use? how big should my propane tank be in lb?

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There is no such thing as "overall smithing" You HAVE to be specific. It's like cooking---how many eggs do i need to buy to cook?

Your propane tank should be between 1 pound and 2000 pounds depending on what you are doing and what you have available. I use the small propane camping tanks for a 1 firebrick forge and a 100 pound tank when I forge in my regular forge in the shop and a bbq propane tank when I am taking my forge on the road for example.

Blacksmithing is not a simple one answer activity---I have a friend who sends me pictures of them forging 40" diameter Titanium for machining preforms for helicopter parts using "tongs" with wheels and a driver's seat.  I've forged viking style hack silver objects in my basement in a 1 firebrick forge.

How much propane I use depends on which forge I am using and what I am doing.  Forge welding takes more propane than teaching the basics.  Anyway when teaching I expect to get through an 8 hour class with a 1 hour lunch break on a single BBQ sized propane tank---refilled and not swapped as they generally don't do a full fill in swapped tanks!

 

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May I suggest Gas Forges

Fuel is BTUs and you only need enough to get the metal hot and change the shape. A small 20 pound or BBQ tank will work. If you find the  tank frosting up on the outside, then you are trying to draw more fuel from the tank than the take can supply during a given time. You then need to get a larger tank. 

As stated above, each blacksmith has their own shop with their own tools and tooling to do what they need. There are common items used in each shop such as an anvil but even anvils vary shop to shop. Start with A collection of improvised anvils. Then move on to Anvils.

It is difficult when you are just starting out as you do not know what questions to ask.  You need to do a little reading and some research on the site so you can ask more specific questions. That way you get more specific answers.

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I think the parts for my propane forge cost me a total of 170. my first forge was just pavers with a few coats of satanite, a blow drier and gasline pipe. I later bent some sheet metal into a v and used a mixture of satanite and pearlite an inch thick to make a portable charcoal forge. Iv also done blooms just using cheap pavers or kilms in the same manner using mud to seal it up for crucibles, none the non propane forges cost me more then 20$ to make using the same pipe and blowdrier. 

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1 hour ago, ThomasPowers said:

Making knives? Speed vs machining?---You have asked a question that would take thousands of pages to answer in full.  Can you narrow it down?

i guess something along making knives like little projects that i could sell at a craft fair in oder to make a little money but not alot. kinfd of like a side project to make money here and there.

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You will want to read the craft fair threads already posted here.

A moderately small forge is suggested and running it from a BBQ sized propane tank will suffice.

Coal is a bigger attraction for onsite demos; but the smoke is a major issue. (I was not invited back for a craft fair I had been doing for years after an apprentice of mine smoked out the area while I was on a break!)   Chunk charcoal, not briquettes, can get around that issue but the sparks are still a worry for the event organizers.

Propane is usually a lot easier to source than good smithing coal!

A good propane forge is also fast to start up and shut down. However VENTILATION is a must! Coal smoke tells you not to breath it; propane exhaust is a silent killer.

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yeah i could see that LOL. but yeah i was thinking that now here is another question what kind of forge do you think i could get or make, also would you recommend using a railroad track as a anvil.

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I would strongly advise you to read the Improvised Anvils thread as this has been well documented there.

https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/52308-a-collection-of-improvised-anvils/

I would also strongly suggest you find your local ABANA affiliate and start attending meetings; the internet is NOT the best way to learn forging and as I hardly ever known to say---neither are books. A Saturday afternoon spent with a smith that knows what they are doing should save you 6 months or more of trying to learn it on your own from remote sources.

As to what kind of forge: you can read the gas forges 101 and gas burners 101 threads and build a propane forge, (Frosty T burner is suggested, Wayne Coe has plans and sells forge building amounts of the needed refractories on his website...)

or read the JABOD thread for building a cheap solid fuel forge that does not require welding.  

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Hmmmm, this sounds like a youngster getting their points together to pitch smithing to their skeptical parents :D

Pros- it is fun and you get to play with fire.

Cons-burns, dirty, possible lung and eye damage (breathing combustion and metal fumes, CO, particles, infrared radiation, flying objects) , fire hazards, smashed fingers, and more----but you get to play with fire ;) .

Pros-solid fuels are inexpensive, easy to obtain. Cons-smoke, coal is stinky, large storage space. 

Propane/natural gas - strike a match and get going. Cons-Potentially very explosive, costs more then solid fuel.

Induction-flip a switch and ready to go, fastest way to heat metal, no combustion fumes, no flame. Con-expensive to obtain the unit.

Money Spent-that is up to the person to decide if it was worth the expense.

 

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A major pro for me is that I can rather quickly make many things that I need quite readily.    Especially things that are a bit non-standard.   I am in the process of making a swing set for my grand daughter.    There are some hardware pieces that I can easily go and purchase.   They are a bit pricey.    Or I can just make them.     I will choose to take some of my scrap metal and/or re-purpose some hardware that would otherwise be wasted.    Most likely I will only need to modify some metal that I have laying about.    Naturally I will make sure that the metal is structurally sound enough to be used safely on the swing set.    As a Mechanical Engineer I assure you I have the qualifications to make this assessment.       

