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How to forge (Techniques)


Kurt
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So I finally got a nice day to myself to start forging out a blade.

 

As you can see, I suck at it. :lol: Well, what do you expect?

 

I started around 1 to 1:30. The pictures (in this order) were taken at 2:00, 3:06, 4:30, 5:00, and 5:37. Naturally, 4 continuous hours of forging and I needed a break. I did, however, manage to clear the second pin, so I'll most likely finish this knife by stock removing the rest. I know, it's a waste, but this steel was free, and is readily available.

 

Here's a video of my... erm... "technique". Hit it, hit it again, hit it again, hit it again, slip, almost drop it, hit it, hit it again, hit it again...

 

It just didn't really want to move out of its shape. What am I doing wrong? Any ideas? (I know I didn't really give enough information for a concrete answer, but any help will be much appreciated, it seems wasteful to stock remove such wonderful steel.)

 

forge_025.jpg

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forge_029.jpg

So above and beyond I imagine, drawn beyond the lines of reason. Push the envelope, watch it bend.

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Keep hitting, but hit it hotter. Work down the fish lips also, and round your hammer face to keep it from leaving so many dents, you will still leave dents but practice will take care of that. Good to see you finally pick up a hammer and DO.

Let not the swords of good and free men be reforged into plowshares, but may they rest in a place of honor; ready, well oiled and God willing unused. For if the price of peace becomes licking the boots of tyrants, then "To Arms!" I say, and may the fortunes of war smile upon patriots

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How heavy is your hammer?

 

From what I can see, it looks fairly light.

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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Keep looking for a bigger piece of steel for an anvil. Something around 3x3 or 4x4, or 3 or 4 inches in diameter and about a foot long sunk in concrete. It will make your work easier and help you not to hit it so hard, which I think may be part of your problem. With what you have, I wouldn't go much over a 2lb hammer. More of a crown to the face of your hammer will help you move steel better but will leave dings worse. A flatter crown will leave a smoother surface but will not move steel as well. Square and round faces work differently, you might want to give each a try. Whichever, round the edges of the face to help prevent rough hammer marks. Vice grips have a way of popping open at the most inopportune times and may cause you to have to dodge flying red hot steel. Large pliers would be better but tongs would be better still.

 

Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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Sam: Can't hit it hotter, that's as high as the little furnace goes. I'm in the process of performing some upgrades, though, so stay tuned.

 

Greg: I have a 4lb sledge and a 32 oz. ball pein. I can't use the sledge too often because I have a bad wrist. What a hobby to get in to. :lol: Go foresight!

 

Doug: What I have right now stays like it is for a while, I just got it all in. It took 3 hours and a buddy to hand-cut that log and roll it up a steep hill (45 degrees) to my house. And the steel I'm using as an anvil isn't going anywhere soon either, I have nothing to replace it. It works well enough for now. Same thing goes for the hammer. I can't un-grind the edges. I think I just hit a little crooked, I'll work on that.

 

 

Edgar: Using my wee little forge. At its hottest point, it gets around 1000 C. I'm probably hitting the piece at around 800 C.

 

Youtube person: Yup, I'm a lefty.

 

 

Oh. and by the way, don't be afraid to hurt my feelings. Nobody successful was nursed and sheltered from the truth for his entire life. If you see something I'm doing wrong, tell it to me straight.

Edited by Kurt

So above and beyond I imagine, drawn beyond the lines of reason. Push the envelope, watch it bend.

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Kurt,

 

Your approach so far appears to be kind of random. That is to be expected just starting out. Your might find some useful ideas on how to proceed Here. I'm not trying to blow my own horn here, this is just the way I have been taught.

 

1000 C is about 1800 F, plenty hot to forge, it you move smartly and know what you want to do. The time in the forge is thinking time, as the piece gets hot review in your head what you want to accomplish this heat. Some times it helps to actually practice, mime picking up the steel and moving it to the anvil and all of that ( I usually resort to that when I have to switch hands or tools for a process).

 

Have your tools ready to hand, you don't want to waste a heat. You only get 15-20 seconds of useful heat (the time when you can move metal) once the steel stops moving, you need to stop hitting it. The dull red down into the black is the time to straighten things up and to try and figure out what you want to happen in the next heat.

 

While your steel is heating, PUT THE HAMMER DOWN. You only have so much work available in your hand and arm in a given time. Holding the hammer clenched in your hand while the steel heats, burns muscle time while getting no work done. Now I know you are young and strong, but you said you have a bad wrist. Give yourself as much of a break as you can. I tweeked my right elbow (my strong hand) last August and it's STILL not 100%.

 

Real tongs are a help, long pieces of steel that you don't need tongs for are even better. Learn to weld, even just a little bit, and you can weld a chunk of rebar to your work piece as a handle. Right now, less hammer is probably better. You can do useful work with 2lbs, and work up to 4-6 lbs.

 

Now here is the whoo-whoo stuff. Try to stay in the moment. When the steel is hot, be focused on the steel. Don't be thinking about other things, where your glove is, boy I really need to get some tongs, I wonder if my girlfriend is home, is it raining? This what my T'ai Chi Sifu called the monkey mind. It wants to be doing anything but the one thing you are doing. When the steel is hot, you only need to work the steel, do one thing, heat the steel, do the next thing.

 

Well, that is more than enough of that.

 

Sifu Geoff

"The worst day smithing is better than the best day working for someone else."

