cmoreland

Picked up some steel - not sure what to do with it...

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Afternoon!
Not entirely sure if what I bought here is usable, I was at Tractor Supply and will be doing my first forging this weekend and wanted to get a feel of iron or steel or both. So I'm standing there in the store and quickly trying to google the difference between cold rolled and hot rolled steel and gathered hot rolled is better for forging so I grabbed one up.

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Thinking about making me some tongs or decorative steel hooks or something. They'll look terrible but I haven't been this excited in a long time. A long time.

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Welcome to the forum. I'm sure one of the many seasoned Smith's with chime in soon. I am a new smith as well, fired my forge up for the first time a few weeks ago. Excited to see what you make. And if you feel discouraged after your first tong attempt hit me up and I'll show you a picture of my first set. They are quite ugly. Congradulatijns on taking the first steps on what I hope will be a long exciting journey for you.

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15 minutes ago, Eventlessbox said:

 

Thank you kindly sir! Did you have a thread about your first experience? What kind of forge did you use?

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If it's your true first forging, start not with "what to make" but what to do.  Taper an end and try not to end up with  "fish lips" at the point.  Cut that off and make a couple of inches of square--trying to keep it actually square and smooth. Do a reverse taper.  Make a nail..even if it doesn't have a head.  There is a ton of beginner stuff that you need to do a few times before you move on to making "something".  Try those simple tasks again, but doing it even better.  You'll be gaining muscle memory and hammer control skills with every blow.

After you practice a bunch of basics to get the feel of things including heaat control, then make a simple S hook--the goal being to make the S bent into a pleasing symmetrical(ish) shape...that is actually not as easy as it sounds when you are speaking of putting the material into a nice shape that both looks and feels good.  Then you can make one that has fancy ends---maybe a tight tiny scroll for instance or the flattened whale's tail scroll.  Make a keychain based on those same skills.

In short, do a bunch of basic stuff--it will REALLY pay off later.  Although the TS bar may have been a bit expensive (they get a huge premium), bar like that is actually pretty cheap:  You don't *have* to come up with anything fancy from it.  I know there is a strong pull to make something fancy or more difficult, but save that for later.  You can have a ton of fun with that 3/8" round bar and smaller things and at the same time, gain a lot of REAL skills you need.  

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Hot rolled or Cold rolled...  its mild steel, just tighter finished dimensions and higher price for cold

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Well CR vs HR depends on what you are trying to do.  CR is often a cleaner steel---like 1018 or 1020 while HR is often A-36  HOWEVER HR is generally much cheaper at a real steel dealer and the properties you are paying extra for CR for: surface finish and work hardening, disappear when you heat it to forging temps.  Example:  I pay less for 20' of HR steel the same cross section that I pay for 12' of CR.  Unfortunately my local dealer doesn't carry 1/4" sq in HR anymore but I can get it in CR and that's my teaching stuff.

I disagree with Kozzy; making things is a lot more interesting to me than just practicing to make things. Yes your first dozen drive hooks may look rough---but they will still work to hang stuff on your shop walls and let you compare how the 100th one looks to good old #1. 

When I teach at NM Tech; the first project is an S hook: practicing smooth tapers, counterbends, freehand bending of curves, twisting, wire brushing and finishing.

Second project is two rose headed nails: smooth tapers, more precision hammering, upsetting, (project requested by the Fine Arts Metals instructor)

Third project is making a chili pepper from a section of blackpipe; smooth tapers and rounding of tapers, necking 

After the first 3 projects in the first class I usually go with a project chosen by the student for the next class---but they have to be agreed upon by me as within their capabilities.

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Excellent advice, thank you guys. I may try something like a plain hook with a hole through it to mount to a small hunk of wood for the shop. I was hoping I didn't buy something horrible to forge with, sounds like it is ok, but I probably paid too much for it HEH.

