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I Forge Iron

Stumped with tongs...


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I like to add a little filework to most of my iron. Never much. Just enough to add a highlight here or there. For instance on a 3 knuckle hinge, I just barely break the edge between knuckles, just a touch. It adds a very subtle highlight that accents the joint.

Another place I add a touch of the file is leafwork. On a serrated leaf, I will start at the crotch with my file pretty flat. This makes a wide flat champfer. I then continue around to the tip of the leaf and raise the file as I go to nearly vertical at the tip of the leaf. The champfer ends up very short with just a hint of silver accenting the black primary finish. This creates a curved champfer that goes from flat and sorta disappears  into the vertical plane at the tip. It's quick and takes no time, and very subtle. 

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11 hours ago, CrazyGoatLady said:

I used to hate filing and felt that if I were a better smith, I wouldn't have to file. Over time though, I came to actually enjoy filing. Especially in artistic pieces. Don't get me wrong, I avoid it if I can because it's time consuming and I have very little of that to spare. But it can sure refine a piece very nicely and no shame in it

I have downgraded filing from "hate" to "strongly dislike"; I had an epiphany a few years ago that many of my projects would benefit from the use of a file.  I just never had, not took the time, to pursue that part of the project.  As my skill at the anvil gets better, I don't achieve no filing, just less filing.  And yes, it sure does help refine the project, no matter what it is. 

I had an experienced smith give me an introduction to filing for the better part of an afternoon on more than one occasion.  That really made the difference for me.

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16 hours ago, BillyBones said:

I always figured "traditional" blacksmiths would use what ever tool made the jobs easy and quick. These were people that earned a living in their forge to put food on the table for their children. The quicker and easier a job the more money they would make. So no tool is taboo in the shop. It would be kind of a kin for a modern carpenter to only use a hammer and a hand saw while shunning a circular saw or nail gun. 

So true. Anyone that has ever worked in a blacksmith shop to make money, as opposed to play in a hobby shop that takes money out of your pocket,  will agree with you wholeheartedly. If you went back in time and offered a "traditional" blacksmith a carbide tipped stepped drill bit will he say "No no no, that is anathema!" ?

All it matters is the result, and that such result can be sold for a profit. No filing? You must be kidding! No arc welding? Who says so? Grind away, use your plasma cutter, cold saw, lathe,  mill, you name it, you are allowed to use it, providing it produces a sellable result that you are proud of. Working in a way that is painful and painstakingly slow only to say you work like they used to 200 years ago ? There are no medals for suffering. The only medals are for making something beautiful that the customer likes. 

One reason I ridicule those who insist in using hand driven pedestal drills that require 3 hands both feet and a nudge with your nose, to make an almost round hole, almost in the place you wanted it ... when a battery hand drill can do the same in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the cost and great precision. :rolleyes:

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20 hours ago, BillyBones said:

I always figured "traditional" blacksmiths would use what ever tool made the jobs easy and quick.

You are correct but you are missing something that most miss as well. He would use it in conjunction with his work, not change his work. It would still be "traditional" in look and style and technique because that's what he has spent his life doing. Give the same tools to a contemporary person today with no background in traditional forging and his work would be no different than what comes out of any other fab shop. I suspect the older smith would not give up making gates and railings nor using collars, rivits, and forgeweld and jump on dabbed bumpers as his source of income. Check out those transitional Smith's from around the '30's such as Kuehn who gladly brought welders into their shops for just the reasons you mention. As an example, they didn't grind their welds to hide the joinery, they left their welds proud because they believed that your joinery was a part of the design. 

4 hours ago, Marc1 said:

One reason I ridicule

You do just that, ridicule craftsmen and particularly those who make their living using tooling and joinery of the blacksmiths craft.

It's always puzzled me just why on a site for blacksmithing that this happens so often.

All I can say is that your beliefs are not supported by the rather lucrative business in Europe and the US called Architectural blacksmithing. Work that is varied and covers everything from restoration work to specialized hardware of all sorts to contemporary designs for gates, railings and lighting to name just a few.

