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Blacksmiths making a living in today,s market?

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I know most that read this form blacksmithing is a hobby or another way to make some cash. But me being new to this, just how 

many still make a living into days world? Now I know many do, which I applaud you. I,m not taking shoeing horses. But with CNC 

machines & all the advancements in fabrication how can it still be possible other than making things of art. Now I can see that.  

I was just wondering? Me being a retired tool & die maker there are fewer of us left. With cad cam & all the new programs available 

in this new world so many of the old craftsmen are  gone. Even with my background i,m amazed at what you guys can achieve with

a fire, a hammer & anvil. I,m a student & having a ball reading all I can on this fantastic trade.  

      Fly :D




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Fly,  I know a smith that worked for Sandia National Labs as a smith.  He was once telling us about forging Ti preforms to save 80%?? of the cost of machining and materials; can you tell us how CNC could do that?

Another made the shackles for the pouring cups for a steel mill, bending 4"? steel to shape.  He did it once a year and that paid the base cost of his shop for the year, everything else was gravy.

There are certain jobs where smithing is still the way to go.  *Finding* such jobs is the hard part.

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Cool l love hearing that. I have watched so many YouTube videos my eye have crossed. But I have seen times 

where shook my head & thought why did he not drill that hole on a drill press? Then he pulls from the fire & punches 

it faster than I could hunted up a drill & chucked the drill,(wink). The thing you guys do that is really cool is all the tools you make 

to speed things up. The one thing that came to mind even though i have not seen one is a punch & die for 

square holes, but I know you must have some. Being a tool maker my self I keep envisioning so many things that

could be made & most likely you have already made & in your tool box. One thing I have I have learned threw all 

my years in tool work, there’s ,s never a new idea there just a adaptation of something from the past.  

          I,m making charcoal in my retort for now & storing up. I had a operation & have been limited to doing much for now 

but I will be back soon then I will post some pic,s.  Fly:rolleyes:






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Good Morning, Fly

Yes, you are correct. You or I or anyone else can operate a drill and make a hole. How do you make a hole with the cute little bulges, beside the hole. How do you make a 3/4" hole, in 1/2" material or a 1" hole in 1/2" material with the little bulges beside the hole, without upsetting the material?  There is not a subject that the word 'competition' doesn't belong. The reason it is done the way it is, is because it can be done another way. It is not driven by an accountant "We must make this pay!!"

I have a small business sharpening Tools. I could crop the ends with a chop saw and mill to shape. Or 2 minutes in the Forge and under the Hammer, job done, complete with heat treatment. The only feed-back that I get, is, a Thank You with a smile and a cheque in the mail. It is so hard to take!!

You have lived a different lively hood. Your perspective is through your experience with the new technology. Every person here has their own perspective. A lot have never had to "Make it Pay". There is no wrong way to do a job, as long as the job gets done. Why has so much of Heavy Industry, moved off this continent? The answer is not simple, but it is driven by Accountants. The Accountants don't work for peanuts!!

Your perspective here, is going to be refreshing. Sit back, take a deep breathe and enjoy the ride. There is no such thing as "It has to be done by.........." or "It is going to cost too much doing it your way, the customer is ..........".

Remember playing with Plasticene when we were kids? Who says we aren't still Kids? The first thing I pass out to my Blacksmith Students, is a $1.00 container of Play-Doh. Yes it is multiple colours and complicated things can be created and seen very easily, to create a new 'Perspective'.

Enjoy the day and the time we have, above the Dirt!!




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Fly, like any other craft, woodworking, art (painting, sculpture, music, etc.) it is tough to support yourself and a family from the skill of your hands and brain.  And like anyone else who works for themselves you wake up every morning unemployed.  It is niche market and you have to find a business and craft model that will attract enough customers to bring in an adequate income.  This can be architectural ironwork for high end architects and builders.  It can be sculpture.  It can be following the Ren Faire circuit. Or it can be any other niche a person finds and carves out.

