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Intro Topic - New to Blacksmithing


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Greetings,

I have been getting a lot of great information from this site so I figured I would join up in the off chance I can contribute something - but mostly for advice...

I have been doing things on a very casual basis over the last month or so - a few hours here and there.  Through the TPAAT I have acquired a rusty 55 pound cast steel anvil from an uncle-in-law’s shed as well as an (even rustier) monster bench vice that is about as heavy.  Both cleaned up nicely.  I already had tools for woodworking and some basic mechanics stuff (angle grinder, bench grinder, drill press) and have supplemented that with some from my dad who is a retired machinist and has a trove of stuff he got when they bought there current place.  I also managed to get a 65 pound 6” cylinder of high speed steel that can serve as a “larger” anvil if I really want to hit something hard.

My forge at present is a JABOD’ish design.  I came across a scrap stainless steel sink that I trimmed out and then embedded a brake rotor in some natural clay.  Started out with literally a hole in the ground.  I have been doing side blast but currently configured for bottom blast.  Using charcoal right now for fuel and made enough to fill a 40 gallon trash can just using an open pit method.

My initial blower was a salvaged squirrel (5” rotor) cage out of a dehumidifier unit that failed.  That was good for a small fire, but I was struggling getting a decent volume of a fireball.  I messed around a great deal with this trying to remodel the JABOD’ish forge to work, but in the end I surmised that I just don’t have enough air.  It was enough to get metal plenty hot up 1/2” diameter, but the fire was just not very deep.  Even with just 3” from the top to the tuyere to the surface of the forge top, I was still having to push the work piece down into the charcoal bed to get to the fireball.  My “Eureka” moment that my blower was not up to snuff was in a moment of desperation I grabbed the shop vac and blew a bit of air into tuyere and saw what the right amount of air can do.  Suddenly there was fire everywhere - too much fire - but confirmed that I needed more air.

Wanting to do things on the cheap, I decided to build a box bellows.  I had a bunch of 1“x12”x96” pine shelving that I had grabbed for free from a neighbor did the job for the wood.  I ended up with a ~11”x11” cross section with 45” of total length.  I am using old fleece fabric for the bellows seal (folded and stapled) and faux leather for the valve flaps.  I just wrapped it up last eventing and have not connected it to the forge yet, but based on approximating performance by filling up a trash bag I am getting easily 5 times the air I was with the blower operating a no back pressure.  I am sure the blower is putting out much less that that when operating against the pressure head of moving the air through the tuyere and the charcoal bed.

Have been hard at work salvaging some steel and have the usual assortment of agricultural/automotive stuff:  low carbon 3/8” rod from a combine, coil springs, torsion bar, a couple of plow disks, a 1/2” thick bush hog blade, etc.  My dad also had some high carbon steel 1/8” sheet scrap that he had used to make a knife out of already.

Also some heavier medium carbon cylinders from some shafting.  Projects thus far have been basic “tutorial” things learning how to move steel, basic fire tools, some handles for my forge tub, a pair of functional but ugly tongs, some drive hooks, etc. 

Next steps are to adjust my current forging table to accommodate the box bellows.  This is just a piece of plywood that I set on metal sawhorses - I need to keep things portable since I live in the suburbs and can’t justify anything more permanent at this point.  A lot of what I am doing is likely going to be “on-the-road” so to speak when we take the kids to visit grandparents (who both happen to live in the country.)  There the kids are more occupied and nobody cares if I make loud ting-ting-ting sounds.  Right now I can toss everything I need in the back of the minivan with enough room for other stuff.  In terms of future projects, looking at some basic utility-driven things:  tools to help with Dutch oven campfire cooking, camp tripod, small carving knives, etc.  Would like to work up to making a hammer or small axe.

Right now I feel that I have a good working setup and have spent next to nothing.  I bought a pack of $12 fire bricks to help coral the charcoal and splurged on a $40 2-lb cross peen hammer because the 4 lb one that I got was overkill for what I was doing.