It's especially hard for me to understand coming from you specifically because of the time you spent with your mastersmith. There must be a reason for your deep-seated disrespect for the crafts, particularly the blacksmiths craft.

Lol, I have an industrial post drill and a Camelback drill. Neither work as you state. All ya gots to do to make 'em primative thangs work is pull the lever on the right down and line up the tip of the bit with the lil center punch on your work. Hope that helps.  ;)

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I would love to have that old Camelback, however my modern drill press does the same job. Easier? Do not know never used a Camelback.

Anvil, i agree with what you say there. The smith will use the tool to his own purposes. I am just saying it is silly to shun "modern" tools just becuase that is not how it was done 200 years ago. 

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Anvil: Can you just state what you consider "traditional" blacksmithing without going into long circuitous ramblings? At least pick a time period or tech level. You've never  answered that, just long long posts talking around the answer. Can / will you?

Marc1 can be more gruff than necessary, often to the point of being trollish. However in this instance he speaks from the perspective of a professional blacksmith, from apprenticeship to today. He ridicules the marketing hype that there is something superior about "traditional" techniques and tools. We may rub each other the wrong way now and then but he's absolutely right. What counts is the end product not how it was made. 

Someone who can develop a living wage in a "hand" forged or traditional niche market deserves kudos for making a living in a tough market. Perhaps sales is a major talent? I have a couple few personal friends who talk about the superiority of hand forged and "traditional" bladesmithing often in the same sentence complaining about not being able to make minimum wage. One in particular made beautiful blades but couldn't convince anybody to pay him for how much time and effort he had into them. Bladesmiths with: belt grinders, drill presses, welders, torches and ramping kilns were making just as beautiful and when it came to heat treatment superior blades in a fraction of the time which was reflected in the selling price and profit in the smith's bank account.

What  load of BS. The arc welder was invented then developed by a blacksmith so he could eliminate forge welding and the scrap made by failed welds.  Samuel Yellin was one of the first to buy his arc welders.  It turned into a company that allowed him and his sons to get our of blacksmithing by selling arc welders to smiths. The oxy acet torch was invented and developed by a blacksmith so he could do repairs in the field rather than uninstall things, bring them to the shop do the repair and take them back and reinstall.  

Few crafts on Earth have worked harder to eliminate the old "traditional" methods than professional blacksmiths. 

The mythical "traditional" is a philosophical choice, not a mark of superiority. It descends to marketing hype when the practitioner can't or won't define what "traditional" is or even the time period tech level is used.

Frosty The Lucky.


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Ha ha, this is priceless, Anvil talks down to me and Frosty defends me. 

i am speechless, tongue tied ... actually finger tied in this case :)

When I was a kid, as little as 3, I used to "go to work" with my dad very often. He owned a large antique shop that consisted of a showroom, and a workshop in the back. The workshop was mainly for woodwork craftsman that specialized in reproducing classic english furniture. THere was 4 or 5 of them, and they "made" antiquities ... or so I liked to say to their amusement.

Later my father incorporated wrought iron artefacts and a decade later when I started to work in the blacksmith shop, this became the mainstream products that sold like hot cakes. The sixties was a particular prolific time for blacksmiths able to produce architectural and decorative objects that showed the marks of what the public percieved to be the hallmarks of a handmade forged object.  

In my 3 decades of work in close collaboration with several professionals be it blacksmith or woodworkers, I have never ever heard one single solitary person talking up a particular technique that was  used in the past in preference to a modern substitute that produced a better, faster and cheaper result. They did talk about the old days when they, now in their sixties and seventies, were apprentices and what they used to do then. Sure. But the reminiscence was always accompanied by thoughts of piti.  I distinctly remember comments like "I can't believe we used to drill countersunk and rivet this together, and then file the rivet to disguise it."  ... and many more on that line.  The smith was acutely aware that producing an item for decorative purposes and even for practical purposes, was an exercise in ingenuity, and that there was a need to be always on the look for a new, better and faster way to achieve the same or better result.  It was a fine balance, to preserve the art without cheapen it, yet achieve the same result faster and perhaps even better. That was the main topic. The concept that doing it "the old fashion way" was necessarily better because of "tradition" never came up. How to make it look better, more sellable, and faster was the goal. 

