I was just wondering how you all got your start into blacksmithing, i have been interested in it for many years now and havnt really found a good way to start learning at it, the only bad part is i live in a city so i dont have much space, if any. Is there any list of things to learn or take courses on that would be helpful?
I started at 14 at a historical French and Indian wars fort near my home town of West Lafayette IN. Fort Ouiotnon (pronounced "weot-non" I probably screwed up the spelling) had a beautiful old smithy and a local smith offered a 2 week blacksmithing course for kids one summer. After 2 weeks I was hooked. A week later I bought and old tinner's forge at a farm auction for $25, and found a chunk of railroad track to beat on.
3 years ago, I took a sword making class, I was big into the Ren Faires and this seemed the perfect opprotunity to get a one of a kind sword for the price of what I'd pay for a mass produced one. As soon as the hammer fell for the first blow I was hooked. I read all I could get my hands on, I got a subscription to the blacksmith journal ( full of great tips, projects and tutorials), I took a welding class and built my own coal burning forge, went to an auction and bought a 75 lb anvil. I also got a lucky break, the local ag museum has a blacksmith shop, but they only had someone in to demonstrate twice a year.... I talked to the president of the museum, went in front of the board of directors and have become the official blacksmith for the museum. Not only do I get to talk about something I've become passionate about, but I get to hone my skills and use equipment that I can only hope to own someday. Check out your local colleges, do a search on the internet for classes in your area, but the best thing is to just do it....once you get the confidence in yourself....you'll be on your way. Good luck
I've been doing it for several months now (yeah I'm a newbie). I always wanted to make a "real" sword for myself and have ground out a couple knives in the past. I just decided it was time to do it and started reading everything I could find on the internet and bought a book. So far a large part of my time has just been aquiring equipment and tools and figuring out what to do with them. I'm still working on a forge design that I'm happy with and am getting ready to just go buy a premanufactured burner since I'm not really happy with what I've been able to make myself.
Hints for starting cheap: Get a bench grinder, a vice, a couple sizes of hammers (3 lb. is what I would call medium weight). Flea markets are great places to find cheap old tools ( I don't recommend cheap new ones...). If you just want heat and are not trying to do blades, you can buy a weed burner propane torch for about 20 bucks or if you're adventurous you can build a Riel style burner for about the same money (burns cleaner and more efficiently if you do it right). A cheap way to make a forge chamber is to mix about 1 part fire clay to 3 parts perlite with water and form a chamber to suit your needs. I packed it around a tube about 8 inches across and two foot long. It makes a fragile chamber but it gets better once you cook it off good and it's a not bad insulator. Better if you line it with about 20 dollars worth of insulating wool. It's a cheap forge solution but you don't want to move it around much or it will end up breaking on you. I used a couple of feet of railroad rail for an anvil and was able to get a friend to under cut one end for a horne and another guy in a machine shop milled the top flat for me. Great anvils but if you have to pay for the work it'll cost as much as a real one. Oh yeah, you need a 5 gallon or more propane tank with hose and fittings to connect with the torch.
I also live in the city and my neighbors are not real pleased with me... I was able to make a sawhorse style stand for my Rail Anvil out of angle iron and one of the benefits of it is when it's set up standing on dirt, it dampens the ringing of hammer and anvil down to an amazing degree. Needs work to stablilize it better but I'll take it over a stump hands down.
If you live in the city and are unable to set up a smithy in the backyard, try joining a historical society, or volunteering to help. You may be lucky and find a skilled artisan willing to give you some free tutelage for the price of a couple of hours per weekend. Myself, I am in the process of setting up after having left the metal trades about 15 years ago to pursue university education and cleaner occupation. I am also after plans for a charcoal generator. If anybody has such a beast.
Willo. General blacksmith (beginning) Wagga Wagga, Australia.
i guess finding a historical society would not be a bad idea, I live in edmonton alberta, Canada and We have Fort Edmonton here, and i know they do have a smithy, i might try down to them, thank you for all the great ideas folks, its greatly appreciated
I did that for a while untill I left my source of free wood. It works but I saw pictures following a link on here for a design using 55 gal. drums. The exhaust was piped into the fire under the drum which in theory burns the volitale gases from the wood and with the drum sealed except for this exaust it theorically yields more charcoal than the grill method which uses the wood for fuel.
If memory serves there were links from ABANA's site as well.
I got MY start while attending a threshing show in about 1985. The guy in the little blacksmith shop saw that I was truly interested and let me in behind the railing to try it out. I had NO idea of the amount of heating power in a little "riveting" forge. I made some post hooks and got hooked. Then I went home and bought a riveting forge. My first project was to fit a front end loader onto a tractor other than the one it was designed for. I needed to bend some 1/2" thick X 3" wide brackets. The little forge did the trick. Been getting deeper and deeper ever since. (Still have a long way to go!) See the blacksmithing link on my webpage,
For YOU: Go to
and find the "affiliate" (chapter) closest to you. Join. Many have training programs. Usually lots of folks are glad to take on (mentor) a person who has a genuine interest. Our organization, the Guild of Metalsmiths is in the process of formalizing this mentoring thing by developing a list of members who have shops and skills and are willing to provide a shop and some guidance. We will encourage new members or those without shops to "connect". I am sure many other clubs do this.
Pete Stanaitis ABANA Guild of Metalsmiths UMBA Badger Blacksmiths
Larry Hamilt> I was just wondering how you all got your start into blacksmithing, i have
You Know about the Western Canada Blacksmiths Assn., no? Try a Google search, or go by the Front Step Forge at 9 street and 77ave in Edmonton. A VERY talented smith by the name of Sean (Shawn?) Cunningham resides there, and did give classes. May still do so. In any case, theres a good contact point.
You might also look into the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. They run a couple courses a year on basic blacksmithing, and often have workshops with well known smiths. They usually run on weekends, and are well worth both the trip and the money they charge.
My background is mechanical. The old man started me on lawn mowers when I was seven, and I moved to more horsepower as I grew. I've been a drive line mech for cars, trucks, heavy equipment, and even airplanes. When I finally got fed up with the creeper and the grease, I took my metal skills and opened a blades shop to vend into a historical recreation bunch. That lasted a little over a decade before sales fell off. So now I have a gas forge that will puddle steel, a power hammer, a big milling machine, lathe, rollers, grinders, the usual stuff in a job shop. Depending on how the bike project turns out, I may move to custom bikes as a main line product. With gas at $2 a gallon and climbing, I don't worry too much about market demand fading away anytime soon. Most of the tooling will cross over, and a bender is quite reasonable in cost.
Some friendly advise... think about just what kind of metalwork you want to do 'for a while' before you spend big bux on equipment, it can add right up. Hunt for a niche market that no one has exploited yet in your area, and use the Web to advertize your product. Tooling for different types of work varies widely, get the right tool for the job.
Safety First, Last, Always! Hot metal can maim you for life in a heartbeat. Use your brain, and if things go south, jump back and let it fall. Stuff can be replaced, fingers and toes can't. EYE PROTECTION! They don't grow back either. Just because a piece of iron isn't glowing doesn't mean it's not hot, don't be too quick to 'look at that horseshoe'.