1. Post #1
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    History:
    The Blacksmith began when Iron and Steel was introduced. The term describes someone who works with 'black' metals (Iron/Steel). The town smith was of great value of everyone in the town. The smith would have created and repaired every steel tool in the area. Tools for productivity such as sickles, hammers and other items like gates and locks would have been created within the smithy. Skip towards the Industrial period and traditional blacksmiths was beginning to be phased out for interchangeable parts and cheap stamped good exported from china.


    The Modern Smith:
    The Blacksmith still exists today in many forms. Many smiths today make a living selling artistic items, for example 'wrought iron' railings (which is more than likely mild steel than actual wrought iron). Some smiths are smiths for the historical aspect, others for a hobby.




    Doing It Yourself
    Blacksmiths is something one can easily start by oneself, with patience. All you require is steel to heat, source of heat, something to hit with and hit against. In theory, you could spend absolutely nothing on a project like this with enough skill in resource hunting. (Go grind examining your trashcan for points on that) Smithing today is based on a lot of self-experiments, the best way to learn is the grasp the basics and experiment from there.

    Safety
    Lots of heavy and hot steel will be moving around. Not to mention a potentially 100lb anvil and blazing hot forge will be running too. Keep the shoes work-safe. No synthetics since it melts to your skin. Watch the ventilation inside buildings, coal generates lots of sulfur smoke when starting. I personally don't don't wear gloves on either hand, as all metal is hot unless proven cool. First aid kits and fire extinguisher nearby, not to mention water.

    Steel
    There are far too many different types of steel to give a quick DIY about them all. Carbon content is what turns raw Iron to Steel, it is measured percentage by weight. Carbon is what gives the steel strength but give steel brittleness. Low amounts of carbon yield softer, ductile steel. High amounts yield harder, more brittle steel.

    They can be generally placed into three groups based on carbon content.
    Low Carbon: Less than .05 carbon content. True wrought iron is in this class. This is no longer mass produced and incredibly expensive, only to be found by salvaging.
    Mild Carbon: .05 to .15 carbon content. This is the most common class of steels and is found pretty much everywhere. Most of your non-tools will be made from this.
    High Carbon: .15 to 2.0 carbon content. Incredibly hard but brittle as well. Most tools will be of High Carbon steel. Any higher than 2.0 is Cast Iron and is far to brittle for any work.


    Heat
    'Forges' can be put into two groups. Gas and solid fuel. Gas forges use either propane or waste oil. Solid fuel can be a variety of things ranging from wood, charcoal, and coal.

    Gas: Cheaper for the modern smith and portable. Propane is fed into a burner and is ignited, producing a jet of flame at the end. Gas forges are generally in a tube shape with rows of (or one) burners protruding.
    Gas forges are cleaner and easier to maintain, but are more difficult to build. The burners need to be tweaked for every part in the design.

    Post metal bucket.
    [img_thumb]http://img856.imageshack.us/img856/2561/imag0141y.jpg[/img_tumb]
    Detail of my Propane Burner. Pipe from Menards. Uses MIG tips for force high pressure gas.

    Solid: Easiest to build, easiest to use. Essentially you need burning material and air forced into the fire. Historically, charcoal and later coal was used for this. Only limitation is air source, electric fans need a power source but bellows or hand-cranked blowers remove that limitation.

    Basic solid fuel forge.


    Things to hit with
    Anvil is the obvious choice and many have different opinions on what is the 'right' anvil.
    If you want a traditional anvil, research trustworthy anvil companies. New anvils can cost hundreds of dollars, as used anvils can be found by as little as a dollar a pound. Try to buy locally so that you can see and try before you buy. Nothing is worse than buying a HF anvil for 100 dollars + freight charges and the anvil is just bad. A good anvil will have good rebound, meaning it will 'strike-back' at the hot steel. Tap the anvil with a hammer and feel the rebound.

    Anvils don't need to be in the traditional shape to work steel. I have used the side of a 12lb sledge for the first months. Sections of rail track and forklift forks have been used as well.
    All that is required is mass.

    Railroad track makes for a cheap but effective anvil even if un-modified.

    Hammers for general forging are 1.5lb to 2.5lb. Cross pein and ball pein hammers dominate many smiths collections.
    Pro-tip, heavy hammers will only tire you out faster.

    My most used hammers. Middle Ball-Pein for rivets.

    Misc items
    Quench tank: Bucket of water for rapidly cooling steel, or cooling a fire hazard
    Tongs: Moving hot metal around. Welding longer handles (reins) to pliers can be a good start. You can't have enough tongs. Ever.
    Various Special Tools: Punching, Drifting, Cutting. Making holes, making bigger holes, or cutting stock off.

    Go outside
    Get a plan together and go hunt for scrap. Find other Smiths, it's awesome to listen to their stories and pound metal. Start slow, you wont make shortswords overnight.

    Obviously, I can not cover every detail for a short writeup on a long expansive trade. Ask questions, I'm happy to answer questions and add to the OP.



    My setup
    (WIP I will be filling this thread with my own pictures within the week)

    Quick Summary:
    I have built several propane forges, and settled on a large coal fired forge. The coal forge was built from mild steel plate and has wheels.

