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So I have been asked to do some demonstrations and introduction to blacksmithing for some high school age kids, and am having a total lack of good ideas for some projects that would really interest them... this would be my first time teaching and I would greatly appreciate any ideas for projects that would be of interest to high schoolers, if anyone has found something that normally goes over well and captures the attention of the pupil I would love to hear about. I am not sure how interested these kids will be so I want something that can really capture their attention and interest them in Blacksmithing.

Thanks

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Just my personal observation when doing demos is the quicker the project the more you will hold their attention. What I mean is that if it takes a lot of steps, some of which they may not understand why you are doing even when you explain why you can lose their attention. When I demo I usually keep keep s-hook stock cut to size and ready to go so if I see folks heading my way I just stick it in the fire and by the time they get to my forge it is almost up to temperture. With simple s hook they see a lot of the skills you use on larger projects and it happens fast. Tapering, rounding on horn or turning hardy, reheating, squaring and twisting if you like and then repeating it on the other end to give a functional item. Another idea would be a a rough RR spike knife. Doesnt have to be to completion but they can see you go from something they all can recognize and watch as you change it into something else.
I also make a very small butter knife/letter opener out of 1/4" stock that people like. It is fast and keeps their attention.

People also like to see you finish items with beeswax it is fun to watch the watch smoke up and sometimes light on fire and they can smell the sweet honey like smell.

Tell us how much time you are expected to demonstrate and others will have other ideas.

Edited by DKForge
additions

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A gate handle is a good quick one. Leaf on each end and twist the handle. Bend to shape. A plant hanger is another quick one. You might also think about having some complex pieces that are nearly done and just finish the last few steps so they can see the finished product without watching for an hour.

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i second the keep it quick ... highschool isnt as bad as jr high tho.... i dod a jr high school once and had a kid say as i handed a finished project i just made around "wow thats neat how do you do that" Really wanted to thump him..... flashy helps maybee a simple horsehead ... but keep the forge time on each project under 10 minutes would be my suggestion..... even adults wont usually stay for a demo any longer than that.....

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While all of the above projects are interesting to many, my experiences in doing demos makes me lean towards leaf key chains and animals rather than hooks or other hardware.

My most popular demo is the snail. 1/4" rod, I work from a 6 foot piece of stock. It takes a total of about 12". I heat the end, coil it till its about 1-1/4" then I leave 4-5" piece of stock beyond the coil and I hot cut on the hardy. I then flatten this section. It is to become the slimy part or foot. After its at least 1/2" wide, use the hardy again to split 1/2" of its tip or end. This split will be the eyestalks. Dress these by hammering to shape. Heat the flat part again and fold it in half, doubling it back on itself, making sure the coiled shell sits in about the middle of this double/folded foot.

The eyes are then on the other side. Make sure it sits flat, and the eyes are up and you are just about done. Total time should only take 5 heats and five minutes or so. Brush while hot. Quench, dry, hand to the first person that guessed what you are making and you'll have them standing 20 people deep. Talk to the people about what you are doing, tell them each step as you go.

Lady smiths please forgive this remark but its true- chicks really dig this demo. I'm serious about that. Every one likes this one, but the girls will giggle and more. From ages 5 to 75 - It works every time. Hardware can be interesting to guys, but the girls like animals. Both will like to see the process, but this is a crowd pleaser for all ages.

I usually give these snails to the young ones or cute ones or just whoever is most interested. Parents usually buy another item if you give their kid one of these.

However, I can make a snail every 4 minutes. Thats up to 15 and hour. At $10 each retail, I even make money wholesaling these to galleries. So giving away a bunch is great marketing and not costly.

Someone once told me that if I "brought life" to my work, by creating objects that look alive or flow in a natural way, I'd sell tons. Its true for me, the inanimate stuff dribbles out-hardware and the like. But trees, birds, snails and the like all do very well for me in singles and in my sculpture work for galleries.

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with some demos with kids i have seen the smith pass around a small lid with some scale in it and one with some coal in it, they might like that...

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as you are doing the demo, remember to interject some blacksmithing history, some kids may remember it the rest of their lives. I know I did. I suggest a quick rr spike knife, have one finished so you can show them the process, also cut a couple christopher crosses ahead of time and bend them out and cross peen them, that is a big wow for people.

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I find that if you can do them quickly, a simple "J" shaped wall hook goes over well.

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what ever you do, Don't be afraid to have multiple items done ahead of time in various stages of completion.