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My first forging was with my "ugly metal box" forge. My first attempt at not only making a forge but also welding and metal fabrication in general. It is a propane forge. My anvil, whose name is stumpy, is a 12 pound sledge hammer embedded in the end of an upright log and held in with a piece of round stock and some conduit brackets. 

So far the few things I have forged have been a fire hook for my fire table on my patio. And as I didn't have any an attempt at a pair of tongs. The hook came out looking ok for a first go. The tongs are....."rustic". Lol.

But I learned what was working well and what deffinatly didnt. And frankly i had a blast. 

Also to show that even in the get go you bring a lot to the forum. I didnt even think of asking what I should start with. I'm going to try half of these suggestions next time I can fire up the forge.

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Note sucker rod is often cheap in TX; but is generally medium carbon steel and so hard to use. AVOID ANY SUCKER RODS THAT HAVE BEEN IN SOUR GAS WELLS!

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Not sure what a sucker rod is but I've filed that away in my memory banks in case I run across any.  This rod was found in the welding section of TSC with a bunch of other steel. Flat and round and also had rebar. I've heard rebar can be made from anything and to steer clear of it.

 

 Eventlessbox- Send me some pics of those tongs :)

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For the sake of saving glen bandwidth here is the thread with the forge and the tongs.

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Start looking for cheap sources of steel.  Big box prices, no matter the store, are too high by far.  You can scrounge scrap yards in Texas, plus there are plenty of steel dealers.  It was worth it to buy what you did to get going but don’t make that a habit...it is an expensive one.  

Also, think about getting a basic blacksmithing book and try out the projects.  Having a vision of what you are making and steps to guide you will be priceless.  Have fun,

Lou

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Good sources for steel are Welding shops, places that make gates and fences . Prices will be a lot better . Bring along some of the things you have forged and explain you are a beginning blacksmith. You may be pleasantly surprised . 

My first experience leaning blacksmithing was with an experience blacksmith.  He had me making tapers, tapers and more tapers. Square taper on square stock, round taper on square stock, square taper on round stock, round taper on round stock. 

I had tapers coming out of my ears, but I did learn good hammer control and how to move a mass of iron to where I wanted it. Probably saved me a lot of frustration on more complicated shapes.  

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clean steel has its owns benifits sometimes, clean steel can be alot pricier, mostly i purchaced one inch round and made my own barstock starting off, i still forge my own barstock by hand, it was a good way to learn to forge and built my arm up quickly.

Some people go as far as saying forge clay then soft steel and move your way up, but i would just recommend getting some scrap steel or a round of 1045 or low carbon and playing with it, if you can forge that you can figure everything else out easy enough with enough time, rebar is another good material to practice welding with.

Once you can forge out a rectangle try tapering it down thinner into stock, making rounds ect and it should give you a good feel for that, theres also youtube for how to's and ABANA runs a good tool shop lessons if you can find a chapter near you.

You can also look up AISI codes for steel and find a local mill and order a batch or order it online in barstock, just keep in mind sometimes you do run into bad batches. Cold roll is more expensive then hot roll because its heat treated and tempered to be used as is, hot roll comes in some off hand state, but either way you should austenize your steel sufficiently to work it, something after experience youl know by heating it and tapping it, if its not ready to be forged you just put it back in. (This assumes the steel has enough content to be heat treatable, if its lower carbon content it doesnt really matter but its a good practice) given enough experience with a steel you should be able to tell when its too cold or losing its ideal austenite state, usually it goes from soft and makes a certain kind of dinging sound not typical to the forging heat, first time it feels like that its too cold, depends on your alloy but its more true with treatable steel. Better to be safe then sorry. And avoid that heat by a safe margine likewise a steel has a burning temp you want to stay under.

Home depo typically has some plain 1018 thats expensive by normal prices but not too expensive for a bar to play around with. Still under 15$, you dont need alot of it to play with for a while though.

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16 hours ago, cmoreland said:

Not sure what a sucker rod is but I've filed that away in my memory banks in case I run across any.