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Welcome aboard Llama, glad to have you. It sounds like you're getting your basic kit figured out well. What kind of fire bricks are yo using? &12./ea is kind of expensive even for insulating fire brick. Last I bought 3,000f hard fire brick they were around $4/ea. It's been a while though. I also shudder at the thought of paying $40 for a hammer, you can get one locally for under $12, even at the high end hardware stores. I got my last 40oz. cross pein at a yard sale free because the handle was broken. The seller threw it in with the other stuff I was picking up after I mentioned being a blacksmith, he felt I'd put a new handle on it where the "normal" person might use it and be injured. I bought a couple other things in appreciation of someone who would rather take a loss than see someone maybe get hurt, that's my kind of person.

Anyway, in short I haven't bought a hammer in a store since I picked up the framing hammer when we built the house, I cruise: yard, garage, estate, etc. sales. Hammers, especially ones with broken or missing handles for cheap on my buy list. Ball peins of all sizes are extremely desirable, they are excellent for modifying into many kinds of hammers and top tools. 

We (IFI) have a couple members who have been doing down hearth cooking with period specific utensils for some time. I am or was a heck of a down hearth cook but never used tripods, grill, etc. I modified the fire ring and improvised to serve. 

We also have a member who has an outstanding smithy in a modest sized trailer, some overkill for the average person but she's anything but an average smith. It's well worth checking out, it's really well thought out and arranged to work in.

I'd better stop I'm getting off on a morning ramble. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for the welcome.

The firebrick was $12 for a pack of 6 a a big-box store - Menards.  It is not particularly durable, but works good enough as long as I don’t knock it around.

I tried to find a lighter hammer on the cheap but it was a stopping point so I went ahead and bought one.  Swinging the four pound hammer was wearing me out as a newbie...  I have a bunch of hickory staves about dry for handles and a more modest amount of Osage orange that is already dried, so if I come across some serviceable hammer heads I am ready to go.  We have a Habitat for Humanity Restore close buy and they often have hammers and other tools for cheap - hammers are $3 regardless of the type.  Just need to be on the lookout!

Take care.

 

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Okay, a Menards 6 pack of fire place/ BBQ pit fire brick, sounds more like it. WHEW! Yeah, if you want to continue to use fire brick check with a masonry supply or concrete batch plant, they'll carry high temp, 3,000f +/- a few*, hard fire brick. It's NOT a good choice in a propane forge but works a treat in a side draft charcoal or a Duck's nest bottom blast coal forge. 

I understand, time vs money, sometimes it just isn't worth waiting for THE deal. Been there done that. I start folk out with a 32oz. Drill hammer, it's heavy enough to do serious work but not so heavy to make mistakes permanent immediately, tire or injure a person as quickly. The short handle makes control easier so a person can build hammer control without injuring them self tossing failed projects in the scrap bucket. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Llama, Frosty's suggestion of a drill hammer (or driller's hammer in some descriptions) is a good suggestion.  If you happen to take a liking to rounding hammers, you can GENTLY, and DON'T GET IT HOT, so as not to remove any temper, grind and polish one face to a nice curve and leave the other flat.  I have two sizes that work as good or better than a $100+ hammer.  Look up photos of rounding hammers to get an idea of the rounded face curvature.

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Frosty and Arkie:  I will keep an eye out for drill hammer head on the cheap - thanks.

I have a piece of medium carbon 1.5” rod that could be turned into some hammer heads just with the basic machine tools I have to be honest.  Probably not up to forging them now, but can certainly drill out and file an oval into the handle per Weygers book and shape the rest via hacksaw, cutoff wheel, and bench grinder.  I usually make my own tool handles for stuff like this, so the eye does not need to be conform to a standard size.  I have already played around with tempering a bit just on some spring stock so think that I would be able to get the hardness to where it was a serviceable hammer in my simple forge.

I can see that blacksmith’s accumulate hammers quite quickly...