So blacksmithing is practical, economical, conservational (might not actually be a word),  and personally rewarding.      What's not to like! 

The rewarding part is when you are able to put a bit of yourself into a project that makes it both unique and functional and that will be used and enjoyed by others for years to come.

Finally, this craft requires a bit of physical activity which is more exercise than just writing checks or slotting your card.

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Well the first pro of a forge and blacksmith is that it is much more economical to heat and bend metals with a forge than a torch. 

Considering that large punch presses and drills can make holes, the advantage of forges is that a boss can be rather easily formed in the process of making a hole

another pro is that high cost metals can often be forged into a blank that then can be machined with much less waste. 

Lastly many processes now done with expensive machines can be duplicated buy a blacksmith, especially for maintenance of obsolete equipment (much of industry dose not support parts past 10 years, an may not suit major structural parts at all. 

The major con is that forges tend to be larger than a torch set (tho a blower and shovel will suffice) and some job sites (oil field locations come to mind) to not allow propane tanks) 

Of course one must have a blacksmith or a welder/blacksmith on the payroll.

now as to coal vs gas.

solid fuel forges tend to be larger and one must develop fire management skills, wile gas are easier to light and use

coal is not as “clean” generally as gas and can be harder to find. 

For fuel efficiency one can reconfigure solid fuel forges for particular tasks wile one generally needs to build a new gas forge to optimize fuel efficiency.

Now as to the money put into a forge, solid fuel forges can be generally dirt cheap (air air source and hole in the ground) wile a gas forge generally costs $150 plus to build (some builds are cheaper) permanent solid fuel forges generally cost the same as gassers to build but again one tends to have more than in gas forge or a gas and solid fuel forge for efficiency based on the project

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I did not read the whole thread so hopefully this is not a repeat.   From a purely engineering stand point a forged item has generally superior mechanical properties (Strength, no casting defects, weldability and others...).   So this is looking at the "forging" aspect as opposed to "blacksmithing".    Blacksmithing IS forging metal.   But forging goes way beyond blacksmithing.     If you want to open up the argument or discussion to include "forging" in general then I think you also have a great many modern day forging applications and positive aspects to consider.    Forging as opposed to blacksmithing is an extremely common worldwide process that is done 24/7.   I am not a metallurgist but I have known several of them and have interacted with them on technical issues at work frequently.   Thus I am not going to attempt to say anything outside of my area of expertise.    I would suggest doing some research on:

Properties of Forged steel vs Castings.

Weldability of the same...

That research will probably lead you to other areas if that is what you are after.

Have you ever heard that tools like wrenches were Drop Forged?    

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On the other hand we've seen a lot of stuff here that was seriously damaged by forging: grain growth, cracking, decarburization, burnt,...bad heat treat, etc.

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On 1/10/2019 at 3:42 PM, Borntoolate said:

Have you ever heard that tools like wrenches were Drop Forged?    

No, i have not?

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I know this has been said already but your questions are too general to be able to give you a meaningful answer. It's almost like asking, What are the pros and cons of fishing.

If you're asking about being a blacksmith in general then maybe. The pros are once you're proficient you are amazingly self sufficient; there will be few things you can't make for yourself or trade for. The cons run along the lines of it's hard, hot, dangerous work with little modern commercial prospects. You WILL get hurt, cut bruised, burnt, etc. and maybe seriously injured even crippled.

Gas and solid fuel forges have been well covered. They all have their up and down sides. 

About putting money into a forge. Do you want to burn money? :blink: The traditional blacksmith's answer to putting money into most anything is, as little as possible and still do the job. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 1/9/2019 at 6:19 AM, LilEmmienum1 said:

Hello, I am a High school student and I am doing a persuasive essay and I had a couple questions. 

  1. what are the pros and cons of blacksmithing?
  2. what are the pros and cons of gas and coal forges?
  3. in your mind what is the pros and cons of the money put into the forges?

Thanks!

Pros ...Blacksmithing is a trade, a bit like old school metalwork. It will allow you to make things in steel the way most modern metalworkers are unable to do. Just to clarify, blacksmithing is not bladesmithing.

Con ... it is hot, noisy and smokey and requires a strong arm 

Coal forge, if you can find coal needs more room, more ventilation and it smokes and stinks but is quiet.

Gas forge can be done in a smaller space, needs ventilation but is cleaner yet noisy.

Money? if you invest in a forge an anvil and a few hammers, you can blacksmith, if you don't, you can go for a holiday. 

PS a railroad track is not an anvil, it is a way to get your neighbours offside and lose your hearing without making much progress :)

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, LilEmmienum1 said:

No, i have not?

Just google "drop forge".   Then click videos as well and poke around for about 3 minutes and you will.

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Drop Forge = working on your Anvil, something slips out of your Tongs because you were not using the correct Tongs. The top of your sandalled foot becomes warm. Lots of Miss Steaks!!

Neil

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