How could you have spent any time at all in Texas and not known what sucker rod is? The stuff is everywhere. :-)

It is pretty much the steel equivalent of duct tape. Farmers and ranchers use it for everything from making hay feeders to fences. It is also good for making punches, chisels, and other tools. You should be able to find it for $7-$10 per 25 foot section. It probably comes in other thicknesses, but most seems to be 3/4”, 7/8”, or 1 1/4”.

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Eventless - that bad boy looks HOT! I guess you ended up rebuilding it?

Lou - I'm going to try and hit up some scrap yards today, I'll let you know what I find (if anything)

Dickb - There is a welding shop or three here locally. Sadly I don't know of any local blacksmiths or they certainly don't advertise themselves around here but I know they exist because I can't find hardly anything second-hand.

Sly - This was a very helpful post, thanks! I am slightly embarrassed here to admit I didn't know steel had a burning temp that you want to stay under. I plan on using lump charcoal starting off because it burns cleaner...but also can get really hot. I have no way of knowing what the temp of the iron is other than looking at it to see if it's cherry red or white hot. Probably just something that comes with experience.

DHarris - Haha yessir I'm a native Texan, 5th generation and my dad even works for the Texas Railroad Commission but I've grown up a city boy for the most part and work in IT as a career. BUT! That said, I've spent time baking in the sun on a tractor at my grandparent's land and pulling engine blocks off 50's model Ford tractors and rebuilding them. I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty, nor afraid of physical labor. I crave it in fact. I do most of my own mechanic work to save money and can fix just about anything around the house thinking logically and using elbow grease...but this blacksmithing stuff and working with any kind of iron or steel beyond mechanic work or the occasional welding job is foreign to me. Not knowing much about it is really the drive behind my desire to hammer metal.
 

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There are alot of smiths who dont really know anything about metallurgy and it isnt terribly required to swing a hammer on hot steel, they usually troll conversations though but you can get by with a little basic knowledge of heat to 1600-2100f typical forging range and most steel when austenized at 1500ish amd quenched makes martensite then temper for 2 hours at 350 or whatever. Most steels you can look up those basic parameters for, which is the advantage of the known steel. Not every steel is the same, so dont assume a guide on low carbon steel applies the same to high carbon or high carbon applies the same to high carbon with high alloy content, its good to do some reaserch on the steel you find or use.

Recommend reading Verhoevens guide to Metallurgy of Steel for Bladesmiths & Others who Heat Treat and forge their steel, its a free pdf.

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11 hours ago, cmoreland said:

Sadly I don't know of any local blacksmiths or they certainly don't advertise themselves around here but I know they exist because I can't find hardly anything second-hand

Texas is stupid thick with blacksmiths and bladesmiths. I forget who said it, but you can’t swing a stick without hitting a bladesmith in Texas. There is a section down near the bottom of the Forum which should help you find a blacksmithing group within driving distance of you. 

11 hours ago, cmoreland said:

Haha yessir I'm a native Texan, 5th generation and my dad even works for the Texas Railroad Commission but I've grown up a city boy for the most part and work in IT as a career.

I am not sure how many generations it would be, but my dad’s side settled in Pooleville, Oklahoma when the Civil War ended. It was called Elk at the time and was in the old Indian Territory. There isn’t much there but grass now.  It could have been worse though, one of the brothers settled in Bonham, TX after the war.  I really lucked out there. 

i grew up beside a red dirt road about 5 miles south of Rush Springs, OK. Definitely not a city boy, but unlike pretty much everyone else in my family, I did not work in the oilfield after leaving home. Instead I became a Clinical Laboratory Scientist and have spent my whole life since then working inside hospital labs where the temperature is a steady 22 degrees Celsius year round. (We were once Medical Technologists. Why and when it became CLS instead of MT is a boring story. Clinical Laboratory Scientist sounds pretentious and silly.)