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4 hours ago, TheWanderingLlama said:

off chance I can contribute something

Welcome to the insanity.:) Looks like you have a good handle on just starting out. Even if you don't have blacksmithing stuff to contribute, I'm sure in your reading you have noticed we often "go off the rails" in some threads and clean puns, jokes etc. are more than welcome and we love pictures. There is even a sub-forum Everything Else that a lot of us post in, lots of good threads there. If you are into cooking check out Vulcan's Grill some great recipes there.

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Have you met Adlai Stein of Macabee Metals in Columbus Ohio yet? (macabeemetals.com)  Good guy to know; tell him Thomas Powers said for you to hide his anvil...He teaches too; if you are interested in classes.

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We used to have a smithing club in Columbus OH, The Mid Ohio Blacksmiths AKA the MOB.  It broke up after I left; but I knew a lot of the smiths around those parts at one time.

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We lost an old Mobster recently; Don Yors. 

I'm a bit gun shy about meet ups after Paw Paw Wilson died before we could meet up at a Quad-State later that same year.

But I'm already working on a project to display at the next Quad-State I get to.

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As I have poked around I have found that Ohio has a pretty rich blacksmithing heritage/community. I will definitely be aiming to go to the Troy event - too bad it had to be called off this year.

I am still hoping to turn up a bigger anvil then the 55 pounder I found. I have been TPAAAT’ing.  Anything on Craigslist is so horribly overpriced that I could just buy new. I know there are hundreds of anvils hanging out in barns/sheds that need rescued - hopefully I can find one around ~175 pounds or so with a fair price. 

I have a light but workable “real anvil” and a functioning chunk of steel anvil - so I can play the long game on TPAAAT. 

I did have found at least two guys on Craigslist who must be anvil-finders/resellers. But again, prices are close to new anvils so doesn’t make sense to me. 

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Llama,

There is a guy that pops up on my FB market feed all the time in Ohio selling a ton of stuff. I do not know his prices because he's an almost 8 hour drive from me. Somewhere North East Ohio if I remember right. Might be worth checking out if you are close enough.

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Yes; online is generally one of the WORST places to find good deals on blacksmithing stuff.  You want people NOT trying to get the most they can out of stuff they are selling; preferably ones that are not online checking what top prices elsewhere are.

When I lived in Columbus Ohio I averaged a good condition, good brand anvil a year for under US$1 a pound---for 15 years; 80% of them were found in the city too!   Even out here I have run into some $1 a pound anvils---the going price for close to 50 years before the current bubble.

You want to find the anvils that are looking for a good home not $$$$$.  (Looking online is like looking for a wedding ring at Tiffany's and then complaining that cheap wedding rings can't be found!)

 

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13 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

You want to find the anvils that are looking for a good home not $$$$$. 

That has been my conclusion as well.  Someone may want the history behind a 100+ year old anvil and be willing to pay the same price per pound as a quality new anvil. I am not that guy.

My dad worked as a machinist in a shop that had a blacksmith as a tool maker - he is going to reach out to him and see if he has any good leads (or something in his shed.). Just need to not be in a hurry...

Jealdi:  I will check that out. I am in central Ohio, so not that far away to check something out in NE Ohio. 

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Reach out to everyone!  The 92 year old lady at my church had an anvil in her shed!

When I left Ohio there were several "possibles" still out in the wind; including an anvil located in a sub basement of a local hospital---I had talked with an orthopedic smith who had used it in WWII at the hospital and a maintenance guy who told me it was still there 50 years later.  Also I was wandering the alleyways in German Village area and spotted an anvil in a back yard; unfortunately the owner was in hospice and I didn't want to bother the family.   Got one anvil because I saw a hardy thrown in a box with old plumbing parts; bought it and asked where the anvil it went to was---sitting in their carport as it was too heavy to drag to the fleamarket...

And I have mentioned the recent death of Don Yors; you might talk with some of the local smiths and see if there will be a shop sale.

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