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How to Start out in Blacksmithing

Updated on May 16, 2011

Before you start out

 This hub is all about what you do and what you need to get if you want to start out in blacksmithing. It is a hands on tutorial that shows you everything you need to get started.

But, before you embark on this beginning of the blacksmithing adventure I recommend a few other things first.

1. I recommend you do some research. Do lots of reading on the web and get yourself a couple of books. This is exactly how I started out in the hobby and I highly recommend you do this too. It will prove invaluable.

About the books: If you are getting a couple of books you can simply get books on beginning blacksmithing which are terrific. They will give you all kinds of techniques, tricks and advice. But, if you have something specific in mind when it comes to the hobby like knifemaking or swordmaking then you should get a couple of books specifically about that.

It takes a bit of specialized skill to make a knife or a sword and getting the right advice will save you a lot of time and effort.


The Anvil and basic tools

The Blacksmiths Tools and Anvil
The Blacksmiths Tools and Anvil

You can get started quickly and easily

Blacksmithing is something that a lot of people have thought about. It seems like a very interesting hobby. Maybe you have thought about having your own little blacksmith shop so you could make your own metal worked items like knives, swords, and other things.

But, the prospect of having to buy or build a blastfurnace forge in your back yard seems a bit daunting and overwhelming.

Well, the allure of being a blacksmith is a bit romanticized. We think of a burly and well-muscled man sweating over the heat of a forge and spending countless hours hammering at an anvil.

And while this might be part of the allure of blacksmithing it just isn't true! You can set yourself up a nice little forge from scrap materials and be on your way to blacksmithing in no time - no big muscles required either! I have a small forge in my backyard and I will often just crank it up for a half an hour to do a small job.

In this hub I will give you an overview of what you need to get started in blacksmithing simply and easily. I will show you how to make your own small forge and show you the things you need to be on your way to blacksmithing.

You only need six things

 Blacksmithing is just like any other hobby, pursuit or profession. You can spend thousands of dollars to get all kinds of fancy stuff and that is fine if you can afford it. But, you can also start out very simply (and very inexpensively) and just get a few of the basic things you need. Then, over time, you can add to this collection slowly.

It also makes a lot of sense to do it this way because if you have never tried blacksmithing you might want to keep your investment in time and money to a minimum. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of money on a new hobby then finding out its not for you!

So, here are the six things you need to get started:

  1. Some kind of a forge or fire pit to heat up coal
  2. Some kind of coal
  3. An anvil or anvil like object to work on
  4. A hammer
  5. A pair of tongs
  6. Some steel or iron to work on

That's pretty much it. You have these things and you are officially a blacsmith. Well, there are a few other things that are not on that list and let me review them here:

  • A Metal bucket to put oil or water in , this is to quench the heat
  • Safety glasses (always always always wear them)
  • cotton clothing with long sleeves and legs, optionally a smithing apron


The backyard forge

Brake drum
Brake drum

Making Your Own Backyard forge

The picture here shows my backyard forge. It works very well for most applications. It is small so It would be a challenge for me to make swords on it. But for just about any other kind of work it is more than sufficient.

A forge is simply some kind of a firepot with a hole in the middle. That hole in the middle is necessary though. it is there so you can blow a stream of air up through it. It is this stream of air that raises the temperature of the coal up to where you can heat and manipulate metal (red hot)

Building the Forge

The most important part of the forge is something called the firepot. This is the metal section in the very middle of the whole thing. It has to be of a high grade steel that won't melt. And an old brake drum from a car is perfect for this. It also has a hole in the middle which makes it just about custom made for a forge. You can go to a junkyard and ask for an old brake drum. Rusty doesn't matter at all.

The second picture shows the old brake drum. See how I have inserted a pipe into it and welded it into place? You don't have to weld yours you could just bolt it in using a pipe flange.

The Pipes of the forge (The tuyere)

I talked a little bit about having an airflow to the forge so we can bring up the temperature of the coals. Now let's take a look at this piping.

The picture above shows the pipe setup. There is a vertical pipe that goes into the firepot (brake drum). And this vertical pipe reaches down to near the ground. It is important that it reach down like this because we want the burned out ashes and coals to flow out the bottom.

Then there is a horizontal pipe that connects into the middle of that vertical pipe. This horizontal pipe is called the tuyere and on the end of it we put a fan, hair dryer, or blower.

The flap and the fan

The only remaining things are the flap and the fan. The flap is a small flap of metal on a spring hinge that keeps the bottom of the vertical pipe closed. You just open it when you are done with a smithing session to allow the ashes to fall out.

And the fan (not pictured) is just a hair dryer I attach to the end of the tuyere with a rubber hose and clamps. You can see the black rubber hose. It is some kind of a scrap radiator hose.


 At the beginning of this hub I show you a picture of my anvil. It is a big 300 pounder and it is a great anvil to have but you really don't need something this big. You can start out with a much smaller anvil. A retail tool store like Harbour Freight carries smaller anvils. And you can often get one by checking ebay or craigslist. Look for something local so you don't have to pay the shipping.

But if you don't want to buy an anvil you can start out by using a one foot long piece of railroad track. This is an inexpensive way to get started. You just secure it to the top of something like a log.


Getting Coal

Okay, you have built your forge and have your anvil. Now let's just cover the final thing: The Coal.

This is an important part of blacksmithing. You have to have some kind of fuel source that gets hot enough to bring metal up to working temperature and a regular wood fire isn't hot enough. Even barbecue briquets don't get hot enough. You need some kind of coal.

You can purchase coal, usually in 100 pound increments but it can be difficult to track down. Not in much use any more. This type of coal is called bituminous coal.

Or you can get hardwood lump coal. You can purchase this in bags from many different hardware and home improvement stores. I buy mine at Lowe's and Home Depot. It is pieces of wood that have been specially burned. Just ask for Hardwood Lump Coal.

You can also make your own hardwood lump coal using a 50 gallon drum with a cover. You fill the drum up half way with wood and start a fire in it. Once the fire is going strong you put the cover on it and let it burn out. The gases and pressure will transform the wood into lump coal.

The pictures on the right shows lump coal that I have made and the drum that i use to make it. Notice how the drum has a pipe in the bottom. This allows a controlled amount of air to get in while the wood is burning.

A knife right out of the forge

 I hope this Hub has helped you in your quest to do some blacksmithing. It is a very rewarding hobby and it really doesn't take a whole lot to get started. I just wanted to show  you a picture of a knife I made using my forge. It came out pretty good. I have just cleaned off all the black scale after having hardened it in the forge.



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