On a side note, I remember a Japanese girlfriend from Kyoto. Her father was an accountant yet he liked woodwork. One day he decided to make an attic ladder and did so using only traditional japanese hand tools, and no metal fasteners of any sort. The result was a thing of beauty. The round holes for the pegs he achieved with a square cutter he twisted by hand. The pegs themselves scraped round with a draw knife. 

I never asked why didn't he use power tools, because I knew the answer. It was his choice and his way to honor his ancestors. It had nothing to do with carpentry. 

And he would never berate modern carpenters for using drills and planes or buying dressed stock rather than felling a tree. 

Things get cross wired this days. A lot of people who usually fall in the hobby category, think that making stuff the hard way has some merit over doing things with the appropriate tool.  The hand driven pedestal contraption is just an example i particularly dislike. A hole is a hole. It must have a particular diameter, be at the correct angle and in the right place. What turns the drill bit plays no role in the end result. If you drill using a modern mill or you hold the drill bit with your teeth, if you can achieve that hole in the right place, the difference is only in you body suffering the consequences. Sure those antique machines are pretty and I like old machines a lot. To look at them.

I also like hot bulb semi diesel engines, and the classic noise they make. Love them on old steel boats. But I own a modern GRP cruiser for transportation powered by a Yanmar and hydraulic gearbox. The fish don't care that my engine is hot bulb semi, or  turbocharged. :)


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Thank you Frosty ... I knew you would come good ... eventually :)

Only joking, opinions are like navels. 

Not long ago I was banging away in the workshop making a handrail. My Brother who is an architect, was visiting. 

Some of the components of the railing was 25x 25x 2mm SHS that I textured with a hammer, giving it a lovely hammered surface. 

Surprisingly he asked me ... what are all those dimples for?

Clearly they have no practical purpose and add effort to the end result. Wouldn't it be easier faster and cheaper to leave the SHS as it is? Sure, but the end result would be different. 

Basically I "like" it that way. But why? 

What we like or dislike is deeply rooted in the set of values that makes who we are. Why do I "like" a hammered surface, and why do most people prefer exactly the same,  as opposed to a flat one? 

A blacksmith that wanted square stock for his railings would have had to forge it square. Whoever has ever forged a round bar into a square one, knows that the end result is far removed from the square stock you can buy this days with no effort. And the customer appreciates that forged hammered surface and pays more for it. 

But it would be a fool who thinks that the forged square bar has any advantage over the square stock, besides personal "likes". 

The crafty blacksmith of today, knows this and buys square stock or square tube and textures the surface to imitate the same effect with less of the elbow killing effort required to do it the "traditional" (read the only way available those days) way. if you are good at it, no one will be the wiser, and it looks just as good.

i am not sure my brother understood my reasons for bashing the balusters, but ... who cares right? 

I like it, and it was for my weekender after all, so no customer to please. :)

PS ... I also use a texturing hammer that has a lot of holes drilled in the face, very close together. If I mash stock cold with it, the end result is a flat bar or round bar that looks as if it was left in the weather and corroded and pitted. A particularly nice touch that customers love. Why? Hard to tell, it does look the part ... I like it too, but why do we like or dislike things is too intricate to analyse here, and If we go deep into the reasons that makes us like something, we would probably stir up a hornet nest. 

Having said all that, why don't bladesmith do things the old fashion way? You use all sort of modern abrasive, belt grinders, mills and epoxy , tempering oven, gas forge, that would make a "traditional" bladesmith faint. Are bladesmith exempted from this burden?


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On 8/8/2020 at 10:38 AM, anvil said:

Actually doing some filing on your tongs is not white smithing. Do a search to see what it means. Usually that means the whole piece had been filed to a "white" finish as opposed to a "black" finish blacksmiths do. 

There are some beautiful whitesmith's works out there.

Yeah i know it's not whitesmithing. Never said that thats what i was doing...

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2 hours ago, Marc1 said:

I never asked why didn't he use power tools, because I knew the answer. It was his choice and his way to honor his ancestors. It had nothing to do with carpentry. 

