Author Topic: Amateur blacksmith's counselling  (Read 20392 times)

Offline Knecht

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Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« on: August 13, 2013, 07:57:04 AM »
Being a self-taught blacksmith for about 15 years, I had to learn a lot. Spent hours trying, burnt lots of coal, let dozens products crack or burn. Learned by mistakes and fatal mistakes. Still considering myself being a beginner, yet I can make myself a usable knife, spear, arrowhead, axe, nails and nearly anything I need. Take lots of inspiration in historical artifacts (I'm archaeologist) and actualy use many of my products during living-history events. Also make stuff for like-minded friends. I think of this as one of my essential survival skills, as since you can make yourself any everyday item from, say, 18th century, you can pretty much live in quite modern ways.

While I'm still working on improving my skills, I'm offering my advice or help to all preppers looking for it. PM me with your questions or post them here for public discussion. Perhaps other smiths join in and even I learn something new.

For those who are willing to start now, I'd like to post some essentials here. If I see enough interest, I'll continue, not just looking for a place to blog.

First advice if you want to start slow and easy, or maybe you know the basics and want to try some pre-work modelling of more complicated item:
1) get some Plasticine or similar material
2) get a hammer - even a tiny one, doesn't even have to be metal
3) get an "anvil" - means anything with usable straight and smooth surface on top - wooden block, stone...

Imagine the plasticine is red hot steel. Hold it one the anvil and start hammering it to the desider shape. It actually acts much like hot steel, but the advantage is, you don't need any special equipment, nor have to deal with smoke, sparks and noise of real smitting! And if you mess up, the material can be recycled - million times.
First, hand-form the plasticine into some rod pieces and try to hammer them to spikes, prybars, chisels. Then try to form a knife. Make the rod slightly flat - but not all the way! You need to start forming the tip and edge quite soon along the way. Learn how the material reacts once you try to hammer it thin on one side - yes, the other side curves, like a sabre. You need to hammer that side, too, to straighten it - but not too much. And so on...
Don't use just the anvil's top - it's edge is usable, too!
If you feel so, employ other tools, both handheld and fixed.
Don't cheat by forming the plasticine by hand - you only cheat yourself!
Once you think you know how, try it again several times - faster and faster! Add some more precision. The metal won't be hot forever, you have to work fast and accurate in real.
Try to duplicate everyday metal items you see aroud. At least imagine how would you make them.

Looking forward to see my apprentices!



Offline MarkL99

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2013, 10:04:58 AM »
What is plasticine exactly and where can I get it.  I am interested in starting to learn blacksmithing and possibly pass it down to my 10 year old son.  He and I have watched RFD-TV in the past when they have run the show Forge and Anvil.  He really seem to enjoy it.
Thanx.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2013, 10:42:00 AM »
Don't forget the 3 rules of Blacksmithing too...

1. It is hot
2. It is Hot
3. It is still hot  ;)

Cedar

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2013, 02:26:22 PM »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasticine

I guess even regular potter's clay might work, though you have to keep it wet. Don't know what kinds and brands of modelling clays you guys have there, so you may need to search around a bit.
Once you are done with this, you may want to try the next step: hammering some copper wire. That already requires a heat source (gas cooker works fine, even campfire would) and real tools, though just small ones are enough. I'll let you know how to do this if interested.

Offline MarkL99

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2013, 03:07:19 PM »
thank you very much for the information.  Any further instructions would be greatly appreciated.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2013, 04:36:35 PM »
Ok then, let me know how your first experiments went (or post some pics) and I'll gladly help you with next steps.
Hoped to see more people interested here though. Come on guys, it's fun and I can't even tell you how proud you'll be when you first cut your food with a knife you made.
Rough shaping the iron isn't even too difficult, the real art is to know (or rather feel) your hammer, be able to hit much more accurately than you'd have thought it takes. That's how the fine and precise products are born. Any idiot can flatten a rod,  then grind off 60% of it to form a blade. Well, first off it's waste of time, secodn it's a sign of bad craftsman, third it's useless in survival situation. You need to forge the item as close to the final form as possible, so that you won't have to file/grind too much.
You also need to understand the material. Copper is great for this, it harden's when you form it and gets soft by simple, low-temperature annealing. The point is, annealed copper stays soft after getting cool, even if you just quench it in water (unlike steel). Great way to teach you a metal isn't always the same, even when cold.

Offline Louisiana Suvivor

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2013, 04:38:44 AM »
I've been waiting three years for someone of knowledge in black smithing to post! Finally! Thank you. I'm an electrician so I have access to tons of high quality scrap copper wire.  The big stuff too!

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2013, 06:41:25 AM »
Glad to have you aboard my little smitty school!
So, grab your hammer and get to work! First, let's see if you can hammer a copper wire into square cross-cut. Heat untill red, quench in water. Whenever it starts getting too hard, repeat the annealing. Then maybe try to forge it's end into a spike. Work carefully, that's where they like to crack and split! Keep them soft.
Once a piece of wire is hammer square (and re-softened), you can also use pliers in each hand to twist it. Looks cool and also makes the material tougher to bend. You need to hold it slightly stretched to prevent uneven twisting and bending when you do this.
You cna look up some Bronze age artifacts to get inspired.

