Becoming a Blacksmith - The Best Tools for the Trade

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DIY blacksmith forgeOf all the trades that need tools, of all the trades that ooze pure manliness, black smithing is probably one of the longest running and most awesome trades to be found. The trade of blacksmith is at once simple in concept, but also a trade that requires much skill. It’s not just for Ren-Festies either. A lot of people take it up to be prepared for when the SHTF and even just for a hobby or secondary source of income (grudgingly referred to as a “side hussle”). One of the great advantages of blacksmithing is that it’s a relatively cheap initial investment and needs only a few tools. Even better, you can even make many of your own as you go. You can even make your own forge and tongs to get you ready for other projects. Not only will you be able to make your own tools, you’ll probably get ripped abs while doing it as you work and move all kinds of metal.

While you need few actual tools to get started, blacksmithing is a very demanding art. So investing in high quality tools at the start is the key to success. But before you get carried away with tools, you probably want to start with safety first. A blacksmith apron is essential to protect you from hot sparks and flying metal bits which will happen. For the same reason, you’ll probably want good eye protection and gloves as well. The eye protection is also an absolute must, because one hot spark or bit of ash into your eye and it’s all over. Blacksmithing also gets loud with all of that metal pounding, so you should probably invest in some hearing protection too. The last piece of safety equipment, besides good boots, is a breath mask of some sort. When polishing or grinding metal, the last thing you want is to breathe the small particles of metal in. Safety is job number one, so make sure you get good safety equipment to work with.

Once your PPE is all in order, it’s time to get a basic set of tools together. You need about four types of basic tools to get a start, starting with a forge. You’re not going to get far as a blacksmith without getting your metal hot, because without it getting hot, it really won’t be soft enough to work with. There are really only two types of forge:  a coke (coal powered) forge and a propane forge. They each have their own plusses and minuses so be sure to research that. Either way, you need good air circulation to ensure the fire is fed. This is one of those areas with a little bit of work and scrounging for materials you can make your own forge from scratch if you already have some tools. The advantage of making your own is that it’s 100% customized for your needs.

blacksmith anvilThe next most important piece is your anvil. Once the metal is hot, it needs to be hit and you probably don’t want to do it on the kitchen table. You don’t want to break the bank, but at the same time you want something that’s going be good investment. You can get a used anvil for reasonable prices if you look, but it may pay to get a brand new one depending on what your plan is. The great thing with anvils is that they come in all sorts of shapes, weights and sizes, so it’s not necessary to get the giant Wile E. Coyote special. You can start out with a small one and grow from there as your black smith needs grow.

blacksmith tongsThe last couple tools you need are hammers, tongs and a vise. A ball pein or cross pein would be the best to start with as they let you shape metal with delicate precision and with some amount of force if you need to get rough. These hammers are great starters because they allow you to have more control over the metal which, in the end, is really what you want. The good news here is that you’ll eventually be able to make your own hammers if you need something bigger. Tongs and vises are also critical pieces because you need to hold your red hot metal and because they’re your extra set of hands. You should have multiple types and sizes on hand because each thing you work on needs the right shape and a special kind of tool to hold it. The great thing about tongs is you can make them as one of your first projects and as you need them. For the vise, like the anvil, you want to get something that can take some abuse, so shop around. Unfortunately you probably can’t make your own vise and you don’t to just go get a cheap one. This is one tool where it’s OK to spend a little at the start because a good one will last you, plus, over time, you’ll be saving tons of money by making your own tools.

Being a blacksmith is a lot of work and does require a fair amount of tools, but good quality tools can be picked up for reasonable prices and the rest can be made and if you need to spend a lot on a tool, it’s OK because you don’t need to do it often. Compared to other trades, like electrician, where you need thousands of dollars of tools to start working, blacksmithing is a really good low investment potentially high return if you’re looking for a trade to break into. You can start black smithing for hundreds of dollars if you’re clever enough. Both trades require some training and black smiths require some amount of mentoring, but most trades do anyways. Once you’ve progressed as a blacksmith you’ll be able to help make metal pieces for fun and profit, plus it’s always a fun thing to watch at a renaissance fair.


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