View Full Version : So, You Want To Try Blacksmithing?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 03:25 AM
Some years back I wanted to do a thread like this, but I did not have the time or patience. Well the same is true except I do have a little more patience now....maybe;)

IF THERE IS INTEREST in such a thread let me know and I will post a new techniques each week with pictures, illustrations and try a little humor and wit along the way. ;) There is much to teach and learn about this vocation so I may keep things very basic as to not confuse beginners. Feel free to ask questions along the way.

A brief background about myself. I have been smithing iron for longer than I care to remember. I know it was around the time a young man starts puberty. I am mostly self taught, but have briefly studied under a few masters for short times. There was a good amount of years I spent over an anvil and under a horse.

Iron Smithing is called in English blacksmithing because iron is the black metal also known as Fe on the element chart. There are different types of blacksmiths. They generally are not the person who puts shoes on horses though some rural smiths do (me). The person who only shoes horses is known as a Farrier or Hufschmied, I prefer the German term for this person as it makes more sense. Ferrier = ironer, Hufschmied = Hoof Smith and since this person shapes and puts shoes on horses hooves it make sense as not all horse shoes are made of iron. The other main type of blacksmith is the Artist Blacksmith which mainly does art type smithing of things where form follows function.

Blacksmithing is the action of hitting red hot iron until you get the desired shape you want. It is a violent activity where you attempt to use violence and heat to create something useful or beautiful or both. There are many legends and myths that surround smithing and many proverbs have their roots in it, such as "strike while the iron is hot" , " too many irons in the fire " , " that has a nice ring to it " and others. One of my personal favorite sayings is :

I can make anything but a dollar and fix anything but a broken heart ;)

So now lets get to it........

Tools Needed

* Please do not get into which hammer, anvil or furnace is best, there is much debate about these subjects on the internet, so for basic purposes I will keep to the basics. Remember a good Smith will make beautiful work with poor tools but a poor Smith will make poor work with good tools*

Tool List the basics also see attachments.

Anvil- there are two types the English pattern and the German pattern. It is just a matter of personal preference. I have seen English Smiths use a German pattern and German Smiths use a English pattern. There are also homemade anvils made from anything heavy like railroad track and you can even use stone as our ancestors did. The German pattern anvil has two points ( bicks or horns ) on each end. The English pattern has one horn. With proper care a good anvil will last several lifetimes, the one I will be using for this is more than 200 years old.

Forge or Furnace there are mainly two types of these also. Coal and Gas. I use both and each has its own merits. For the beginner I recommend a gas furnace as propane is easy to get and it is less dirty. You can either buy one or search plans to build one. Keep in mind it has to heat the iron to about 900 degrees C..

Hammers This should be a matter of personal preference. The best hammer is the one that you can control. For starters a hammer with a cross peen that weighs from 500 grams to 1 Kilogram. I use mainly two types the Swedish pattern and the German locksmiths pattern. A search online will help you decide. Just don't buy a hammer made in China they are cast iron and will break and run the risk of injury. The best hammers are made in Germany.

Tongs for holding the hot iron. General pick up tongs are best for starters as later you will be able to make your own tongs and even hammers. You can even use vise grip pliers if you have to.

Post Vise While this may not be necessary to get started it will be necessary as you progress and that is why I listed it. A post or leg vise has post that extends down to the floor and that transfers the shock of the hammer blows into the ground. I don't recommend a machinist type vise as they can break under the hammer blows.

Work area ideally you want a roof over your head and if it has walls make sure there is good ventilation, cough cough. Yes, you can permanently do damage to your lungs. A dark shop is best when actually smithing as I will explain later.

Safety gear a leather work apron, hearing protection, eye protection and hat or cotton head scarf, natural material clothing ( cotton, linen, wool, leather and even real silk ) yes I said silk, it does not burn and only smolders, besides what else would one wear. :P The ear protection is essential if you ever go to a large Blacksmith's conferences you will notice many old smiths with hearing aids. I myself am very slightly tone deaf from not wearing hearing protection all the time.

So now for the first lesson. You have gathered your tools ( hammer and anvil ) Place the anvil on a stand, I prefer one made of wood so that the face ( top ) of the anvil is at knuckle height with you arm at your side. Stand directly in front of the anvil with the horn on your left. Take half a step backwards, slightly bend over the anvil. Now raise the hammer high above your head and with all your might strike the anvil. The hammer should bounce right back at you and crack you in the forehead. If you have any sense left we can proceed with caution from now on out. :D

Again if there is interest I will post a lesson each week. In the meantime please learn the song below. :D

1.A lusty young smith at his vise stood a-filing,
His hammer laid by but his forge still aglow,
When to him a buxom young damsel came smiling
And asked if to work at her forge he would go.
With a jingle bang, jingle bang, jingle bang, jingle,
With a jingle bang, jingle bang, jingle, hi ho!

