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I Forge Iron

seems like not getting anything done

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But, as I'm starting out with pretty much nothing, I guess I've come quite a way.  It has come to pass that every time I want to make something at the forge, I need a tool to do the job.  I wanted to forge stuff, and play blacksmith as a hobby, so I needed a tool to do that.  I built a hole in the ground, and heated up a piece of steel in that hole. I bent that steel, and was hooked.  I need a real forge.  never having done this before, I built  a bottom draft fire pit, and got a bag of royal oak. I went to the second hand store, and picked up a hairdryer for about 2 bucks.  Now, I need an anvil. I scrounged up a steel plate about 3/4" thick, set it on a stump, and thought "OK I'm ready."  Well, all I had on hand was about a ton of rebar. So, that's what I started off with, just to see if I could heat it and beat it into submission.  I had a 2 pound ball peen hammer, and a 10 pound sledge, also, my body hammers.  I found that my "anvil" was sorely lacking for anything but small thin stuff, That I could easily work cold with the body hammers anyway. That coupled with the cost of a bag of royal oak, and the speed at which it burned, caused me to re-think this whole ordeal.    Now don't get me wrong, I've got hammer time, and some sort of control.  I'd spent the past 25-30 years moving metal under the hammer. Albeit sheet metal on cars, doing restorations, custom work, and collision repair.  But this is different, but similar, at the same time. 

Back to the story; I spent some time doing research, and found that I could build a coal forge using what I had on hand.  So I did.   The fire pot was a bit shallow, but I quickly learned that I could mound the fuel to make the fire as deep, and as large, or small, as I need.  I make a trip to the scrap yard as often as I can, looking for anything I can use.  On one trip, I came upon a sizeable chunk of steel, 2"x8"x50", 240 pounds. I snagged that anvil, and came home with it.  I'd thought about socking it into the ground and using it as is. But being a somewhat frugal type person, I decided to not waste so much good steel.  I cut off two 12" pieces which became my anvil.  It weighs about 104 pounds.  I wanted to find a "real" anvil, but what I found was priced way out of my buying power for what they were.   A friend of mine had an oak tree fall, and he gave me a log, 18" accross, and about 40" long.  I got it home, and cut it to fit me, and my anvil.  Got the bark off, and it made a fine anvil stump.   Now I can properly forge stuff.  So, I set out to make a (something) and got started on it, then found that once I cut it from the parent metal, I need to hold it with something.   I grab the vise grips and complete the project. But Vise grips, are not the best thing to use. They hold okay, but with an errant hit, the work may depart for destination unknown.   I need tongs. So, next session was spent forging my first tongs.  Now I need a punch, next session was spent forging a punch to make the rivet hole. Now I need a rivet. Next session was spent making a header, and a rivet. Now I can put my tongs together.  Got the tongs made. Now I can forge stuff.  Next session, I needed a way to cut work from the parent stock, to finalize the project. I need a hot cut hardy. But I need a hardy hole. So next session was spent adding a hardy hole to my anvil.  The following session was spent forging a hardy to cut work from parent stock.  It works, but not the best material for a hot cut. or mabe it is, it's soft enough to not mar the hammer, but it requires a lick or three with a file after every cut.   That done I managed to finish up the project which came out OK.  But I need another tongs for different shape stock. So, I make tongs, again. Then I decide to make a hammer. A light weight cross peen. with a long peen. Which I've only used a few times, but those times were when nothing else would get the job done.  I came to a need for a horn on my anvil. It doesn't have one, but I have a chunk of steel that would make a bickern to fit the hardy hole. So I now have a bick, and it has come in handy on more than one occasion.   

  It seems (for now) that most of my time at the forge is spent making the tools needed to complete the task at hand.  Mabe, one of these days, I will have enough tools to just go out and make something, without having to stop, and make a tool to complete the job.  But I've learned a ton along the way. :D

Oh, and somewhere along the line, I ran across this forum. A wealth of info, and many experienced smiths on here, to give advice, and admonishment, as need be. Great bunch of folks as far as I can tell.

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Ya know, for me what you described is half the fun. I enjoy building and completing projects as much as anyone, but all that pre- project making gives me as much enjoyment. I'm just a simple guy.


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One session making tongs, then another session of making the punch for the hole.

This will come with time but i have learned, as many here have, to make tools on the fly. What i mean is that soon you will be able to knock out a punch in minutes, not a whole session. Right now it seems slow going but it will get faster. Like this past weekend i tried broaching a hole. I had to re-make my punch 3 times. All 3 times drawn down to 1/4" square, hardened and tempered. The whole experiment took about 2 hours. Right now it seems slow, but once you get a technique down and can repeat that technique it will get much quicker. And it is the same with many things not just punches. a couple years ago making tongs was a 2 or 3 session project, now i can do a set in just a couple hours when i need them. 

No matter how many tools you own, there will always be one you need and do not have. 

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That's it. I've gotten a little faster at some things, like tongs, and punches.  now that I've gotten the basics down, I and turn out tongs in a shorter time than I first did.  Some of the tools that I've made were not made at the forge, like the small swage block.  So far it only has a half round, and a vee, but I'm sure I'll be adding more to it in the future.

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