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I Forge Iron

Hello new friends, from the Paper Valley, WI


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Hello, folks. I've lurked these forums for a while now and I am just finally starting to put enough together to feel like I should join and join in. 

I was born and raised in Green Bay, WI and live in the Paper Valley. I'm in my mid 30s, have a degree in creative writing of all things, and work in insurance. In college I took courses in art metals, smithing, casting, and forging, so I have a little bit of foundational knowledge, but since it was all focused on artistic creation I wouldn't say I've got a great handle on all of this. I've got a passion for creating things and I've always wanted to work a forge since I was 12 and went to a reenactment with the boy scouts. 

I've been trying to accumulate stuff to get my start as cheaply as possible, which is why I've been lurking for like 6 months. In the last 2 weeks I finally started building a forge. I've got a working propane burner, a propane tank cut open with all the holes poked in approximately the right places, today a buddy welded a hinge and clasp on it for me so I can open and ose the front and I just lined the whole thing with an inch of kaowool, stuck down with refractory cement (like glue on the outside, not in the middle lining it). I've got a 3 lb hammer from harbor freight that I've shaped into a serviceable rounding hammer. Still working on rigidizer, castable refractory, and a kiln coating to finish it off.

So wow, that was an info dump. Sorry. Anyway, hi, I'm glad to have finally joined and looking forward to contributing. 

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Dear Sharkbait,  Welcome aboard.  I think that you'll find smithing a really good avocation.  I've been doing it since 1978 when I picked up a forge and anvil for $25 apiece, renovated the blower, got some really bad, nasty coal, and some books from the library and started getting metal hot and hitting it.  It has been a good creative outlet and stress reliever.  I firmly believe that if more people created tangible things, metal, wood working, cooking, sewing, etc.that there would be fewer mental problems, stress, etc. around and more net happiness.  It is also a sort of minor immortality in that the things we make will last much longer than we will.

It will be good to have the perspective of a new smith.  Sometimes advising someone new helps us older guys focus on exactly why we do something a certain way.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Welcome aboard Shark bait, glad to have you. A degree in creative writing and insurance, sounds right to me.  Being a maker of any kind is a good thing and the more things and media the better.  Making art is good though I've always thought making useful things sings to me more. Few things feel as good as using tools you've made with your own hands. If you can make them pretty too. B)

What do you have in mind to make at the anvil?

Frosty The Lucky.

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I was going to start with tools, see what felt right, and pick up from there. I've got some flat bars of A36 ready to be turned into tongs as soon as I get the forge running, and then I would like to start working on a drift and punch to make a hammer with.

The ultimate goal is to learn a little bit of everything. I'm a giant nerd so I'm sure at some point I'll at least glance longingly at the idea of banging out a sword and a warhammer, just to say I've done it. Other than that, I'll see where the mood takes me. 

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I recommend picking up the basics to a degree of proficiency before taking on tougher projects. I think of tongs as being more if an intermediate than beginner's project. They aren't terribly difficult, just an accumulation of basic processes: draw, isolate, planish, punch and rivet.

What makes it intermediate in my shop is having to make the  halves a matched pair. Doing most anything once isn't a big deal but doing it twice close enough to be hard to tell apart? THAT ain't so easy. 

Making a pair of twist tongs is very easy and make perfectly serviceable tongs. Also if you use stock long enough to hold it by hand you don't need tongs and you'll have a better grip and feel for the work. The less between you and the work the better. I've been doing this a while and don't reach for my tongs until I have to. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Welcome to IFI. Good places to pick up tools are yard/garage sales, flea markets/ junk shops etc. Most of the hammers I have were picked up that way, mostly for under $2.00 US. The heads can be modified by grinding to what ever type you want. Tongs can be made from all sorts of hoof nippers with a little modification to the jaws and all those files, chisel's, punches and old rusty wrenches can be forged into all sorts of things.

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2 hours ago, Frosty said:

I recommend picking up the basics to a degree of proficiency before taking on tougher projects.