11 hours ago, cmoreland said:

this blacksmithing stuff and working with any kind of iron or steel beyond mechanic work or the occasional welding job is foreign to me. 

Pretty much the same here. But that is what I like about it. It is cool learning something new almost every time I am at the forge or anvil. I may not be able to produce anything beyond a misshapened lump, but it is a mishapened lump that “I” made myself using tools that made myself. (Not the hammers. Those were all rusty old heads I bought at yard sales, cleaned them up and profiled them with an angle grinder, and then installed new handles from wood I took from an Osage Orange tree.)

Another thing I like about blacksmithing is it is very easy to learn but almost impossible to master. 

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On ‎2‎/‎15‎/‎2019 at 5:47 PM, ThomasPowers said:

Note sucker rod is often cheap in TX; but is generally medium carbon steel and so hard to use. AVOID ANY SUCKER RODS THAT HAVE BEEN IN SOUR GAS WELLS!

My All Purpose Boy is an oil field worker. I can get sucker rod by the literal ton. Why do I need to stay away from the stuff used in sour gas wells, and just as importantly....how can you tell what type well it was in????

 

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Here is my first set of tongs. 2 sections of 1" x 1/4" flat bar. Heat them together side by side then do a half twist 3 or so inches from the top, with them side by side in the vice. Drill a hole couple inces below the twist and set a rivet (also my first rivet), if no rivet tool, use a bolt with doubled nut. 

 20190306_172442.thumb.jpg.6aca94724c5b0cf506df9006254792e7.jpg

I do still use these sometimes. I can heat up the ends and form them to what i am trying to hold if it is something awkward. 

Hit up your local mechanics. They usually have a scrap pile. Almost all my hand tools, punches, drifts, chisels,etc., were at one time coil springs. 

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I got my coal forge setup probably back in July or August of last year. I haven't been able to forge as much as I'd like to, especially recently with the weather. I move all my stuff outside. Just last week was my first attempt at tongs, I've just bought a few 3 foot sections of round and flat bar from Lowes, same stuff you just got. I started off turning round to square and back to round. Then I started tapering it out to a point and a gradual taper up a little section of the bar. I then made my first piece, a fire rake from 3/8 round bar. I then took flat bar, I think it was like 1/4x3/4 and made it into a fire rake so I could practice turning the flat bar into square. I then made my first hook, it was a hook with the nail built in, can't remember what they are called exactly. So I got to practice upsetting and making a right angle and twisting. Since then I pretty much have just been practicing hammer control and messing around. Just last week I did my first attempt at tongs, I'm not so sure they will work once I'm done with them but I am going to finish them for the practice anyway. So my next pair will be better. Once I can make a pair of tongs I am going to try and make some chisels and punches to make dragon heads. I have some H13 in 3/8th or so round bar. So that's going to be my first planned project. If I can complete the tools and make a dragon head with it, I will be quite proud.

It's taken me almost a year to get to this point, granted I haven't been at it every day or every week even. That's not counting that I got my anvil almost 2 years ago and took me a year to get a real coal forge and making the table for it took me about a week and some change going at it every day.

 

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May be contaminated with H2S; and he should know if it was involved with any sour gas wells as that's common knowledge in the patch. I worked one well where I was responsible for testing the Sour Gas detector. Not fun!  Get your APB to tell you some of the horror stories about sour gas.  Probably not much of a problem  IFF you are using proper ventilation *BUT* why add another worry?

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Kozzy, the exercises you described are pretty much what I've been doing. Turn a round bar square then octagon while tapering then cut it off and do it again. Turn round to square to octagon back to round. I have noticed a marked improvement. When I get proficient at tapering and drawing out then I will start making hooks, j,s,round,etc. Thanks for posting the advice. I think it's too easy to want to skip over the basics or not devote enough time to building a foundation of basic skills in the race to want to make the last thing a beginner seen on forged in fire.

Takeit easy and keep the fire lit.

Pnut (Mike) 

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