Inside: Lets take a look at the blacksmithing tools needed to develop your own blacksmith starter kit. Here you will find the 5 essential blacksmith tools for beginners.
Tools, Tools, Tools, it can seem a bit overwhelming to find the right blacksmithing tools you need when you are getting started with your forging hobby. Just learning all of the tool jargon, can be a feat in and of itself. So lets break it down to the 5 essential tools you will need and where you can find some of these items.
# 1 Blacksmith Anvil:
I started my hobby when my uncle gave me a piece of railroad rail for a door stop. I looked at it and though ” I could probably use that as an anvil”. After using that and continuing to learn I bought a small 25 lb. cast steel anvil, then I eventually came across a couple of older traditional anvils that were in my price range. I even made myself a striking anvil out of a piece of forklift tine. There is something about the history of blacksmithing that you tell your self surely I can find something (make something) to get started or make this work. As you read about the history of blacksmith anvils, the realization that they came in all shapes and sizes, may inspire you in the DIY blacksmith adventure. When you look at what some smiths are getting by with in other parts of the world, you will see that the basic anvil is a chunk of metal that has some mass to it, and that it works best when it can be secured to the ground, stump, stand, or post in such a way that it is near immovable. If you think that this DIY method is for you, then concentrate on keeping that chunk of metal solidified, create a good flat surface on top, try to create two opposing edges that are a nice radius of 1/8″ to 1/4″ radii. If you are able to invest a little cash into this tool. I will try to suggest a few options based upon my experience and research in different pricing for you.
#2 The Forge
Lets talk about, what is a forge? There needs to be a way to heat the metal up to a point that we can work with it. When you start shopping for a blacksmiths forge, you realize that these also come in all manner of shapes and sizes. There are really just two main categories though, solid fuel and non-solid fuel. Once you have made this decision, it definitely will help you focus your search. To help make this decision, can you think back to chemistry class and the combustion reaction? No? Well here is a little refresher. When anything combust it must go through the following reaction.
Fuel + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water/Steam + Energy
For a deeper explanation check out this article from ThoughtCo. Since energy is what we are looking for in the form of heat, we need a way to control the input of fuel and oxygen. Now when I started, I built myself a solid fuel forge using coal and a hair dryer to control the oxygen. Once I learned how to correctly feed the fire, for the coal to burn off its impurities and form coke (a higher BTU fuel) I was able to achieve plenty of heat energy to reach forging temperatures and work metal into various objects. I have since had experience with propane forges. These come in many variables to help achieve what you need. It may be confusing as you study about firebox size, burner sizes, the number of burners, atmospheric or forced air, insulation. Don’t worry these are all just options to help control the inputs of fuel and oxygen. Try to decide what type of fuel that you have most readily available and start there. Here are some suggestions to help get started.
# 3 Forging Hammer
Since the anvil is under your work, the hammer is the tool that applies pressure to the top of your work. I tried a few different styles and weights when I began forging. I eventually settled in on a 3 ¼ lb. rounding hammer, as it is called, which a round or dome surface on one face and a flat surface on the other face. There is a place for other styles of hammers, such as cross-peen, straight-peen, or ball-peen. Here are a few I would recommend starting with.
# 4 Blacksmith Tongs
At some point, you are going to need some tongs. You may be able to work without them for awhile, if you have long enough steel to handle. Eventually the piece just ends up too small to safely grasp with your hand. These once again come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Each with its own unique designed strength. Getting started I think, I can recommend 3 different types that you may need as you are beginning to forge. I use a pair of 1/2 inch bolt tongs for almost everything when I began, but it becomes difficult when you start forging down to smaller sizes. I then made some flat nib tongs that are good at holding flat bar stock and smaller pieces. Then a pair of scrolling tongs to help work smaller bits.
# 5 Safety Tools
I guess it needs a mention although it may seem obvious if you are going to begin a hobby forging hot metal that you should take some precautions. Protect your eyes and ears. Just the other day I was reminded of how precious my sight is. I was working on my house and ended up with a wood splinter or dust in my eye. It took me quite a while to get it worked out. So don’t forget your safety glasses. Now for hearing, you may think it is overkill but get some ear plugs. When I am working with 8 – 10 students at a time it can get loud in the shop. You might think that is just you, or it’s not that loud, or it’s not that long. Just remember hearing loss happens over the long term and will creep up on you before you know it. It is worth the investment.
Blacksmith Anvil, Forge, Forging Hammer, Blacksmith Tongs, and Safety Tools. I am sure you will need more items as you continue to learn to forge, but this should be enough to help you get started. Just remember to hit it while it is hot, this is Bern Staples and I ask that you join me as we learn to forge.