2.“I will,” said the smith, and they went off together,
Along to the young damsel's forge they did go.
They stripped to go to it, 'twas hot work and hot weather;
She kindled a fire and she soon made him glow.
With a jingle bang, etc.

3.Her husband, she said, no good work could afford her;
His strength and his tools were worn out long ago.
The smith said, “Well mine are in very good order,
And now I am ready my skill for to show.”
With a jingle bang, etc.

4.Red hot grew his iron, as both did desire,
And he was too wise not to strike while 'twas so.
Quoth she, “What I get, I get out of the fire,
Then prithee, strike hard and redouble the blow.”
With a jingle bang, etc.

5.Six times did his iron by vigorous heating,
grow soft in her forge in a minute or so,
And as often was hardened, still beating and beating,
But each time it softened, it hardened more slow.
With a jingle bang, etc.

6.The smith then would go; quoth the dame, full of sorrow,
“Oh, what would I give could my husband do so!
Good lad, with your hammer come hither tomorrow,
But, pray, can't you use it once more ere you go?”
With a jingle bang, etc.

Get your mind out of the gutter, it is a 18Th century song about smithing ;)

Pool Closer
Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 10:21 AM
That was an excellent primer. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I have always been interested in blacksmithing but never got around to buying a decent anvil or a furnace. I have made several knives by hammering out small rods of steel on large granite rocks as an improvised anvil. My heat source was a simple campfire and my own lungs as a bellows.

We are privileged to have so many learned individuals here.

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016, 11:59 PM
Now after the opening post and several people have shown enough interest I will proceed. In these first lessons I will try and keep things as basic as possible. Since now I'm committed( or should be committed :D) I will try and keep up with it. Please ask any questions you might have, if I don't know the answer we will find it.

First we will talk about materials, yes I know we already know I stated "iron" but in fact we will actually be mostly using a steel which is an iron alloy. Here are the basic and I mean very basic differences in wrought iron and steel.

Wrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon (less than 0.08%) content in contrast to cast iron (2.1% to 4%). It is a semi-fused mass of iron with fibrous slag inclusions (up to 2% by weight) which gives it a "grain" resembling wood, that is visible when it is etched or bent to the point of failure. Wrought iron is tough, malleable, ductile, corrosion-resistant and easily welded. Before the development of effective methods of steelmaking and the availability of large quantities of steel, wrought iron was the most common form of malleable iron.

Steel is an alloy of iron and other elements, primarily carbon, that is widely used in construction and other applications because of its high tensile strength and low cost. Steel's base metal is iron, which is able to take on two crystalline forms (allotropic forms), body centered cubic (BCC) and face centered cubic (FCC), depending on its temperature.

There are many different alloys of steel, but for our purposes we will separate them into three basic types.

Mild steels This is steel with a low carbon content. It is the best for most practical applications. It will not harden or temper due to it's low carbon content. It is very bendable and welds great. This makes it perfect for most things.

Medium carbon steels This is steel with as the name suggest has a medium carbon content. I don't often use medium carbon steel as I either want low carbon or high carbon steels.

High carbon steels This steel is the most important steel as most tools and edged cutting tools and weapons are made of this. They have a high carbon content which makes the steel brittle and can be hardened and tempered.

If you desire you can use scrap steel to make many useful and beautiful things. Often though you don't know the carbon content of the steel. Here is a simple test with a grinder. You can also use a piece of flint and strike the steel against the sharp edge of the flint observing the type of spark if there is any, mild steel will not often spark.


After you have gained enough experience you can tell by how the steel feels under the hammer when you strike it while it is red on the anvil.

In most cases it is usually better buy new steel slightly larger in dimension than the size you need. Especially if you will be making multiple items that are alike.

Friday, October 21st, 2016, 03:35 AM
Sorry for the slow response, but I have been very busy and been trying to find someone to take pictures while I work and since this requires two hands I am finding it real hard to make pictures that are needed to demonstrate the actions. Perhaps I will invest in a video camera and do YouTube videos for this with written descriptions? I'm just not that computer savvy and have never uploaded a video let alone edit and post things on YouTube.

Now for the first attempt at a lesson. :)

Usually when I make anything I draw a sketch of what I am making and work the process over in my mind, that way less time is wasted with things that don't work out. But, for this simple project we will just make it. What we are making is a basic driven wall hook. I choose this item because it is simple and covers several basic fundamentals that can be used in later projects. Please ask questions if you have any

1. If you are an American learn to use the metric system you will thank me later as most blacksmith tools are made in Europe and it will be easier to think in these terms if you proceed with this.

