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Starting blacksmithing/bladesmithing


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Note that typically the eyes of hammers have a rather hourglass shape allowing the handle to lock into place. Drilled holes have straight sides. Drifted holes tend to have the hourglass shape when drifted from both sides.

I still regularly use my first hammer which I paid US$1.50  yes a dollar and a half at a fleamarket 38 years ago.  What's all this about $100 hammers?

Buy a hammer and MAKE punches and drifts if you want to make your own hammers!

Note starting out with difficult projects can often end your urge to smith with frustration.

BTW I like terminal bulbs on my hammer handles as I can grip them more loosely and not have them try to escape.  Holding handles tightly results in RSI!

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Ive wanted to do blacksmithing/bladesmithing for years and i am dedicated to this i will never quit something I’ve started. But I’ve already spent hours making them (almost all sanding for that smooth glossy look) then i stained them and clear coated them tonight. I know this is something i want to do and stay with. I have a great deal of patience. I know how i will assemble them, Ive spent literal hours researching blacksmithing.

-Matthew H

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Clear coating a hammer handle will cause blisters.  I sand all the coatings off of my  store bought hammer handles and just give them a wipe with boiled linseed oil. After a while they will get a nice hand worn finish especially where you hold them. Every handle I've ever used that had a shiny finish be it a shovel, axe, tobacco knife, hoe, or framing hammer rubbed blisters on my hands after using them for a while, especially when I'd  start sweating.  

As far as making a hammer I don't think that's a beginner project by any means. Punching or slitting and drifting a hole In a piece of stock the size suitable for a general blacksmithing hammer is no easy task, especially if you're doing it alone without a power or treadle hammer or press. Without a power hammer or press you will need a striker to swing a sledgehammer while you hold the punch or slitter. You need hammer tongs too. A two or three pound piece of orange hot steel is nothing to take lightly. If you drop it it's not going to stop burning whatever you drop it on until you pick it back up. Be safe and start with some projects you can be successful at. It's much more fun than failing and getting frustrated and angry.  You can find some beginner projects and some downloadable PDFs like the ABANA controlled  hand forging curriculum at the ABANA website and there's a lot of PDFs at Bamsite. Start with things that will build your confidence by being successful versus starting with projects beyond your skill level that will only frustrate you by being unsuccessful. 

We want you to succeed. I've been forging for about a year and this is the same advice I was given and I'm glad I listened.

Good luck and remember this is supposed to be fun.              

Pnut

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Every wooden handle, hammer, shovel, rake, wheel borrow, etc, if it is wooden it is sanded with 100 grit sandpaper, down to the wood.  All the varnish, factory coating, dirt, etc is removed. Then it is coated with a 50/50 mix of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits, allowed to absorb the mix and coated again and again until the wood will not take any more of the mix. Then it is coated daily for a week, weekly for a month, and monthly for a year. To use the handle, just wipe off any excess, use, and then recoat the wood when your finished. Each time after you wipe down the wood, BURN the rag.  Getting a little of the mix on the metal tool also protects the tool.

A 2 pound hammer is all you need to start with. Remember that you are not swinging that hammer once, you are going to swing that hammer for HOURS at a time !!  

As to being confused, massive amounts of information will do that to you, until you begin to start sorting it all out and learning what is good information and what is not so good.  You learn by taking the information to the forge and trying it out.  Keep what works for you, at your forge, at your location.  

Ask 10 blacksmiths how to do something and get 12 or more answers, all of which work for that blacksmith. Your job is to take them to the forge and try them all out. You will end up with one that works for you. The rest work, but are back up plans when needed.   

Blacksmithing is not a sprint as there is no finish line. It is a life long journey learning something new at every opportunity.  We want you to succeed, and we want to be a part of that success. Enjoy the adventure.

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1 hour ago, Glenn said:

Each time after you wipe down the wood, BURN the rag

You need to burn the rag because mineral spirits on a rag can spontaneously combust in a trash can corner or wherever it ends up due to  exothermic oxidation. Many shops/houses and lives have been lost due to throwing a rag with mineral spirits in a trash can like any other garbage. DO NOT throw a rag with mineral spirits on it away. The only safe way to dispose of it is to burn it. There's other ways but why risk it. 

You're 15 and your family thinks you are responsible enough to have a forge and take up blacksmithing so please don't make them regret it.                                      

SAFETY  FIRST ALWAYS!!!

Pnut

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I made the handles in my shop and finish them with 600 grit, so that they wouldn’t give me blisters, I’ve been woodworking for years, ill admit I’m being ignorant on this one but a hammer is definitely not going to be my first project, because I don’t have a feel for moving the hot metal on an anvil that much. Ill probably start out by making a leaf and moving up to a knife then a hammer, ill look into directions to make the stuff ill be trying to make, i know its trial and error, but trust me I have a lot of experience in the error part. ;) 

thanks 

-Matthew H

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Matthew: I start folks off with a 32 oz. drill hammer, they're heavy enough to do good effective work but not so heavy they tire a student too quickly nor do injuries. Also the handles are shorter giving the smith better control.

Blacksmithing is about control, not strength or special tools, you want to hedge your bets towards success NOT bragging rights. Making your own hammers is cool but cool doesn't move metal in a controlled manner. Believe it or not you'll get more utility from well fitted tongs, chisels and punches, a hammer is a hammer.

Frosty The Lucky.

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