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How to get started black smithing ?


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It may be best for you to start with long stock, so no tongs are needed. After that it comes down to money or skill level. Tongs can be difficult and frustrating for beginners. You could look into twist tongs and the are plans for those in the blueprint section. Tong blanks are also a good option for beginners. Honestly, when I am at other blacksmith’s shops, one thing I pay close attention to is there tong collection and many are purchased. When things clear up, find a local hammer-in and ask for help making tongs. That’s the best way to learn, but the video link here can help also. I personally believe it is a good skill to have. (Even though most of mine are self made and crudely functional.)

David

(ps, if you have a welder available, welding a hand on works out great in many cases. Of course for some things that can be a pain...)

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Depends... Yes you can, my first pair i made with rebar. However, IMO, it's not great for tongs. I'm not really a fan of forging anything out of rebar. I find it to be a very heterogeneous material, even one piece can have sections that forge differently than others. Let alone different pieces. I also found it tends to split apart more readily than other steels, which is not a good thing, especially when it splits right around the boss. 

Mild steel is going to save you a lot of unnecessary fighting with your material...

TP, again beating me to the send button haha 

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I find that I can buy a 20' stick of steel at a steel sales company for the same price as a 4' piece at a big box store; so Yes but it's a bad idea.

Do you have access to an old PAPER yellow pages?  If so look in it under steel or iron & steel and see which companies near you might sell it.  If you know what you want ask the prices as places often differ in price depending on when they last bought their stock. (Or the phase of the moon, lottery numbers, etc---lets just say they differ and the place that may be cheapest one buy may not be the next one!) Note that they generally charge to cut stock down smaller lengths; my last place was US$1 per cut.  I generally bring a hacksaw; but I drive a pickup truck and so 1 cut gets me on the road.

Hot rolled steel is usually sold in the 20' long piece. Cold rolled is more expensive and sold in shorter lengths.

If you want to know the best places to buy steel local you should contact blacksmiths local to you; which you may be able to track down by checking out your local ABANA Affiliate, (of which there are several in VA).  Asking folks in Finland and South Africa, Chile and Australia, etc where you should buy steel is not very effective.  World Wide Web; we have folks from over 100 countries participate here!

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You  can buy it but it comes at a high price due to the short lengths and connivence of having it in stock.

If you want new material go to a steel supplier and purchase a 20 foot length of steel in your favorite flavor.  They may give you one free cut, so take a hacksaw, bolt cutters, chisel, etc so it can fit in your vehicle.

You can find mystery metal many different places.  Go to where they use metals and ask to look at their scraps.  Offer them at least junk prices for what you are allowed to take, or donuts and cookies.  Tell them what you are going to use the metal for (blacksmithing) and that you ARE NOT a junker.  Next time you pass by be sure to bring them something you have made from their metal.  Give it to them with no expectations in return.

Always bring rope and a red flag to tie the metal together and to the vehicle.  When you think you have it securely tied, use the rest of the rope and tie some more.  The red flag is notification to anyone following you that they should not follow real close.  

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13 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

If you want to know the best places to buy steel local you should contact blacksmiths local to you; which you may be able to track down by checking out your local ABANA

Finally a sensible answer.

It always amazes me when this questions pop up and they do frequently. How do I get started? and the assumptions by every single answer is ... that it is a mystery, and that it has to be free or almost free. 

Both assumptions are wrong. Sure you can ask here but you are bound to get a dozen of contradicting opinions due to the heterogeneous diversity of responders. Useful sometimes, not so useful others. Ask your local blacksmith, or blacksmith association. They may be not having active meetings with this chinese virus, but someone is bound to be working in your area. 

And as far as cost. Every beginning will cost money. For tools and materials. Nothing is free. Sure you can minimise costs here and there, but invariably you get what you pay for. Best thing to do is find a few of your local blacksmiths and pay them a visit. Who knows, you may find someone getting long in the tooth and willing to sell you some of the tools to get started. 

Best of luck. 

 

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Reminds me of a time when someone in a woodworking forum, always posting about his efforts to build things with no money, was asking about "how can I make an anvil for my shed" ?

Well, the suggestions came thick and fast, coming from non blacksmith they where ... how to say, a tad naive if not completely useless, but ... it was entertaining.

Eventually, and seeing that the fellow was serious in his desire and given that I have way more anvils that I will ever need in my life time and the next, I offered to give him one of my 40 KG anvil that lay unused in the shed. Thinking in not embarrassing him, I said I will "sell" him one for $50.  

What followed was amazing. He was incredibly enthusiastic at first, bombarding me with private messages about making this payment and picking up the anvil, since he lives in a city about 1000 km away. One of the 'solutions' to the logistics was to send his wife's friend to pick it up when she came to Sydney to visit. 

Then slowly he started to see problems ... like ... my wifes friend is very small, you will need to help her to load the anvil in the car. And then ... the car is very small, I don't know if it will take the load ... then finally silence. 

i never repeated my offer and dropped the subject, but my interpretation is that $50 is not free. And I put a token price to the anvil (that is worth $500 sold in a rush) , for a reason.