And he would never berate modern carpenters for using drills and planes or buying dressed stock rather than felling a tree.

I totally understand the mix of techniques and equipment. This is my hobby, I rarely sell anything and give away most of my best efforts. Historical woodworking is what led me to the forge.  I recently made a couple tomahawks with a friend--mild steel fold and weld, steel welded in the bit. For handles we used dried cherry which I had cut from my property, riven into billets with axe and wedges and set to dry for several years. The handles were shaped on a shaving horse with drawknife and spokeshave. It just felt good to work it that way.  However, the sharpening and polish was done with the 'endless files' [belt sanders] so maybe bladesmiths are exempt.  I never give anyone grief over using modern equipment and most people let me hammer, punch and shave to my hearts content.

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I've only handled "old" maybe around 300 years old, wrought iron a few times and there weren't any hammer marks. Long rectangular or square components were smooth and even. It was all done to a high finish even if it was black. Rings, hooks, etc. in the stable were more rough but a buggy, finished like a desk top. 

Hammer marks and visible signs of hand working is a modern desire of the customer and a smith wanting to make a living makes what the customer wants. "Educating" the consumer of the value of what YOU make is a loser's approach to marketing. An old friend of mine made beautiful knives but insisted on doing it the Old way: coal, hand forged, hand filed, ground polished, fitted and finished, every step by hand no power. Heck he wouldn't even turn on the lights so he was a dawn to dusk operation. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't convince people his blades were worth 4x comparable blades just just because he did everything the "old" way. It was sad but he ended up doing something else he made beautiful knives but in such a way as to make them unmarketable. 

What I like about hammer marks in iron work is how they feel. For me wrought iron is very tactile a banister with texture is a pleasure to feel sliding under my hand, running a piece of forged iron/steel between my fingers tells me stories looking at it can't.

I make things at the anvil because it puts me IN the project. If I just needed a coat hook I can get them at Fred Meyers for about $2. Spending 7-9 minutes forging one is soul deep satisfying worth more than the money, whether I hang anything from it or not. I enjoy moving hot steel so I do. 

What more reason does a person need to do what they enjoy? I don't need to justify it to anybody anybody who believes I do doesn't matter. Whatever time period a person wants to work within is good, you have no need to try and justify what you like to do. Trying to come up with rationalizations to justify how you work is actually sad. Trying to convince there's some sort of virtue to doing things your way is even more sad. 

Be yourself and love life as it comes to you.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Agreed ... (:ph34r:)

i have seen a few restaurants go under simply because the executive chef insisted in "educating" the public via some extravagant out there menu. And they did so either in writing on their menu, with signs inside the restaurant and even in person. If you are "educating" someone, you imply he is ignorant. Not the best way to make customers. May be OK for a whacko university teacher chairing an irrelevant subject. 

There are of course other considerations when thinking in what to make and how to make it.

There is the artistic side that is supposed to be compelling and unavoidable for the artist ... and then there is the (mundane and, oh so below us) commercial side,  

A sensible balance is supposedly the best choice. 

Some people are lucky and are born in the right time that allows them to be full on artists, and have customers lining up at the door. And then there is those who have to resort to (vulgar) commercial considerations and compromises to make ends meet. 

Life is full of surprises ... by the way I agree with your take on the tactile side of a forged object. I take great satisfaction in touching a hot textured piece, particularly after rubbing it with graphite ... after cooling down of course :)

PS ... where is rockstar? this is a subject just up his alley. ;)


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On 8/10/2020 at 1:05 AM, Frosty said:

I've only handled "old" maybe around 300 years old, wrought iron .......... Trying to convince there's some sort of virtue to doing things your way is even more sad. 

Well said, my friend, well said.  Words can't accurately convey what the fingers and hands can feel in finely handcrafted creations.  There's something about well crafted "anything" that machine-made can't replace.  I've seen it in the eyes of many artists when they put on those final touches and stand back to take a look...................and know what is in my mind when I do the same myself.