Offline archer

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2013, 01:39:56 PM »
interesting thread, i gotta try this. thanks Knecht

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2013, 02:10:03 PM »
Great, another one in. Looking forward to see what you guys make in your first attempts.
Also available on Skype and Google+ for some video advice chatting of needed. Won't be much online this weekend though.

Offline alan123

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2013, 05:56:29 PM »
I made a video of my brother's father-in-law forging a knife from a R/R spike and posted it to youtube. He makes knives and swords to sell. He also works for a company that does movie prop armorers. They do the Viking commercials "whats in your wallet?". Started doing all  this when he retired!
http://youtu.be/SfwyNZFDkXs
There is a video on how to make a forge from a soup can and a propane torch. forge small metal pieces.
http://youtu.be/jBVa2bw3r_k
Fun stuff

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2013, 02:48:31 AM »
I saw that can forge, cool idea yet seems quite complicated to me. As long as you can make a live fire with a little smoke, you can make forge with couple bricks, bag of charcoal and some source of air blow...vacuum cleaner with the hose mounted on reverse (blow-out end) works fine, as long as you can protect the end of hose against the heat (attach a piece of iron pipe and such).
For your first anvil, a piece of rail works great. Or any block of solid steel. Also big, solid and smooth stones with some flat area will do in emergency. Smaller products can be forged on vice anvils. You can even lay down a large hammer or similar tool and use it as anvil. The list is endless....don't use the industrial gray cast iron, it breaks. Also don't heat such material and don't hammer it. It can break really wildly, with hot pieces flying around. For starters, I recommend eye protection, until you know your anvil (especialy when using a rock) and material is safe to use. Generaly can't go wrong with wires and rods, concrete armature iron is fine, too. For good edged tools you'll need higher carbon cteel, but for the first lerning steps these soft materials work great.

Offline alan123

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2013, 10:35:17 PM »
In one of the Popular Mechanics issues they made a forge out of an old stainless steel sink and ran the blower up through the drain.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #13 on: August 21, 2013, 05:12:22 AM »
So, after a week...anyone actualy did something?

Offline Louisiana Suvivor

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2013, 10:09:19 AM »
This week I got a hold of copper wire (I'm an electrician and its the big stuff) and a few scrap pieces of steel. This weekend ill be attempting to build a small forge. I have the hammer and tongs. Any good links on a low cost forge I can build?

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #15 on: August 21, 2013, 12:24:58 PM »
How big? For copper wires up to 10mm thick you should be fine with any gas stove/camp cooker or generaly anything that provides a hot open flame, other than a candle (even candle would work on thin wires). Campfire works too, if you can do this outdoors.
Other than that, you just need a pot with water to chill the hot wire when annealing it.

Offline Louisiana Suvivor

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #16 on: August 21, 2013, 03:04:01 PM »
I have about 9 pieces of 600kcmil wire 3 ft long. About 1 inch diameter. Would a small $20 charcoal grill work or should I go bigger?

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #17 on: August 21, 2013, 05:04:11 PM »
That seems really thick for starting, you may want to choose something smaller first (is it just me, or am I quoting some porn movie here?)
Charcoal grill could work, though for such diameter I'd recommend some air blower to increase the heat.
Problem is, copper tends to split when hammered without proper annealing every now and then; thick pieces seem to split easier. You'll likely spend lot of time heating the thick material on the grill and may easily end up ruining the product once you don't anneal it enough.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2013, 07:17:40 AM »
Bummer, I hoped to see more people here interested in homesmitting...or to see the ones who showed some interest come back with some results of their first attempts and further questions. I'm trying to do this for you guys (and girls), not to show my smitting skills (which I still need to improve).
Once you can make most of basic tools plus nails, chains, hinges and such by yourself, you realize how few things would you actually miss from civilization. It's another step towards self-reliance and independence and IMO an important one.

Offline archer

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #19 on: November 25, 2013, 11:58:07 AM »
i've gotta get more time to do this.... argh.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #20 on: November 26, 2013, 05:08:24 AM »
Just to draw in some more folks. A small sample of my products. Some were made as custom orders (mostly for living-history  purposes), others I made for myself or as gifts. The historical replicas are all based on real finds of course (after all, I'm archaeologist)

Scottish Skean-Dhu


9th century "scalpel"


9th century razor...shaves well :)


9th century belt buckles and fittings












This one I made for a post-apocalyptic roleplay costume


Another "costume" knife, this time for an orc costume:





My first attempt of a weld-on edge construction:


Only finished this one, the blade was bought


Another apocalyptic item, axe forged from a non-slip stair material strip, with a layer of car spring steel in the middle:




« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 05:15:20 AM by Knecht »

Offline Greekman

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #21 on: November 26, 2013, 06:11:21 AM »
Bummer, I hoped to see more people here interested in homesmitting...or to see the ones who showed some interest come back with some results of their first attempts and further questions. I'm trying to do this for you guys (and girls), not to show my smitting skills (which I still need to improve).
Once you can make most of basic tools plus nails, chains, hinges and such by yourself, you realize how few things would you actually miss from civilization. It's another step towards self-reliance and independence and IMO an important one.

