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I Forge Iron

Strength required to get into blacksmithing


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I hope this is the right forum. I'm saving a bit of money to start up a small forge (I've never done any real blacksmithing in my life). This has probably been asked to death so sorry in advance, but how strong do you have to be to get started? I'm not the most fit person, most of my strength comes from working on trucks, but I'm assuming it's mostly about technique and you get used to it with time. I bought a two pound cross peen that I'm going to be using.

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Hallo OddWasTaken, good to have you.

Have you read the "Read this first" section of the forum? It explains a lot about how to use the forum and some basic rules. It also explains how you can add your location to your profile. Maybe there are some blacksmiths around your area that could help you out.

Now to get to your question, it all depends on what you are planning on making. If you start making bottle openers there is not much strength needed as the stock is fairly small. For bigger pieces of steel you need more strength.  

You are correct in your assumption about technique, you will always need strength to ligt the hammer of course, but with propper form you can greatly reduce the amount of power that is wasted. Once the veteran blacksmiths wake from their slumber they can tell you all about that. You will be amazed by how much energy is wasted if your hammer handle is to big or small.

Hope you stick around and I look forward to seeing pictures of your work.

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Thanks for the help. I haven't read much about the site, probably should have done a bit more searching - in my defense, it is 2 am where I live lol. I'll definitely look at the "read this first" section.

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If you can swing a hammer weighing 2 pounds or less, depending on what is comfortable to you, then you can move metal.  We have children (one was 6 years old) and ladies on the site that are blacksmiths.  

For practice, get a block of modeling clay (under $5) and practice what you want to make.  Modeling clay moves the same as metal and can be reused many times.  When you go to the forge you will already know how to move the metal the way you want.

Learn proper technique from the beginning.  It saves time, effort, and frustration.

Look up the Mississippi Forge Council or other blacksmithing groups in your area.  When they start meeting again, go to the meetings.  You can learn more in a few hours than you can ever imagine.

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Welcome aboard. One other thing, fill out your header. Let us know where you are at. Just a general location, you may be surprised how many of us may be quite close to you and are willing to say come on over i'll show ya. If you give us your exact location we will be over Saturday to drink your beer, bar-b-que the cat and leave the toilet seat up.

About your question, you need to be able to dead lift and tote a cow that you just shot 100 yards. No just kidding, if you have been a mechanic you will be fine. It is about technic. A 2# hammer is, in my opinion, a good weight for you to start with. I am assuming that working on trucks also means beating... brake drums, u-joints, king pins, etc.

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To add to what Glenn said, proper technique also prevents injury. You do not need to put in a lot of effort te ruin your elbows by over gripping a hammer.

 

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I'm 5'8" and 148 pounds with a bad back. Proper hammer technique and anvil height seem to be the two biggest factors for me. I use hammers weighing between a pound and 3.5 pounds depending on what I'm doing and have no problem with moving metal until it starts getting larger than about an inch or an inch and a half thick. 1.5 inches and up is where I usually start noticing that I'm working a lot harder. 

Pnut

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I'm 6'1", weigh more than I should, and I'm in recovery from a nasty case of tennis elbow in both arms from over-gripping my tools. Technique beats strength; bad technique will eat your body for lunch. Start light, and learn proper form. If you can figure out some way of adding force to your metal moving without adding extra strain to your body (treadle hammer, hydraulic press, power hammer, willing assistant with a sledgehammer, etc), that helps a lot.

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Hammer control is more important than weight to get started.  I grew up hammering together wood for treehouses and forts and helping work on our house; that helped me a lot when I started smithing.  On the other hand I had a student who is now a professional blacksmith who had NEVER touched a hammer before he started smithing, (save maybe to drive a tent stake), his Parents wanted him to be a Rabbi. Once we cleared up which end of the hammer to hold; he went on to do good work!

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While I have met a blacksmith that was involved with Medicine, (He worked in WWII as an orthopedic smith for a large Hospital), it is not a mix that seems to be common.  Just as I had a friend who had to give up SCA fighting as he was an eye surgeon and had to protect his hands.

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Something crossed my mind here now that i am awake and have some coffee in me, what kind of weight do you like in the things you use? Do you like big and beefy or small and dainty? For instance i like a M1911 for a side arm, many people find it too heavy for them and prefer something lighter. When i was working in a garage my go to hammer was a 48oz ball pien, my co-worker found it much to heavy. I like big and beefy becuase i can "feel" the tool in my hand. My hammer i use most is just under 3# when i switch to a small or lighter hammer i find myself gripping tighter becuase i can not feel it in my hand. I then have to start thinking about how i am holding the hammer rather than letting instinct take over and concentrate on my work. I hope that makes sense, that is the best i can explain it. 

I would also suggest getting a good elbow brace. Not to wear when smithing but i and many others got tennis elbow until we learned the technic. The brace is for when that happens and you take a break from smithing to let it heal, to get through day to day life like work, mowing the grass, planting flowers for the wife, etc.  

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I'll chime in and agree that developing technique is the most important skill.  There is a tendency amongst new folk to many activities, particularly men,  to try to power/muscle through a problem rather than developing the technique where you only use as much force as is necessary for the task.  It is largely an issue of developing the hand, eye, and brain and muscle control to do what you want.  It is sort of like learning to use a video game controller.

I have known small women and men who are better smiths than I will ever be.  I'm 6'2" and 180 pounds, kind of a long drink of water, and do not have as much upper body strength as someone more blocky and more heavily muscled.  I use my strength when hitting  metal to accelerate and control the hammer, not to really whack down.  The force at impact comes from the inertia of the hammer head, not your muscles. That is also why you should hold the hammer fairly lightly and not grip it too tightly.  Your hand and arm muscles will tire much more quickly.

Re Billy's comment about hefty vs. lighter:  It depends on the job for me.  I prefer a M1911 pistol too but that is more about ballistics than heft although to some degree one follows the other.  If I am doing something delicate a light tool "feels" right while for heavy work a larger tool "feels" more appropriate.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Agree with you there Billy, since I am a numb as can be and hardly feel anything I like some weight to the things I hold (except my wife). Both in my tools and in my training weapons, almost every school I went to complained about my sticks, staff and manchette's being twice the weight of everyone else.

Even with delicate work I find I have more control if the tool is heavier.

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Of course if you need to build up muscles try this.

My grandfather worked in a blacksmith shop when he was a boy, and he used to tell me, when I was a little boy myself, how he had toughened himself up so he could stand the rigors of blacksmithing.

One story was how he had developed his arm and shoulder muscles. He said he would stand outside behind the house and, with a 5 pound potato sack in each hand, extend his arms straight out to his sides and hold them there as long as he could.

After awhile he tried 10 pound potato sacks, then 50 pound potato sacks and finally he got to where he could lift a 100 pound potato sack in each hand and hold his arms straight out for more than a full minute!

Next, he started putting potatoes in the sacks

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