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I agree with what has been said, using modern equiment and techniques does not detract from the concept of a blacksmith. Depending on what you consider to be modern, these new editions allow us to do more, whether it is excellent heat treatment with a temp controlled oven or forging massive stock with the use of power hammers. These invetions do not take away from the craft but add possibilities. When do we consider 'modern' tools to be detremental to the craft? Certainly the development of the modern london pattern anvil by Peter Wright or the use of precision grade steels do not do this. In my opinion, blacksmithing is an evolving craft with a rich amount of history that ranges with the smith producing weapons of war to works of decorative art (more or less). As long as we do not let the new 'toys' detract from our own skill (of course skills vary between a hand hammer and a power hammer) and do not become complacent with for the past, I do not see any issues with accepting more toys for the toy chest. 

And of course the use of historical tools and ideas is something special in its own sense and requires lots of skill and patience, but it depends on the person. Personally I like my sanity (at least my percieved sanity) and got myself a nice looking grinder, that looks very fine on its table btw, so I do not have to file my knifes for an eternity. 

Regardless the topic is open to great interpretation and this is my own opinion (with only two years under the belt I don't know if it is worth much more then 2 cents). 



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When folks tell me they are doing "traditional smithing"; I ask them how many people they have working for them?  None?  That's very untraditional! 

I ask them if they are using real wrought iron?  Mild Steel? only in use in around the last 170 years out of 3000 years of smithing?

I ask them if they are using charcoal as the forge fuel?  Coal? only used in Western Europe for smithing since the high/late middle ages---less than 1000 years of the 3000 years blacksmithing has been done.

In reality when folks tell me they are doing "Traditional Blacksmithing" they are doing their fantasy of of what it actually was like.

I still don't have power to my shop and can say that punching holes, especially larger ones can be a lot faster than doing them by hand with my cole drill---did some of each this last weekend, Hot punched for larger holes and hand drilled for ones needing greater accuracy and lack of heat. (Drilling holes in the handles of some of my shop tools so I can hang them on the garden rake heads mounted on the walls.)

Now I have done some projects as traditional as I could get using techniques and tools and materials that a Y1K smith would have used---and minions!  But I sure am looking forward to having power in my shop so I can work past 10 am in the summer and not have to keep an icepack on my insulin pump!

(I blame the love of the "bumpy" surface on the Arts and Crafts Movement---after thousands of years of blacksmiths trying to do such good job hammering that people couldn't see it. Suddenly it became a mark of something NOT being "machine made"---even though machines to put in a "hand hammered surface" were developed almost instantaneously---you can often still see the "random ball peen used by drunken monkeys" look on things like cheap garden gate hinges.)

However; putting the surface finish the customer wants on stuff they are paying you to make is part of the job as well.

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On 8/9/2020 at 2:06 PM, Frosty said:

The arc welder was invented then developed by a blacksmith

I did not know that. Interesting, that and the OA torch. I have also heard that locking pliers (Vise-grip) were developed by a smith. Makes you wonder how many other tools we use everyday were originally intended for use in the blacksmiths shop.  I imagine it is quite a few. 



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20 hours ago, Marc1 said:

Ha ha, this is priceless, Anvil talks down to me and Frosty defends me.

I read this yesterday an got a great laugh out of it. I pictured Frosty on his great white charger standing between poor defenseless Marc and the evil one touting " Traditional Blacksmiths Forever" and his despicable slogan,," yes, architectural smithing is a viable lifestyle"!  :) ;) Thanks for more insights into your youth. As I've said before to be involved in a working blacksmith shop and to be surrounded by craftsmen of many types is pretty special and in our age,, pretty rare. Lol, the only time you get me going is when you speak so harshly,,, an understatement,, twards craftsmen,, particularly craftsmen of our craft  and our viability as a profession.

On 8/9/2020 at 12:06 PM, Frosty said:

Anvil: Can you just state what you consider "traditional" blacksmithing without going into long circuitous ramblings?

