Blacksmithing, like any other craft, can go wrong in many different ways if not worked properly. This is especially true for beginners. Either they don’t know what material to use, what tools are convenient for the job or simply they entered in blacksmithing generally unprepared. So, in this article, we decided to cover the most important tips for beginner blacksmith.
These are 7 blacksmithing tips for all beginners:
- Learn blacksmithing fundamentals
- Get a basic set of tools
- Start with simple projects
- Ask experienced blacksmiths for advice
- Stay safe
- Learn from your mistakes
- Keep your workshop organized
Now, lets explain each one of them in greater detail.
Learn Blacksmithing Essentials
The first thing you should do before getting into blacksmithing is learning its fundamentals. What is blacksmithing? What material to use? Which tools are required? How to heat-treat particular steel? These are all some of the questions that you should ask yourself before you start hammering hot metal.
Before we even stepped in a workshop, we read several blacksmithing books. Unfortunately, a lot of people cant attend blacksmithing classes because there aren’t any in their area. If there is any chance you can take a blacksmithing class, by any means go. In one day, you will learn more about it than someone who watches 100 videos about blacksmithing.
But don’t that let the fact of missing the class discourages you. You have one amazing thing at your disposal which is called the internet. There are so many good-quality books, articles, guides, youtube videos to learn from, even online blacksmithing classes. The point is that today, nobody has an excuse anymore not to learn.
One of the worst things in blacksmithing is to be unprepared. Master the fundamentals, and eventually, you will become an expert. A lot of people get frustrated when getting started in blacksmithing due to many numbers of information and rules but when you break it down into segments, it is easy.
As with anything, learning blacksmithing takes time. You cant expect to learn in one day but unfortunately, many people think they can. When you are completely new at this, you have to learn about equipment and tools you will be using, how to set up your workshop, what material to use, blacksmithing techniques, how the process of forging looks, what is forging temperature, and many other things.
Now, lets move to the next important tip.
Get a Basic Set of Tools
Do you know those people who buy all the possible equipment when they start some new hobby? Even if they probably won’t need it, for some reason, they have to buy everything. But not only that, in most cases, the equipment they buy is usually not the cheapest option.
Well, the same thing happens in blacksmithing. A lot of people buy every possible tool, including the ones they will probably never use. You would be surprised how a small number of tools are required to get started in this craft.
Don’t overspend on tools, especially in the beginning. You don’t need the 500-pound anvil, 10 types of hammers, 15 different tongs, 2000$ forge, etc. All you need is a few numbers of tools, and that’s it. There are a lot of projects you can do with only some type of anvil, basic hammer, and simple forge. In case you don’t know which type of forge to use, see Gas vs Coal Forge -Which One Is Better for Blacksmithing?
Just don’t fall into this trap of just having all possible and best equipment to become a great blacksmith. In fact, some of the greatest blacksmiths in history didn’t have equipment as nearly as today’s blacksmiths have.
Start with Simple Projects
When you start your blacksmithing journey, you should start with easy work. You cant expect to forge a Damascus knife without any experience. I know, watching Forged in Fire gets you inspired by seeing these incredible blades made in only 4 days. Maybe you even started blacksmithing because of that show, I don’t know, but the key is to start small and gradually move on to the more advanced work.
So, after you learn blacksmithing fundamentals and acquired necessary tools, you are ready for some simple project. There are many things you can forge as a beginner project. For example, you can forge a simple nail or even some tools. The tools you can make yourself, in the beginning, are things like a chisel, punches, sets, etc. They are excellent choices because they don’t require a lot of experience and knowledge. Plus, it won’t take long to make them.
To be honest, I made a big mistake in the beginning when it comes to this. After, reading a couple of books and watching some videos, my first “project” was a sword. I mean, you can guess how it ended. It was everything but a sword. It cracked immediately and wasn’t nearly as sharp it should be.
In our other article, you can see the best beginner projects with video instructions.
Ask Experienced Blacksmiths for Advice
Although may seem very obvious, this is one of the most important tips I can give you. Unfortunately, a number of today’s blacksmiths is getting smaller and smaller, especially the experienced ones. As I said before, one day spent with experienced blacksmiths will give you more knowledge than reading a whole book.
Unfortunately, not everyone has someone like that in his area. But if it happens that you can visit some blacksmith or go to blacksmithing class, it would be a very valuable experience. When I started blacksmithing, my nearest blacksmithing class was 600 miles (965 km) away but that didn’t stop me from going. It was a 3-day blacksmithing class. I couldn’t believe that I can learn that much in only 3 days. Amazing experience.
Yes, the theory is also involved, but when you actually hammering down the hot metal while blacksmith is correcting you, it is something that you will never forget. For example, you can read about various blacksmithing techniques and even watch videos on youtube, but nothing can compare with actual practice. Practice is the key.
I remember the first couple of times when I tried to light anthracite coal. It was an impossible mission for me. Or when I did light it, the fire would cool down very quickly. So, I asked this blacksmith what is the problem with this coal. He said: “Coal is not the problem, your approach is. You are treating anthracite as bituminous coal, it doesn’t work that way. Every fuel requires a slightly or completely different approach.”
Because of the lack number of today blacksmith, finding him/her near you can be a problem but if possibility presents itself, take it.
There are many possible dangers that can happen in a blacksmithing workshop. Remember, you are working with a heated metal therefore I think it is needed to consider using safety equipment and applying safety precautions. This is not just for beginners but also for experienced blacksmiths.
My intention isn’t to scare you, but rather to show you hot to prevent possible dangers and injuries. Don’t think you are the real man if you are not wearing safety equipment. Be responsible for yourself and others around you.