(NO blades allowed in Indiana schools)
As an example, if I were to do a knife. I would not expect them to watch me hammer it all, I would start one phase, enough to show what and how its done, then set it aside and grab the next one where that phase was finished and move to the next. like TV magic.

Idea for your demo:
For the key fob. have one finished, to show at the start. Then a grab a plain section of stock ready to go, Flatten the end, and then start to make the veins. Now set this aside and grab another that is veined and start the curl. after curling brass brush the leaf section, and you are done.

You have only saved a few minutes this way, but this assists in prevention of boredom of the students watching, that do not want to be there on the first place. This general idea applies to many items at a demo.

Just my dos centavos

Edited by steve sells

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Another one that's quick and easy and popular are steak turners. Once somebody tries one, the want some for gifts. Only spot I've seen them is from a blacksmith.

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I have done several demos for jr high kids that lasted for about 15 minutes before the groups rotated to an other site (it was part of a historical musem so there were other demos) What I did was some simple like leaves and did what Steve talked about, breaking the project into steps and have the progression made up ahead of time so while you formed the point you have a point in the forge, so you can move from one step to the next with out having to wait for the metal to heat. This way you can make a leave in about 10 minutes while explaining your steps. Then you can do fun things the impress like brand your stump to show how hot the metal is and other things the kids are interested in. I usually had made ahead of time several leaf coat hooks so each teacher would have one to put up in the class room reminding the kids what they saw demonstrated.

Edited by triw

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when you get the kids in the back talking, let a hot piece fall out of your tongs and into the slack tub cuasing the whoosh of steam then say well that happens if you don't pay attention.

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yikes I didn't expect to get so many replies so fast, DKForge to answer your question about half hour to an hour, I will probably have to read the rest of the replies tomorrow though, school is already getting the best of me and I have not had the chance to fire up my forge in months and it is driving me crazy.

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definitely would be interested of some pictures of those animals that you were talking about FrogValley they sound like a good idea! Thanks everyone! you all have given me some grand ideas, now if just the snow would go away and let me get to my forge!

Edited by CorLupi

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these are the small ones made from 1/4" stock. I make them in various sizes of stock, and each one is a different shape. 1/4" makes it easy for demos, takes under 5 minutes, 4 heats or so, practice it a couple of times. Make sure they sit up and are well balanced.

Again the order to make one. Start with a long piece of stock say three feet. Heat about 6 inches of the end, start a tight coil by bending a tight tiny starter bend doubling back on itself. Heat again if necessary. Next bend about 2-3 inches of the end into an ell then begin rolling in down on itself. Heat and roll until the coil is about 1" to 1-1/4" or so. Heat about 5" of stock behind the coil, use the cut off hardy to cut off at that 5" from the coil mark. Grab the snail shell firmly, heat the 5" straight section again, flatten until its about 1/2" or so wide, flattening right up to the coil. Using the cut off hardy again, cut through about 3/4 " of the end of the flat section. Heat it again and work the eyes to desired finish. Now comes the finish. Do this in one heat, most people won't guess what this is until you actually do this last step.

Heat again, then bend it back on it self starting at about 3/4" to 1" from the coil, hammer lightly until flat. Do this step while grabbing it with tongs by the eyes, tugging upwards as you tap it to shape, thus giving the eyes the right upturn and the body, foot and shell the right flat shape. Reheat and adjust as necessary and clean as desired. I wire brush while hot, then quick quench for steamy effects, after double checking it really quick to be sure its cool, I then hand it at the end of the tongs to someone in the crowd. I tell them its a racing snail, from 2000 degrees to room temperature in 10 seconds flat. Well from 1500 anyway.

You can get real crazy with them, you can point the snails tail, you can take the time to draw out the eyestalks to fine points with little ball ends, your can flatten and cone the shell...take it as far as you want. Keeping it simple and taking it to the stage shown in the pictures takes 5 minutes, but you can spend a half hour on one if you want. Tell them about each of the stages, bending, drawing if you draw the inner point first, coiling, flattening, cutting, splitting and more bending. Talk to them about the temperatures involved.

But I find the give away value tremendous. People of all ages, from 5 - 75 yrs old really like getting one of these things.

10722.attach

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LOL Those are AWESOME FrogValley! Thanks for sharing the photos I will have to try one this weekend. They would make a great demo item.

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Thank you frogvalleyforge I also will try to make one of these you gave great instructions and the picture was a nice addition

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I sometimes hand the small kids cold clinker and tell them its dragon poo, If you pump up the forge you can tell them it is the dragon roaring.

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