Lol,,, a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, yes?  Perhaps we should have a word count contest here and a vote as to just who is most windy and rambling amonst us all. You, me, Marc, Jen and Thomas certainly would be in a close race!  :)

On 8/9/2020 at 12:06 PM, Frosty said:

Can you just state what you consider "traditional" blacksmithing

In fact I can and with just a little ramble. I'd like to thank all here and particularly Thomas for the many discussions on this topic. I've never tried to put in words just what "Traditional Blacksmith" actually means to me until coming here, altho it's been discussed in many places by many people including me. I stress To Me. Thomas and I had a conversation a few months ago concerning this and historical reenactment. With that conversation it became clear to me and I stated it then for the first time. This is the second time.

First let me be clear. It has nothing to do with historical reenactment. All smithing reenactments are examples of traditional smithing, but all traditional Smith's are not reenactors! They are a subset of traditional smithing, just as traditional smithing is a subset of the mother of all iron,,, the Blacksmith". That's how I look at it. Again, this is how I look at it. I make no claim to this being original. I firmly believe that those I know and have worked with have a similar outlook no matter the words they use. Can Francis Whitaker, Tom Joyce, or Frank Turley be considered anything but traditional Smith's? They certainly are not historical reenactors!

For me, a  traditional smith is defined by three things 

1: the PRIMARY tools we use are the tools used thru our long history. Please note i said primary. That's critical. These are something to beat with, something to beat on, something to heat with, something to clamp with, and a myriad of hand tools. Something to beat with could be as simple as a rock or the largest power hammer ever made.

What we beat on, commonly called an anvil, is anything you want from a bigger than your rock hammer to the finest anvil you can imagine. This includes a section of rr track. Just because I believe mounting it in the vertical limits it's abilities does not mean it's not an anvil.

What we heat with can be anything from coal, coke, camel patties,propane, or inductive heating. Notice in both the above there are absolutely no limits by anything including tech advancements. 

What we clamp with is a post vice or a thing that frees us to use both hands to work our iron.

Hand tools are anything from punches to scrolling wrenches to anything you need to get the job done!

2: Our PRIMARY joinery is the joinery used from day 1 to today. Again notice I said primary. We are not limited in any way. This usually means collars, rivits, mortise and tenon,punched holes,drilled holes, slit and drifted holes, forge welds and anything else along this line that I may have left out. It does not mean that you cannot use any tool you want if you end up with a mistake and to repair it requires any tooling/tech you need to save the day. However I've found, but not in all cases that traditional techniques work best on a traditional project as defined for me in this post.. I have used welder, grinder, torch where necessary, then spent a huge amount to remove the fabricated looking finish to bring it back to what I've stated in 3 below. Again these tools fit the catagory of secondary tools, not primary. 

3: this is more or less the philosophical one. The esthetics of our craft. How it looks, how it feels, etc. I could go on here ad infinitum. Turley started me here. He stated that the popular conception of iron is cold, hard, immovable and the purpose of the Smith is to make it look and feel soft, warm, and flowing. I suspect there are many here who either became interested in iron due to seeing a forged piece that shows these traits, even if it was a subconscious awareness. Most of us either subconsciously or consciously spend much R&D time on finish to achieve just what each of us consider the above.

That's it. 

When I say primary what I mean is these are our daily drivers and our shop spaces are set up to maximize the efficiency of their use. This does not mean we Cannot use a welder, grinder, torch, mig,Tig, or any other tool you may want to use to make your work more efficient. They are there to assist our work roll, not to replace our primary tools. You want to heat your work with a rosebud? Then it replaced your forge and is primary and should be in a prominent location. You want to tack together a 10 stack layer for your Damascus project? Then it becomes an auxiliary tool for your convenience and the welder should not interfere with your forge, anvil, post vice setup.

On 8/9/2020 at 12:06 PM, Frosty said:

I have a couple few personal friends who talk about the superiority of hand forged and "traditional" bladesmithing

Frosty, I've taken this a bit out of context for a reason. Please don't lock me in this box. I have never made this kind of statement concerning traditional smithing. Marc as well had suggested this is the case with most "traditional (fill in the blank). Whenever possible I state, and state it forcefully that I have absolutely NO judgement concerning how others do whatever they choose to do. It's a personal choice and that always wins my respect. To make that statement is as big an ego statement as those who demean this wonderful craft called "Traditional Smithing". I have fought this my whole career. Please do not confuse my passion for forged iron and the wonderful and challenging pathway it has brought me as a career and assume that implies I believe other ways are inferior.