You know i think it is a whole new game you must get into.
The tools you need can be nothing fancy, like angle grinders and drill presses, but when you do not have any even acquiring them for the express purpose it brings the cost up...
I have friends that make or made their own knives, and when i discussed with one making a custom knife for me, he insisted that i go forward myself. But i ahd not the time nor the place and tools to commit to it.
Isn't the road from 0 to 1 knife longer than from 1 to 100th?

So to answer yuor questio/dissapointment, I feel most people face this situation

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #22 on: November 26, 2013, 07:17:31 AM »
For primitive amateur blacksmitting, you need very little tools and you likely have most of them already. All you REALLY need is a hammer. Anything that can deliver blows with a straight and hard surface on the heated material will work. Everyone has a hammer IMO.  You also need an anvil. A piece of rail works great. So does any other block of straight steel. Check local junkyard. You can even use solid rock. In that case, eye protection is recommended, at some rocks tend to crack and the pieces fly around. Pliers - as long as you use long piece of material and only heat it's end, you don't need pliers. Once you make smaller items, you need pliers though. There are many everyday pliers you may use and once you know a bit about smitting, you can make your own blacksmith pliers.
So what else....a file for some fine finishing. Something to sharpen edged tools, anything from an angle grinder to scythe-stone will work.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #23 on: November 26, 2013, 11:39:17 AM »
yeah i know...

we are still in the scrap materials phase in the local knife forum...we (actually they) have a theme project running, an exchange of greek shepherd knives between the members. more than half of them are made from car leaf spring and ball bearing steel.
even I as an avid DIYer I am impressed by the repurposing of the iron and blade smiths.

BTw I liked your axe. have yoy got a writeup somewhere?

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2013, 11:58:13 AM »
Not sure what kind of writeup you mean.
BTW, I still have that axe if you really like it and want it... it was just an experiment if I can make something like that of random scrap finds and it also served as one-time-only costume accessory. It's been just laying around since then, I'd be glad to know it's of use to someone. We can make some sort of exchange if you want...

I would love to see some of those shepherd knives, always interested in more material culture knowledge.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #25 on: November 26, 2013, 12:53:09 PM »
thanks for the offer,  but i do nto think i can make use of it, let alone that I am very far away.
By writeup i meant if you have posted picstures etc somewhere else so I can link them to the knife forum.

http://www.greekblades.com/kbgrf-f16.html
check for the KAMA 2013 topics

this is the 3rd KAMA project....Its the acronym equivalent of the KITH (knife in the Hat) project than happen in the various blade forums. but it also stands for the name of specific type of ancient Greek blade.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #26 on: November 26, 2013, 01:09:30 PM »
Ok, no problem. If you ever changed your mind, I ship stuff all the time... and Greece isn't that far from CZ
I posted most of those apocalyptic costume products here: http://knecht.rajce.idnes.cz/postapo-vyrobky/
feel free to post them. They are nothing to be proud of as smitty products, but that wasn't even intended. I rather enjoyed inventing that stuff, going through junkyard and making use of the scrap.

I checked that Kama knife and like it a lot! The grip end is interesting, sort of similar to yatagan, just not that wide.

« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 01:15:03 PM by Knecht »

Offline Greekman

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #27 on: November 26, 2013, 04:51:25 PM »
well after 4-5 centuries of turkish occupation, one is bound to see similarities.

I was thinking about the grip flaring backwarsd and its use. I am assumign that it is made likewise since the knife is mostly used for up to bottom/draw strokes, like when slaugthering and skining an animal (with bloody hands), being a sheep herders knife.

Offline Knecht

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #28 on: November 26, 2013, 05:27:59 PM »
Yes, that could be a reason for the grip shape. Or perhaps it's more like a fashion thing...who knows. There are many interesting details on old weapons and other items that were highly affected by fashion and general custom.
Is there any traditional axe in your material culture? Axes are one of my main fields of archaeological interest. I mainly do early medieval ones, but sometimes even younger stuff shows some interesting facts.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Amateur blacksmith's counselling
« Reply #29 on: November 26, 2013, 11:06:27 PM »
I do not know, and i do not think. tee field is abre with info and in cyrrent times we have a mix of comercial designs that are inferior to the scandinavian and american patterns. though from time to time aforgotten axe from the 18th and 19th century surfaces up.
I do not think that ever existes a combat axe adn all specifents that docna be traced to the Otoman and Westerner influence and presence in the wider Balkans
I will take some time to trace some threads that show an old piece