This guest post is by J.E. and entry in our non-fiction writing contest.
Blacksmithing is a hot, dirty, and hard job, but it is one of the most rewarding things that I have accomplished. The smell of the fire, the sound of the hammer falling on the metal, and the pure enjoyment of forging useful tools, gives one a satisfying feeling. Now that I have you interested in it, you will need a hammer, a forge, an anvil, and, preferably, a vice.
A forge can be constructed out of many things including a stainless steel sink, a brake drum, or out of sheet metal. You can also buy pre-made propane-powered forges.
Whether you by one or make one they will all need two main things; a nest where the coal or charcoal will reside and a blower that will pump oxygen to the fire.
I have seen blowers made of hair dryers, simple metal piping that you blow on ( though I can see some major problems with this method if you happen to inhale instead of exhaling), and even using cpu fans from a computer. You can buy antique blowers at flea markets, though most of them are overpriced.
An anvil is the main piece of tooling that a blacksmith needs. You can buy an anvil at a flea market or on craigslist, but most of them will run you a couple hundred dollars. My advice would be to go to a scrap yard and look for a large, heavy, thick piece of steel that weighs at least fifty pounds. Most of the time they will sell it to you at a little over scrap prices.
Something to look for when purchasing an anvil, or other similar object, is the ring of the anvil. Some people do not want the anvil to ring and will take action to stop it from ringing. It is your choice.
You are not going to kneel down to the ground to beat on a piece of metal. You will need an anvil stand, You can make a simple one out of angle iron, with a 2×10 top. Another suggestion is a wood stump, just a level stump, with a quarter of it buried in the ground. You can then use railroad spikes to secure the anvil to the stump.
A hammer is one thing that I recommend looking for at a flea market. You can easily pick one up for under ten dollars. I have met a couple of blacksmiths that want to swing the heaviest hammer they can lift. My opinion is that you will end up getting burned out using a hammer that is too heavy.
A medium-size ball peen hammer is just about the right size for small blacksmithing work. I have seen a few blacksmiths use a cross-peen hammer for slightly larger work. If in a dire situation, I’m sure you could use a piece of pipe, but it is a matter of what works best and the most efficient.
For a vice there are many options available. They include again, antique vices, which I prefer and recommend. There are, of course, more price- friendly choices out there. Depending on your location, you might be able to find a Harbor Freight Tools, which would carry a line of lower priced options. It is true with blacksmithing, as is anything else, “You get what you pay for.”
Fuel for your forge is the main concern for many blacksmiths. Coal is a combustible, black, sedimentary rock, which is mined for use in commercial power plants, home heating, and hobby uses such as blacksmithing.
The three main types of coal are: sub-bituminous coal, bituminous coal, and anthracite. Bituminous coal, out of the Pocahontas and the Sewell coal vein, is the best low ash blacksmithing coal.
However, due to government regulations, the coal mines are being shut down; thus limiting the amount of coal available to blacksmiths and hobby users. The benefits of using coal are many, provided it is high quality coal from the Pocahontas vein or the Sewell vein.
High quality coal produces less smoke than a lower quality coal such as sub-bituminous. High quality coal produces fewer clinkers ( the waste or by-product of burnt coal), which will clog the nest of the forge.
Charcoal is another option for fuel. Charcoal was used for metal working long before coal was discovered in quantity enough to use. If you select charcoal to use, try to use a hardwood charcoal as it will burn the hottest. One of the things you must make sure of is, if you are using charcoal, is oxygen.
You must supply oxygen from the bottom of the nest up. If you supply oxygen from the top of the fire down, you will not get the core of the fire hot enough to reach forging temperatures. Be sure to get oxygen in enough volume to the fire or you will still not reach the desired temperatures.
For my steel, I use mainly scrap iron. I have used spring leaf metal for many knife blades and they hold a good edge too! For general purpose tinkering, I use quarter-inch cold-rolled steel.
There are many techniques in blacksmithing, so many that I can not even begin to describe in an article this size. Though I do recommend getting online and watching some videos on how-to blacksmithing. Another approach is to seek out local blacksmiths that can teach you a hands-on class. I will try to explain some basic techniques in this article.
Hammering a point is as easy as it sounds. Heat your metal to a red-hot temperature, then proceed to hammer on two sides of the metal, using a push-pull method with the hammer.
To form a finished end on any rod, simply draw out a point. Then reheat the metal to an again red- hot temperature, and curl the point over the horn or the edge of the anvil, to form what is called a mouse tail.
With the above knowledge, hopefully you will be well on your way to blacksmithing, knife making, and overall metal working. Happy Forging.
This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place winner will receive a Go Berkey Kit water filter valued at $150 and a copy of my book “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness ” and a copy of “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat“.
- Second Place: $150 gift certificate for Magtech Ammo.
- Third Place: $50 Cash.