Starting out

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?
Thank you Larry Armourer(not steel) and Artisan
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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.
Been hooked ever since.
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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
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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.
GA

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Hook up with your local blacksmiths.
Steve Smith
Larry Hamilton wrote:

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Another good bet is to join your local ABANA chapter. most usually hold domo's and workshop's. And the more experienced folks will help. good luck jamie

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hope this helps EAST TEXAS BLACKSMITH ALLIANCE
Pres: John Soares P.O. Box 888 Woodville, TX 75979 (409) 982-1500
Ed: Tom Lundquist 320 Oak Ridge Drive Onalaska, TX 77360 (936)646-4985 snipped-for-privacy@bluebirdforge.com
Club: PO Box 888 Woodville, TX 75979
HOUSTON AREA BLACKSMITH'S ASSOCIATION
Pres: Richard Boswell 27923 FM 2978 Magnolia, TX 77345 (281) 356-5205 snipped-for-privacy@mindspring.com
Ed: David Hoffman 10439 Rocky Hollow Road Laporte, TX 77571 (281) 842-1294 snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com
www.habairon.org
NORTH TEXAS BLACKSMITHS ASSOCIATION
Pres / Ed: David W. Wilson 22 Citrus Way Allen, TX 75002 (972) 727-7728 snipped-for-privacy@flash.net
a.. home.flash.net/~dwwilson/ntba/ a..

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For me, it was watching alot of old "sword and sorcery" movies, hero finds and re-forges a broken sword and goes off to slay creatures of evil.
Always been fascinated with blacksmithing ever since I was a kid.
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well i make chainmaille and leather armour right now, and i would love to cross over into plate and weaponry. as well as get into the fences and ornimental things, and also do ferrierererererereing

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Larry,
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.
Cheers,
Willo. General blacksmith (beginning) Wagga Wagga, Australia.

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There should be info on the web about making charcoal.
If I remember right, this is the way I did it using a Weber barbecue (the kind that you can stopper all the air inlets so the charcoal goes out):
Fill kettle with chunks of hardwood and light. Put lid on, with air inlets and outlets open. Let burn until the smoke turns from whiteish to transparent blue. Close all vents and let it sit overnight.
It made some pretty nice charcoal.
Steve Smith
P and J Willis wrote:

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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
Larry

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Larry Hamilton wrote:

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.
Cheers Trevor Jones Gibbons AB
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Trever, would you be chance be able to teach a little bit at all?

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Larry Hamilton wrote:

Nope. No forge right now. My gas forge is at the bro in laws, and the coal forge I used to use is in Saskatchewan. And I'm getting ready to move house.
Sorry.
I'd say your best bet is to hook up with the WCBG and check out the WDM courses.
There was a 100 pound anvil in the bargain finder asking $125. Might be worth following up on.
Cheers Trevor Jones
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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.

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Looks like Steve just gave a good reply -
I was thinking of old methods of getting it - build a pile of wood - vertical standing like an inverted funnel coat the outside in clay and then sod dirt (holds up on a slope) and then with a hole at top and on one side on the bottom - start a fire and much like Steve's - seal the bottom hole to stop draft and put something over the top hole if possible. I seem to recall reading this about old days methods. Martin P and J Willis wrote:

--
Martin Eastburn, Barbara Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer snipped-for-privacy@pacbell.net
  Click to see the full signature.
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I have made a charcoal maker. I followed the design on this web page
http://www.twinoaksforge.com/BLADSMITHING/MAKING%20CHARCOAL.htm
it is a very imformative article. I obtain my wood from construction site waste.
brad
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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, www.spaco.org
For YOU: Go to www.abana.org 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 Hamilton wrote:

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I saw a drawing of an oil lamp from the Oseberg Viking ship burial in Norway. I really wanted to make one, and by the time I had learned enough to build one I was hooked on the craft. That was in 1974.
The advice people have been giving here is good--connect with some smiths with established shops. There are many different styles of tooling and ways to put a shop together--don't build one yourself until you've tried enough things to get clues as to how you like to work and what sorts of things you'll end up making. The difference between fantasy and reality comes in here; I have a 100 pound anvil I got cheap from a yuppie who spent about two thousand dollars on all-new tools, then discovered he didn't like sweat, soot and honest work. You won't know how you feel until you have a chance to try--make your discoveries in a shop someone else has already built.
Assuming you do enjoy the craft, then there are still major choices to be made. Are you heating with gas, coal, charcoal or something more exotic? The main choices are coal and gas, try each long enough to form an opinion. The skills of getting a coal fire to run clean and not choke you are different from the adjustments you need to keep the gas forge from making your work disappear.
Are you interested in blades? Historical reproductions? Making your own tools and hardware for your own use? Blacksmithing as a support activity for something else, such as woodworking or machine building? Learn the basics, and try out the things you had an interest in. Ultimately, a shop set up for bladesmithing will be very different from one set up by a welder to bend and shape metal too heavy for a rosebud torch, and both of those will differ from a shop turning out hinges and shelf brackets and awning supports for a new or remodeled house project. Big fences and gates call for layout areas and special gear, and working at historical reenactments may put a premium on tools and techniques authentic for a particular period. Whatever your interests, try to learn from people who are already doing them--and there are more of us than you think. Good luck to you!
Conrad Hodson
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