Let’s start with our eyes. Without them, forget about blacksmithing. This is why wearing proper safety glasses is a must during work, especially near the forge. I know one guy, who tried to be a “real man” near the coal forge without wearing protective glasses. A small portion of coal popped into his eye and almost lost his sight. You should take this very seriously.
Now let’s move on our another important sense, hearing. As you may know, working on the anvil can exceed 85 decibels, which is considered as a harmful noise level. Now, I doubt that your intention is to develop severe hearing loss, so we recommend wearing either ear muffs or earplugs. Earplugs are simpler and cheaper options. The downside of earplugs is that they are more complicated to insert and remove. Also, we don’t recommend using earplugs for people with ear infections.
On the other hand, earmuffs are more durable than earplugs. They are also much simpler to put on and remove. Earmuffs generally cost more than earplugs. In case you are dealing with extremely high noise, you can wear them together.
Protecting your hands is of great importance but that not necessarily means that you should always wear protective gloves. There are situations where wearing gloves can be very dangerous. For instance, when working on machinery, especially with something like a drill press or lather, you should not wear gloves. You can easily snag the finger on the edge of a cutter.
However, there are various situations where gloves come handy. Wearing gloves when working with punches or drifts will reduce heat radiation from hot metal.
Because of their strength and durability, leather gloves are an excellent option for blacksmithing purposes. Leather gloves are also good insulators and heat-resistant, so we recommend you get at least one pair.
We discussed this topic in great detail in Safety Equipment for Blacksmithing, so feel free to check it out.
Learn from Your Mistakes
There are countless possible mistakes you can make during blacksmithing. From setting up a wrong anvil height to using the wrong quenching medium and destroying your project. The most important thing is to take those mistakes and using them as a learning lesson. Okay, you failed, so what? You will learn next time how to do it right.
Many people give up on blacksmithing too soon for a variety of reasons. Every beginner makes mistakes in anything, it is a normal part of the process. Every mistake you make must be a stepping stone for becoming a better blacksmith.
For the first couple of times, I simply could not forge a good-quality knife. I was furious at myself at first. Actually, I almost gave up completely. Luckily, I didn’t. This is the reason why we recommend to learn blacksmithing fundamentals before working. That way you will minimize unnecessary mistakes which you would make otherwise.
Making mistakes is inevitable in this craft. If you look at it from a greater perspective, mistakes are one of your biggest friends, because of them you will grow. Just remember that every successful blacksmith was once a beginner. He/she had to start somewhere.
Keep in mind that there are some mistakes you should not make, such as wearing the safety equipment, keeping proper ventilation in your workshop, setting the proper height for your anvil, etc. There are many more which I haven’t mention. If you set the improper anvil height, it can put some serious strain on your body over time. Also, having improper ventilation can be extremely toxic.
One of the mistakes I made a couple of times was grabbing a piece of iron that “looks” cool. The red color is not the only indicator that the metal is hot. This usually happens to people after a long day of work. You simply forgot you just took the piece out of forge a couple minutes ago. It is so easy to fall in this trap of glowing metal equals hot metal. That’s why is so important to drink water regularly during work.
Keep Your Workshop Organized
The workshop is the place you will spend most if not all of the time blacksmithing. Therefore, it should be of great importance to keep it organized to maximize your productivity and minimize the chances of possible hazards.
There is nothing worse than seeing a disorganized blacksmithing workshop. Working with hot metal should be carefully done. If your workshop is not properly organized, not only that it is not productive, but can actually be dangerous. Let me explain.
All your tools should have its own place. If you decided that hammers stay near the forge, at the end of the day, they should stay there. First and foremost, organize your tools. Imagine that you are punching a hole. You took your metal, placed it on the anvil and you realized that punch is not where it is supposed to be. Of course, until you find it, the metal will cool down, so you will need to heat it again. This is just one possible scenario.
It is a good idea to keep all your tools and stock around the sides of the workshop so you have more free working space in the center.
The dangerous scenario is keeping the forge near wooden materials. When working with coal or charcoal, there is a high chance that some pieces will pop out. If it is surrounded by wood, it will easily catch fire.
Anvil and the forge are the heart of the blacksmith shop. This where most of the work gets done, so they should be close to each other. If you are right-handed, it is nice to have an anvil on your right side and the forge on your left. If you have a small shop, the ideal distance between the centers of anvil and forge is 4-5 feet. If you are working with long stock, you may want to make a greater distance between the two.
The vise should be also close to the anvil. The most common types of vises are post vise and bench vise. If you have post vise make sure to make enough to walk around it without a problem. This is very important when you are doing techniques like twisting and bending.
In case you don’t have post vise, bench vise will also do the job. A bench vise is recommended when you don’t have enough space, so hooking up the vise with the working bench creates much more space. If you are working with long bars, it is a good idea to set the bench vise 45 degrees on a corner to move easier.
In regards to the size of the workshop, you don’t need an extremely large space, especially as a beginner. Of course, as you are advancing you will need more tools, hence, a larger space. On average, a 12×14 foot dimension is convenient for a blacksmithing shop. Depending on the free space available, everyone’s workshop is different.
Many factors will impact the construction of your workshop. Factors like space availability, type of work, number of tools, financial cost are the 4 most important ones. We will discuss how to set up the blacksmith shop in a future article more thoroughly.
As you can see, these are just a few possible tips for a beginner blacksmith. There are so many more things to be aware of, but this article covered some of the most important. Everyones start is different, so some tips may be more valuable for you than others. We don’t want to make mistakes as we did in the beginning so we will give our best to provide you with the best possible information and guidelines in the future. I hope that you enjoyed the article.
Now, it is time for work.