    70lb Vulcan Anvil + Tree stump requiring some work. The anvil was found on craigslist for 50$. Required touch up but has served me several years now. (People who don't know what they are selling)




    Links
    abana.org Artist Blacksmith Assc of N. America. Great resource and way to find other smiths at conferences.
    anvilfire.com Anvilfire is the Wiki of smithing. They host the I-Forge, step by step instructions on many projects. Check out the Plans page for forge design and even anvil design.
    zoellerforge.com Has plans for propane forges and their burners.
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  2. Post #2
    Gold Member
    Buck.'s Avatar
    February 2007
    2,254 Posts
    Is mild carbon steel good enough to start with? We have plenty of that where i work. I was wondering if i can just plasma cut a general shape and start banging.
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  3. Post #3
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Mild steel is the most common steel. If you can get it cheap (or free) then its the best steel to work with.

  4. Post #4
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,260 Posts
    I've used those pieces of strap metal you can buy at hardware stores. Roughly the same thickness and width of a knife blade, I just cut it down to size, hammer the shape I want and then heat treat it.

    Sony, you might want to give that a shot if you're looking for quick material. Around here, 1/4" thick stock is like eight bucks for four feet, and you can get it in several different widths. I picked up some at Fleet Farm when I was buying animal feed.

  5. Post #5
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    I've used those pieces of strap metal you can buy at hardware stores. Roughly the same thickness and width of a knife blade, I just cut it down to size, hammer the shape I want and then heat treat it.
    I've used that several years ago when I started. Since then I have been to blacksmith meetups and the like and recieved things like car/truck springs and mild steel. Recently, my neighbor wanted me to help clean out their garage and he had stashed away maybe 100lb of mild steel. He let me take that off his hands. Plus picking up abandoned railroad spikes. I'm pretty well stocked right now.

  6. Post #6
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,260 Posts
    I've used that several years ago when I started. Since then I have been to blacksmith meetups and the like and recieved things like car/truck springs and mild steel. Recently, my neighbor wanted me to help clean out their garage and he had stashed away maybe 100lb of mild steel. He let me take that off his hands. Plus picking up abandoned railroad spikes. I'm pretty well stocked right now.
    Ah, that's wonderful! Yeah, didn't know if you needed any tips on supply and I figured it was a cheap, (for the most part) reliable way of getting material to use. Might as well pass on the info, and those starting out will might appreciate it.

    100lbs of mild steel will last you awhile, you ever bother getting into casting?

  7. Post #7
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    I have considered casting, never actually tried it. I have a propane burner not in use and a paint can sized forge that could probably be converted. Question is, what to make? I saw a lathe from a link in the casting thread that might be interesting.
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  8. Post #8
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,260 Posts
    Was the lathe design, by any chance, part of David J. Gingery's series on a DIY metal shop?

  9. Post #9
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Picked up more railroad spikes today. No they were not pulled from the actual tracks.

    Those bolts look like some new hardy tools and those curly things could make some good fullers.

    Friend of mine made this one a while ago.


    Railroad spikes are my favorite 'scrap' to find. They always make people go "Wow, you made that from that?".
    Most of them are not very high quality steel but you can find some stamped "HC" on their heads to denote they are of Higher Carbon content.


    I pulled out the small gas forge a few days ago, to see if its still viable for forge work. It isn't the most efficient. Then I forget to take pictures of it running...
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  10. Post #10
    Gold Member
    Billiam's Avatar
    July 2008
    7,687 Posts
    Can you recommend any good website or location that sells cheap secondhand firepots? I really what to expand from my ghetto break drum forge, but I'm low on cash.

  11. Post #11
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Your best bet would be looking for smiths in the area or finding something like a farm meet. All the sites I know sell them new for near 300 dollars.

    An alternative would be making your own. I welded 1in thick plate to shape and know other smiths who have cast their own.

    Hell you you just want a bigger table for the brake drum, acquire some sheet metal and cut a giant hole in the middle. No reason to break what already works.

  12. Post #12
    nox
    nox's Avatar
    March 2007
    2,218 Posts
    I want to do some cold metal forging but I'm way too poor for even a small anvil so I was thinking about putting some steel over a tree stump as a ghetto-rigged anvil.

  13. Post #13
    Dennab
    August 2009
    1,257 Posts
    I want to do some cold metal forging but I'm way too poor for even a small anvil so I was thinking about putting some steel over a tree stump as a ghetto-rigged anvil.
    you'd just dent the stump probably unless it's really poor quality steel. You'd be better off on metal, or concrete absolute worst case scenario.

  14. Post #14
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Find an rr spike, and pound it into a log. All the spikes I've seen have half dome with a flat.

    Cold forging some sheet metal?

  15. Post #15
    nox
    nox's Avatar
    March 2007
    2,218 Posts
    Yeah, some pretty thin metal I find laying around here. Lots of 'boom and bust' in my town leaves the place with tons of rusting iron and steel everywhere.

    On the subject of sheetmetal, I'm looking to cut some small designs out of some aluminum or maybe steel sheets but I need something cheap, would a jigsaw work?