2. You will need a 13cm long 6mm piece of round mild steel stock. You can buy this at most hardware stores or home supply centers.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113190&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0073_zpsgi3oty6t.jpg.html)

3. First you must heat this small bar of steel in your furnace or forge. For the purpose of this thread I rebuilt my old small propane furnace that is really designed as a mobile unit for making horseshoes. I call all forges and iron furnaces "squish mittens" if you think hard enough you know what it means or use a urban dictionary. :P
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113191&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0009_zps2kdfuydm.jpg.html)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113192&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0008_zpscdagtviq.jpg.html)

The color you want the steel is bright orange.

3. First you start by only hitting the tip of the hot rod on the anvil with a hammer, you should only be hitting the very tip as in 2 or 3 cm from the end. You are going to hit it once and turn the rod 1/4 turn and hit it again. This action will turn the round rod square on the end. Keep rotating it back and fourth 1/4 turn hitting on those two flat side you created. If the rod is hot it will naturally form a square point.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113193&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0074_zpsbggfji7o.jpg.html)
You will notice what looks like blackish grey flakes of metal that fall off the rod as you work. Do not be alarmed this is only carbon that comes to the surface of the steel as you heat it.

4. Next once you have a nice square point you need to make it round again. This is accomplished by hitting the corners lightly turning it into an octagon and then by hitting it lightly as you roll it across the anvil face.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113194&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0075_zpsauqzhvkw.jpg.html)
Now do the same thing on the other end of the rod. You have completed one basic fundamental and that is called drawing down. :thumbup

5. Most finished hand forged items do not have unfinished ends. Usually you forge a finial on the ends and this project is no different. The most basic finial is called a rat tail scroll. You accomplish this by slightly pushing the drawn tip of the rod past the edge of the anvil face and lightly tapping it to form a scroll. I tried to take pictures of these steps in order.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113195&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0076_zpsbzvwo3n0.jpg.html)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113196&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0077_zpsbopt1g1k.jpg.html)
Turn it on the face of the anvil like and tap the very tip this to tighten the scroll
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113197&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0079_zpsbcc4h60i.jpg.html)
This is what it should look like when you are done with the tip.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113198&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0080_zpssqmc6bvf.jpg.html)
You have just completed a second fundamental which is basic scrolling. :)

6. Since we are making a simple driven wall hook, you will now need to forge the hook end. This is done over the Horn or Bick of the anvil. When you start the bend it is good idea to hold the rod at the angle shown in the first picture with the small scroll pointing up.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113199&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0081_zpsfugteo83.jpg.html)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113200&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0083_zpsvnh9bon9.jpg.html)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113201&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0082_zpsjask7b4m.jpg.html)

When you have completed these steps, it should look like this. You can correct and straighten it by hitting it lightly in the anvil face.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113202&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0085_zpshnenrqt2.jpg.html)
This also completes another fundamental which is bending over the horn.:)

7. Now for the driven part. This is done by taking the pointed unfinished end and bending it at a right angel over the edge of the anvil. Notice in the picture that it is being help at a 45 degree opposing angle before the first hit. It will take you several times of tapping the shank end and hook end on the face and side of the anvil to get a perfect right angle. I usually don't go for a perfect right angle on these as I want them to drive into the wall in a bind as the hold better.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113203&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0086_zpsyn5iz2gy.jpg.html)
This is also another basic fundamental of right angle bends. :thumbup

8. Now that you have completed the wall hook, it should look like this. Be sure to use a wire brush to remove the scale on the surface and you can either paint it or use several coats of beeswax burnt on the surface, for things like this I prefer beeswax. The more coats of beeswax you burn on the darker it will become and it also prevents rust even with outdoor use.
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113204&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0087_zpsrt2hkrjb.jpg.html)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113205&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0088_zpsfaylbmzl.jpg.html)

Now you can drive your hook into the wall and use it to hang things on, you will be surprised how much weight it can hold. :thumbup
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113206&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0089_zps8zyhfioj.jpg.html)
I'm going to use this to hang other junk I make on for other threads. ;)
https://forums.skadi.info/attachment.php?attachmentid=113207&stc=1&d=1504804053 (http://s906.photobucket.com/user/sidthekid999/media/100_0091_zpsce3sw7lg.jpg.html)

If you have any questions please feel free to ask. Usually it takes me less than 3 min. to make a small hook like this, but with taking pictures and writing the post I have about four hours time in just this little hook. :D

Until the next lesson
Servus :)

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017, 11:48 PM
Since photobucket are real jerks I am going to add these attachments, will staff please delete this post after you merge the two......thanks

oh, I will continue with this thread as now I have found someone willing to put up with me to take pictures while I work. :D

Thursday, September 7th, 2017, 12:23 AM
Blacksmithing is a useful skill and I think it may become even more important in the not so far ahead future. Worked with metals that way long ago, though.

Friday, January 25th, 2019, 10:21 AM
After looking at dozens of DYI forge videos I found one that is not expensive and it will work for a short period of time, though I would make some form of air gate in the metal pipe to control air flow better and reduce clinkering.


You check out his channel, he has some good basic videos.