We have seen more than a few folks come and go through the Forge. Some drive for a while on purpose to get here. Others find us just by hap-n-stance. Some come to see what its all about and others come with some very preconceived notions about the process and the craft.
There are exceptions to all rules but experience can certainly make some things stand out. You can tell pretty quick if someone has ever swung a hammer in their life. You can tell by the questions they ask if they have spent much time around tools and if they need to be told not to touch certain things in the shop. This article is to help you know where you stand and where you are going to stand down the road.
If you don't have a clue about the process and have already bought or planned to buy a shop full of tools before you ever swing a hammer, you are in deep trouble already. Chances are you are a tool collector more excited about getting a shop than actually learning to forge. This is a dangerously expensive habit forming hobby that will suck the life out of your bank account. A person who is called to the craft will begin to learn the process first and will hammer with a stick and a rock if they have to. Your first desire should be to seek knowledge about the craft.
We highly recommend you take a class before you buy anything other than an apron, 1 hammer and a pair of gloves. You need to work some first. Black smithing is work, Hard work. Every single step expends energy and the process is slow. You don't just learn to make tapers one day and you know it. Then you get to hammer out 200 tapers before your work looks like somebody knew what they were doing.
When you think you are going to love it enough to set up a shop your tool needs will be determined by the process that you choose to learn. Walter has always felt you should make as many of your own tools as possible. Its good practice and you will take extra care to make good ones. When you seek tools educate yourself about whats good and what not.
Older tools, if in good condition are always made better and of better quality metal stock. Your tools should have a story not just a receipt. You should learn something when you find them and you should learn something from its history. Forging is not learning a process. Its an accumulation of knowledge about a thousand individual processes that take time and practice.
There is nothing about forging that is not work.
Its work to learn. Its work to set up a shop. And all this is in preparation to.....WORK! Go buy a pound of 10 penny nails. Get you a block of wood and start hammering. And hammer until you can hit what your aiming at every time, efficiently. That means sink them in the same number of blows each time. Good hand eye coordination will save you a lot of band aids! Consistent number of swings to do the same job trains the muscle to control the speed and force of your swing. Any body can beat metal. A seasoned smith can move metal where he wants it to be. Expect at some point that your arm will feel like a large loaf of deli bologna.
Pain and suffering
Every single day you are going to burn, beat, pinch, squeeze, mash or lay something open. A single hot ember can find its way into your shirt collar down your stomach and into your britches on its way into your boot. Everything you touch will cause either third degree burns or deep lacerations. Buy stock in burn cream, band-aids, neosporin and peroxide. Your nose will be filled at the end of each day with a complete set of black boogers and smudges that make you look like a dog of some sort. You will be dirty from your head to your toes with a powdered sand paper other wise known as coal dust. Any crack that stays filled to long will let you know its time to shower and scrub. Coal dust mixed with water turns to acid. It will irritate your skin and eat up your clothes. Wash your work clothes by them selves and rinse twice. Buy stock in shout. I'm just saying....
All this still sound good to ya?
Oh Lord, you are eat up with it! Take your time. Enjoy the journey and the experience of learning. Someday it will be your turn to pass. Read and watch everything fully aware that there are alot of muffins in the meadow and you have to tip toe through the pasture seeking knowledge that will grow your understanding of the craft and begin the evolution of growth in your skills. Don't overlook conversation with elders who spent a life time gaining that lifetime of knowledge. You can't just know things, you need to understand them.
Good luck in your endeavors. Walter does teach a one on one beginners class called Burns, Bruises and Black Boogers. It covers the basic ground work needed to begin your learning process. There are many niche branches of black smithing. As you learn you will find out if you are interested in blades or maybe casting. Your talents may take you in an artistic direction or you may enjoy making a specific tool or product. This 3 day or 6 evening class gives you a strong foundation of basic knowledge and terminology. You will learn standard techniques and practices needed like the ABC's of writing. Class is $500.00 and you must interview with Walter before scheduling can be finalized.
Please contact us for questions and answers and to schedule your learning experience.
Have a most wonderful week.
The Blacksmiths Wife
We will Praise Him with the Anvils Ring.