  16. Post #16
    Played it for the plot
    Dennab
    October 2008
    14,789 Posts
    Yeah, some pretty thin metal I find laying around here. Lots of 'boom and bust' in my town leaves the place with tons of rusting iron and steel everywhere.

    On the subject of sheetmetal, I'm looking to cut some small designs out of some aluminum or maybe steel sheets but I need something cheap, would a jigsaw work?
    you'll just tear up the jigsaw, you'll need a cutting torch.

    You can get a whole kit for $75, they're not expensive by any means.

  17. Post #17
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Hardware stores do sell metal-cutting blades, but good luck cutting straight lines or having a long lasting blade.
    Really small gauge sheet can be cut with tin-snip or even good scissors. (Which wont be good for long). Snips run about 5 bucks.

    Torches doesn't cut aluminum well I believe. Aluminum oxide has more than twice the melting point of aluminum. While you are trying to cut away the outside oxide, you have already liquified the inside and once the oxide is cut away you spill aluminum everywhere.
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  18. Post #18
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,260 Posts
    you'll just tear up the jigsaw, you'll need a cutting torch.

    You can get a whole kit for $75, they're not expensive by any means.
    Uh, no you won't. You get a blade specifically for metal and just go slow. I personally use a saws-all and have some el-cheapo universal blades in it. Buy a pack of 5 for like... 10-15 bucks?
    Torches doesn't cut aluminum well I believe. Aluminum oxide has more than twice the melting point of aluminum. While you are trying to cut away the outside oxide, you have already liquified the inside and once the oxide is cut away you spill aluminum everywhere.
    This is exactly why they invented plasma cutters!

  19. Post #19
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Got home after a two day weekend were a fellow blacksmith who hosted an Open Forge night. Brought my forge over, made a few things, and learned a lot more.

    My personal project for the weekend was to make a useable axe.


    The carbon giving off by the oil I used to quench in gave it a really dull flat dark-gray finish. It was originally about 15 inches long and folded over with a piece of lawnmower blade at the end. All forge welded with a helping striker. Aprox. 3-4 lbs with 7in overall length.

    I've taken a liking to axes and I think I'll be making quite a few more.
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  20. Post #20
    JumpinJackFlash's Avatar
    December 2010
    2,260 Posts
    Leave that black crap on there and you will have a coating that helps keep out the rust. If you want some really awesome coating, take some bits of plastic (I used insulation from electrical wire) and heat up your piece, then dip it in the melted plastic.

    It's like paint, but not!
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  21. Post #21
    Gold Member
    Xombi's Avatar
    March 2005
    1,016 Posts
    thats one nice axe you got there!

    is it flux you put on when you forge weld it?

  22. Post #22
    What is this's Avatar
    November 2011
    63 Posts
    Shit I always liked making stuff out of metal.
    Made myself a small piece out of scrap aluminum once that I could put my finger into, bending it so I could use the rest of my fingers without even getting near the finger.
    Very nice whenever I fucked up my finger.

    But the way I see it, a lot of schools throw away a lot of decent materials every now and then, perhaps that could be a good resource?

  23. Post #23
    Beanz's Avatar
    April 2011
    848 Posts
    thats one nice axe you got there!

    is it flux you put on when you forge weld it?
    borax i think.

  24. Post #24
    Gold Member
    Xombi's Avatar
    March 2005
    1,016 Posts
    borax i think.
    Yeah but borax is a flux ;)

  25. Post #25
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Yep, regular Borax.

  26. Post #26
    Gold Member
    Haywood's Avatar
    October 2006
    639 Posts
    Going to start a railroad spike tomahawk soon, for the third time. The first two ended up with broken eyes because I didn't have a proper hot slitting chisel.

  27. Post #27
    cathal6606's Avatar
    August 2009
    2,767 Posts
    Will ash(from peat) work for a refractory? The only other things I could use are cement and kitty litter.

  28. Post #28
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    Will ash(from peat) work for a refractory? The only other things I could use are cement and kitty litter.
    Historically, refractory was made from clay, straw and ash. So you should be good
    I've been against using cement around high-temp things because its know to explode razor sharp chunks when it gets hot and has absorbed water.

    Also content
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  29. Post #29
    Aw_Hell's Avatar
    July 2009
    1,158 Posts
    Historically, refractory was made from clay, straw and ash. So you should be good
    I've been against using cement around high-temp things because its know to explode razor sharp chunks when it gets hot and has absorbed water.
    I built my forge from concrete and terracotta, I usually keep a normal fire running for about 20 minutes to evaporate moisture before cranking the heat up.
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  30. Post #30
    nox
    nox's Avatar
    March 2007
    2,218 Posts
    I'm thinking of buying a tomahawk for my birthday from Cold Steel but I actually kinda want to make my own handle and just buy the head, do any of you axe makers sell your work?

  31. Post #31
    Sonydude's Avatar
    August 2007
    695 Posts
    I'm still learning axe production. I'd like to get better at it before considering selling.

    It's been between 4 and 20F around here so the quench tank is frozen and standing around getting the forge lit isn't the most fun.
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