Like any other craft it can be very rewarding but it has all the advantages and disadvantages of self-employment.

So, most of us have a day job or other source of income other than what is derived from our forge.  Or a spouse who can support the family while we contribute what we can.

And, as a hobby it can be one which pays for itself which is uncommon in avocations.  Most recreations are a money pit, e.g. a boat, ATVs, golf, etc. that take time and money but don't give back.

Many of us can testify to the psychological benefits of the craft.  It has been a source of increased joy in good times and good therapy and support in tough times.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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George i,m beginning to really like you. I like what you just said above. ( any that works for themself wake up every

morning with out a job). Oh my friend I know that feeling. I once had a small machine shop in back of my home. During 

the 1970, s the oil industry was booming here in Okla & many machine shops jumped into doing work there because thats

were the $$ was. I had a mill & lathe Quit my job a decided to take on all the work that those other shops had abandoned. 
I did very good for a time. But I lacked all the tooling to support my shop as rotary table, dividing head, a larger horizontal 

band saw, ect. Seemed like every job that payed well, I turned around & spent it on more tooling. Then the oil boom crashed 

almost over night. I had a family to support. I just so happened to land a great job after being on my knees in prayer. Yes that

hit home when you said that. :D  Fly




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I've been a working smith since '80. I got there via being a Farrier for about 18 years with the intent of becoming a working smith, the difference being a working smith doesn't have to bend over to make money.  For the last few years I consider that I am semi retired. Old horse shoers do fewer and fewer horses and old smiths work smaller and smaller iron.  

It is not easy, but very possible and the life is great. If you are starting out cold, the first catch 22 is money. Most banks won't lend money on a nitch business. My one liner here is there are two ways to make it work: Be financially independent or independently wealthy. The latter means somewhere in your existence there is someone who can finance you. A wife works,,,,,  lol,,, The former, financially independent, means ya just don't need much money to live on,,, My way was a combination of both, a supportive wife, paid off property, and a lifestyle that I like to say was all those things John Denver never sang about, and it worked.  

What to make, or what direction will work in this day and age? First, I thank our lucky stars that the industrial revolution happened. It took away all those needed and very tedious jobs that a modern society needs and it left we smiths of the day the Creme-de-la-Creme which is baring knife work, shoeing, and industrial smithing, Architectural Smithing. This is a very broad category that covers anything from "S" hooks for hanging plants to those beautiful gates, chandeliers and railings.  

My first "commission" was a few brackets for a small cabin for a builder/developer. They were heavy angle iron hand hacksawed to length, my first curved hot cut to cut the bottom corners, and a very crude champfered edge.  I posted some pics the other day of some I've made more recently. I've come along way! Brackets are an unsung product that can be made and priced competitively with production and, no matter how simple and crude, there is a pretty good market and a great intro and unique product. 

The main trap, in my opinion, is drop the idea that you should be able to make a living right out the door. If you hold this business principal close, you will increase your chances of failure immensely. There is a good reason why there was, more or less, a 7 year apprenticeship plus a number of years as a journeymanship. 

I could go on, but these hints cover a lot of ground.


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It took me a while to notice that "Craftsman are going extinct" has been a headline grabber for nearly as long as "young people don't want to work".

It took me a little while longer to realize that neither of those things have ever been true in the simplistic, and absolute way they're presented.

Making stuff, making do, and making a living are three of the most consistent reasons that craftsman are never going away.

The whole "young people don't want to work" claim is typically ignoring pretty obvious cultural trends directly driven by the parties making the complaint.

None of which changes the simple fact that human potential is incredibly valuable, because our time is so short. 

Some people choose to drift aimlessly through their time, others choose to burn every resource like tomorrow will never come.  A lot of people put in the hard work to be both of these at the same time, because they cannot find a market for their effort before the lights go out.

Maybe if we spent less time considering what we want, and more time considering what other need, we might find more opportunities to make a living, doing something worthwhile.

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