Thanks to one and all.

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Vice grip pliers were invented by Mr. William Petersen in 1924. He was a blacksmith working in De Witt, Nebraska.

He was trying to develop a multi-size sized pair of tongs.

The main users of the device turned out to be welders, and hobbyists,   not blacksmiths.


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14 minutes ago, anvil said:

Frosty, I've taken this a bit out of context for a reason.

Of course, using the entire statement would be too hard to spin wouldn't it? 

I think it boils down to you're a traditional blacksmith because you say you are. Your definition is full of: obfuscations, qualifiers and terms with more definitions and meanings. Comparing yourself to some of the living greats really vague ways that don't connect with your image of tradition, is supposed to bolster your opinion. 

You also conveniently miss both Marc and my point. I won't speak for Marc but for myself I detest the misrepresentation. Shall I return the favor and take your statement about it being acceptable to use a grinder to hide an arc weld, out of context as an example of misrepresenting traditional joinery? 

Your above description of what "traditional blacksmithing" means is so vague as to be meaningless to anybody but you. That doesn't take anything away from the quality of what you make. It does however devalue the term "traditional blacksmith." 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I recently mentioned that most people who used the label "Traditional Blacksmith" or "Traditional Blacksmithing" were actually applying their fantasy of what a "traditional blacksmith" was.   Even traditional joinery has some odd aspects---have you seen the joinery on the Iron Bridge at Ironbridge Gorge?   So in fact everybody's definition probably varies somewhere within it.

I remember decades ago being very snooty about the difference between Blacksmiths and Farriers---until I read some of the daybooks from blacksmiths 200 years ago.  They tended to be generalists here in America; especially rural America.  I understand where in some more thickly settled cultures the subdivision was made and could work and the Guild records in Europe can get pretty granular---Spur makers for instance; or how many separate guilds could be involved in producing a sword.  So whose traditions do we follow to be traditional?

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You don't need to go 200 years back. My wife's grandparents lived next to a blacksmith. His name was "Don Picuto". He was the local fix it all, but his main business was making horse shoes. he shoed a horse only occasionally. So what was he? 

The idea that we must label the craft and define the person in a manner that satisfies us today is a modern day obsession and one that entertains mainly the hobby person. 

There is however something to what Thomas just wrote. We could easily classify a person's skills if we could see how that person performs without electricity. That is a real skill and the tooling that allows to work without electricity most probably satisfies those with a re enactment urge. 

I have worked many times during the far too often blackouts, and forged part of a project to be assembled later. Cutting a post or balusters with a hacksaw is not in my definition of fun. 

So perhaps traditional blacksmith during blackouts and modern metalworker when the power is back. Would I work without power by choice? Not really, not a sucker for punishment, and I don't have an audience to show what is possible without power, don't work in a museum, don't have apprentices,  and most importantly, I am acutely aware that without power my work slows down badly and does not improve in quality one bit, if anything it suffers. 

Having said that, if someone has a workshop set up like 200 years ago, and enjoys working that way, who am I to say there is something wrong with that? I would only say that he is setting himself for injury and slow progress and will most likely spend hours to make something I can make much faster and that will look the same, unless dissected and analysed under a microscope, something that the average customer will not do. 

The difference between traditional blacksmith and modern blacksmith is ... in my view only ... that the traditional blacksmith is most likely a hobby, and if not, he will struggle with the handicap he has imposed on himself, and will forever need to explain the (non existing ) difference . The modern blacksmith is most likely professional who is open to the likes and dislikes of his customers who, among other things, want to see the hammer marks on the forged objects he buys, and don't classify them as being done by drunken monkeys.  

Actually I do have an occasional audience. My neighbour who comes to see what I am doing and asks aloof questions all the time. Sort of entertaining :)

I assume that there are those who call themselves traditional painters, and make the paint themselves mashing toxic pigments in the belief that such must be the way to go. 

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