That's good to know. I know using YouTube videos for learning is, or at least was when reading back through the archives, not thought of especially well here but that's most of the access to lessons I have and they make it look like a first step. Do you have any suggestions for good projects for learning the basics? I watch a guy who says the first thing you should do is make a whole load of forged leaves, but he's kind of a content farm so I don't know how much of his advice is based around pumping out videos for revenue and how much is genuine good info. 

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The problem to learning most anything from the beginning on Youtube is you don't know the good info from the bad. Not all the bad and outright dangerous stuff on Youtube is for profit. Lots maybe most of them are looking for their 15 minutes of fame. 

There are quite a few good videos listed on Iforge. When ever someone posts a video how to here the gang watch it and pick it to pieces. Sometimes the pieces are discards but a good how to hears the praise too. If it's listed here as a good how to video it is a good one. Better still if you don't understand something you can ask the gang, we'll take a gander and either explain what you're seeing or make suggestions.

Bear in mind if you ask two blacksmiths a question you'll get at least three answers, probably more. 

There are also threads of good beginner projects, to name a few: Hooks in their variations. S hooks are a good first, taper both ends to uniform points, turn finial scrolls and turn hooks on each end to form an S. They are typically used to hang: plants, lanterns, pots, etc. over a branch, sill, etc.

Drive hooks are similar and about the same level, draw points, turn a hook on one end and bend the other 90* so it can be driven into a post, timber, etc.

Once you have a handle on the basic hooks it's time to start decorative hooks, add a twist to the shank and there are more twist patterns than I care to count.

Coat hooks, are generally J shaped with holes punched in the straight section to accept screws. AND you can forge any shape you can imagine in the part screwed to the wall. I usually start students with leaf coat hooks but your imagination and skill are the limit. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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A whole lot of forged leaves would be great if you want to make such things for ornamental work; not so good if you are wanting to make other items instead.  S hooks are generally more useful for a lot of other items, especially once you have the basics if you start working on some of the more involved ones.

I can say that forged leaves are not a good start for reproducing medieval and renaissance cooking gear---or ECW, ACW, Roman etc for that matter...

Swords, good ones, are more the Formula 1 level of smithing. If you just went through Driver's Ed; what would you expect to do to get ready for entering Formula 1 races?  Now of course there are a lot of "it's easy" videos out there; most of them not discussing things like POB, COP, vibration nodes, making grips that are not slick in use, etc.  Basically they are saying they don't know all the details involved in making a good sword; they are more than just "big knives" even if that's the translation for "Grosse Messer" or close for Langseax.

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5 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

A whole lot of forged leaves would be great if you want to make such things for ornamental work; not so good if you are wanting to make other items instead.  

Swords, good ones, are more the Formula 1 level of smithing. 

Thanks for the suggestions. I think his "make a jillion leaves" suggestion has more to do with learning hammer control and that sort of thing. He trained under Brian Brazeal and I guess that was a big part of his apprenticeship. Honestly I'm down for anything. I just want to learn, and maybe not have a giant pile of unnecessary stuff lying around when I'm done. 

I do have quite a bit of metalworking experience with precious/semi-precious metals, as I took classes in that sort of craft. I realize it's a world away from forging iron, since you mostly hammer silver, gold, copper, and such cold. But as part of that I ended up with literally hundreds of dollars worth of silver practice pieces lying about with no real use or value aside from the experience and the cost of the metal. 

I was not saying I want to forge a sword right away or maybe even ever, it was just an example of where my interest came from. I have always loved the idea of smithing because of my love of fantasy and medieval fiction. Also I was a competitive fencing athlete, so it appeals to me on that front as well. 

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On 9/19/2020 at 6:16 PM, SharkBait said:

I'm in my mid 30s, have a degree in creative writing of all things, and work in insurance.

I have a degree in Ancient Greek Language and Literature, and I'm now a professional fundraiser, having also repaired violins, restored artwork, and worked as a furniture salesman. The road goes ever on and on.

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9 minutes ago, JHCC said:

Ancient Greek Language and Literature

Awesome. A huge part of my thesis hinged on the foundational nature of Greek literature and the archetypal genres of storytelling. 

Creative Writing has served me well thus far. Being able to translate from High Legalese into the common parlance is a skill that has given me quite the leg up. Also, being able to make stuff up on the fly is a vital skill for anyone in insurance. 

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