December 29, 2005

Preparing for the craft

At this time, I am not even a beginner blacksmith. I am merely preparing for it. I am gathering up the bare necessities though. I have read all 3 books offered by our library:
The art of blacksmithing / Alex W. Bealer.
Practical blacksmithing / Edited by M. T. Richardson.
The complete modern blacksmith / Alexander Weygers.
Of these books, the first two are mostly intended for an intermediate or advanced blacksmith, and the third one could almost be used by a beginner. The only thing I have against "The complete modern blacksmith" is that he recommends removing safety guards on your grinder, and doesn't (that I know) mention "Metal Fever." Please research metal safety if you plan to work with metal. For those who have recently been exposed to metal vapors, I have heard that whole milk, real butter and other fatty foods can help a little bit. I am not a doctor, and this does not mean that you should be careless with metal vapors. Be safe or you could die.

I intend to read "The new edge of the anvil" as I hear that it is an excellent beginners book ... we shall see.

As for tools, I have:
ear muffs
ear plugs
full-face safety shield
safety glasses (not shaded though)
2 lb ball-pein hammer
2 wire brushes
8 lb sledge hammer
3 inch bench vise (very cheap!)
a few cold chisels
a small punch[updated!]
a set of inside/outside curved metal dividers, with no ruler marks.
a metal tub for quenching
a 110 lb London-Pattern anvil[updated!]
55 gallon drum to haul and store coal

A few items that I still need are:

a leather apron
welding gloves (at least until I get some decent tongs)
2, 3, and 4 lb cross-pein hammers
a blacksmith's leg vise
a project table
a coal forge

My dad has a small (maybe 20 lb) anvil that I can use until something better comes along, and I will be getting a nice swage block from the Oklahoma-based Saltfork Craftsmen Artist-Blacksmith Association. They have a 65 lb swage block for a good price. They also sell coal, which I will be using when I get or make a forge.

I have read recommendations that I should take a welding course, for the safety training, and so I could weld things together ... like a nice metal project table. Our local tech school offers evening courses in welding, but they are a bit expensive - $350.00. I guess I'll have to read a welding book and then have my brother give me a few pointers. My brother recommended that I learn oxy-acetylene welding, since that is closest to the process of forge welding. It would also be useful as a localized heat source for things that will not fit into the forge.

I know that some blacksmiths are "purists" in the sense that they want to preserve the old ways, and I very much respect that, but I don't have the luxury to avoid modern welding and grinding tools right now. After I have a shop with a few of tools, I will be able to drift and punch instead of drilling, and forge weld instead of oxy-acetylene stick welding.

Stay tuned, as my next blog will probably address the question "Why I want to learn blacksmithing?"

Does anyone have book recommendations for a beginner?
you can either leave a comment, or write me at roy_tate [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Updated: Added to my list of "tools I have", added safety links.