Oh well, enough with the psychology ... :) no relation to your question Jacob, just my rambling. 

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Marc;

One of the problems with free is that the recipient will not value the item because they have no investment in it.  It cost them nothing and so is worth nothing to them.  There are exceptions, of course,  but that is often how it works.

The same is true of services.  When I was first out of law school I did some pro bono work, usually divorces, for the local women's shelter.  The first woman i tried to help I said that I would do it for free and she was one of the worst clients I ever had and would not listen to anything I told her.  She eventually fired me and I was glad of it.  After that I would charge a flat $50 to do a simple divorce and because my clients had invested something in me and the process they valued things more.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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I spent two decades scrounging stuff for my other craft. It was educational, it was empowering, but now that  I'm  fifty-bazillion years old, I'm all about limiting the variables. I hammered two pieces of rebar to mark it off my list, then went to the closest steel place and bought several rounds, flats and bars of hot rolled mild steel. I I can worry about one or two things at a time these days, so limit the unknowns is my new montra. Later on I can go scrap yard exploring, but right now material that will behave and be forgiving of this newbie is where it's at.

I'm so new, I still haven't had the swing-time of a Lizzie Borden!

 

Taylor, near Jeddo TX

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1 hour ago, ThomasPowers said:

Note that they generally charge to cut stock down smaller lengths; my last place was US$1 per cut.  I generally bring a hacksaw; but I drive a pickup truck and so 1 cut gets me on the road.

I have read this many times. I must be fortunate because my steel supplier doesn't charge me to cut. I generally buy a 20' stick and have it cut in half. Any other cutting I do myself with a hacksaw or the chop saw, depending on size

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Go to where trains run. 

Look for a repair crew, or ask a rr person where they are working on tracks.  The crew may be able to provide you with some track or a location where they keep the parts and short pieces of track.  Tell them what you want it for and usually they are helpful.

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Scrap yards here only hold the rr property until the rr comes and collects it.  

If you are able to purchase some items as scrap, be sure to get a written sales receipt and list all the items purchased.

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Unfortunately no scrapyard around me accepts or stores any steel that comes from a railroad (to discourage scrappers from just walking the track picking up anything thy can get their hands on I imagine). The RR company uses specific yards for disposal so the availability is going to be regional. I know around me there is a "Rails to Trails" program where they tear out old track and pile it up for scrap to make way for walking trails. That's where my heap of spikes came from, with permission. If VA has something similar then you may be able to save a small piece of track for yourself. Heck, you could probably save a  10' piece if you wanted to and asked the right person.

Unfortunately, a short length of track (10-24") isn't something you just find laying around very often in my experience and the RR company doesn't really appreciate one's attempting to free a piece from.. well anywhere with a hacksaw.. or an angle grinder or whatever.  

Of course when all else fails there is always ebay. If you don't mind spending 50x (or more) the scrap price... There are also a great number of other large pieces of steel you can find that will serve you well if the track is too difficult/expensive to acquire.

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9 hours ago, Jacob1 said:

Where can I find railroad track 

If you were closer to me I'd take you to the hump yard I used to work at and they'd cut a piece to whatever height you need. I got Lucky and didn't have to make the hour drive because a maintenance sub contracting crew was staying at the hotel where I work and I stopped by the job site and they cut a piece about thirty inches long for me. 

 Look for people working on the right of way and show up with cold drinks in the summer or coffee in the winter and explain what you want to do with it and you may very well find a piece for free. 

Pnut

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If you are going to use railroad track as your anvil, I would recommend that you mount it stood on end to maximize mass under your hammer. This will help it work for you by returning more energy from what you put into it. I would also use an angle grinder to put some radii on the edges (maybe even use different sections for different things. ie a flat section for planishing blows, a couple different radii, maybe even a hot cut). I am only regurgitating what I was told or have read about railroad track. I apologize if I am getting any of my info wrong. I personally use a 10lb sledgehammer head, which works really well for me.

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On 8/13/2020 at 5:49 PM, ThomasPowers said:

my last place was US$1 per cut

The place i get steel wants $10 to cut. However that is as much as they can fit in the saw. So if you buy 10 sticks they will bundle them and that is 1 cut. 

 

On 8/13/2020 at 5:54 PM, Glenn said:

Always bring rope and a red flag

I use a bright red ratchet strap, about 2" wide,  that i wrap around the sticks to bundle them together ,then leave the end dangling in the breeze. I then use a couple other straps to secure the load in my truck. I might also mention a roll of duct tape comes in handy also. 

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At a good price?   I'm getting it for 20 UScents a pound at my scrapyard:  Take I-25 to exit 156. Go downhill to the first road to the left after the northbound entrance ramp---just east of the cemetery.  Go left several miles until you see the scrapyard on the right.  The RRR is located at the NE section, Just follow the main road straight until you dead end in the pile.

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