 

I said that.

 

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

- - -G. K. Chesterton

 

So, just for the record: the fact that it does work still should not be taken as definitive proof that you are not crazy.

 

Grant Sarver

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I'm clearly doing something very wrong.

 

1) One heat for me takes about 10 minutes of re-warming time.

2) In two heats you've done about as much as I've done in a day, more, even.

 

Is there any particular strategy to forging the tang or stretching the blank?

So above and beyond I imagine, drawn beyond the lines of reason. Push the envelope, watch it bend.

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You have started your conversation with the steel, the rest is going to take time to get right. Geoffs advice is right on, your hammering is kind of random right now, practice. With the size of your hammer and anvil you can only impart so much energy to the work, not a problem you can still do alot with what you got. Some of the guys that post here are true masters and yes they can move more steel by 8am than I can all day.

 

I cant give you advice about your forge, cause I dont use gas, did you enjoy your start.

Edited by charred
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Greg: I have a 4lb sledge and a 32 oz. ball pein. I can't use the sledge too often because I have a bad wrist. What a hobby to get in to. :lol: Go foresight!

 

 

When I was doing professional sheet-metal work ( and had to manually punch out a section on some work that a machine couldn't reach ), one of the folks there gave me a little tip that might help you --- get a solid wrist brace - the kind that has little to no flex to them, and wear it while doing hammer work - it will support your wrist, and force you to use your elbow more - a joint that can normally take more punishment than the wrist can ...... you might have to raise your anvil a little, but it might be a good idea anyway.

 

A second look of your pic's indicated that you might want to think a little bit about just how the hammer is hitting the work - it looks like you are hitting more with the top edge of the hammers face rather than with the flat part of it, and that could be a part of what's causing the dimples like that - raising your anvil a bit, might also help you to strike with the flat of the face of your hammer, and not the top corner of the face, which in turn means fewer dimples and any that are left will not be as deep. Just off hand - I might guess that raising your anvil perhaps 1/2 inch ( or close to it ), might be all that is needed to reduce top edge strikes, unless your doing it on purpose ( are you ??? ).

 

 

You might consider a 3 lb sledge as a intermediate step between your 32 oz and 4 lb until your arm builds up a bit - they can be had at Lowe's under the name of drill hammers, for about $15-$20 - they also have a shorter handle that can give more control.

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

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Kurt,

 

All the above is good advice.

 

My big chunk of advice is to buy a good intro book on forging, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit down and read it carefully. The Complete Bladesmith is an excellent one. The $50 Knife Shop is also a good one. They cover everything above, plus a lot more.

 

After you read, go forge again. Then go back and re-read what you just read. It will mean twice as much as the first read. Repeat until Zen-like state of one-ness with steel is achieved. LOL

 

+1 on Geoff's comment about not being distracted during forging. You'll know when you've achieved the right state of mind when you think that only an hour or so has passed, but you find that it's dark outside, you're starving and you've actually been out in the forge for seven hours. Time goes away when you really achieve the right focus. It's a heck of a high, actually.

 

+1 on the comments above that you are probably not getting the steel hot enough based on the photos. Check out the propane torch forge in the $50 Knife Shop. Won't get to welding heat, but gets plenty hot for forging and is super-duper cheap/easy to make.

 

Luck! And welcome to the quest.

 

--Dave

-----------------------------------------------

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly." -- Theodore Roosevelt

http://stephensforge.com

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Kurt, from a beginner's perspective, Dave's advice about those two books is dead on.

 

You are right to suspect that there are "techniques" to doing these things. There are fundamental smithing techniques that you use to forge anything. A blade is deceptively simple and uses many of them, to different degrees.

 

I'll just add that there have been many, many outstanding step by step pictorials added to this forum in the last 6 months or so (as if this place wasn't a gold mine to start with...). Niko Hynninen's puukko pictorial, and B. Finnegan's bowie tutorial come to mind immediately (he posted videos too), but there are tons of others. Check some of these out.

 

I would also get some tongs, or fabricate a way to hold your work piece safely.

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I can't for the life of me figure out how you can be taking 10 minutes to achieve a heat. Something's wrong. I seem to recall suspecting that your burner might not be able to deliver enough BTUs. I'm still very suspicious.

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Yeah, that's right. You were using the plumber's torch. You drilled the orifice, but what about the valve? I think you need to flow more gas -- unless you're WAY overdoing it on air, but I doubt that with a hair dryer for a blower.

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Reading a book is a must, You should also try to hook up with somebody and visit their forge. I know there are many Bladesmiths in Ontario, Its summer so everybody will be outside hammering and you can make a short camping trip out in the country somewhere where you can learn more in a hour than you will figure out in a year of reinventing the wheel by yourself.

 

I wasted a good two years screwing around, that and a motorcycle wreck that broke my arm. Asking around will get some doors open for you, people always like to help new guys in this knife deal if they help themselves first as you have.

 

 

Dont worry about the arm, just learn to strike with your other hand if you have a bad wrist. If you get good enough and still have problems you will make enough to buy yourself a air hammer or something to compensate.

 

Another thing is to start with a smaller piece of steel and a bigger hammer. There should be all kinds of hammers available around Ontario at yard sales and flea markets and things, anvils, anvil shaped objects, and tongs too for that matter and all for cheep, just ask around and always keep a eye open.

Edited by Bryan Bondurant
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I think you're doing a great job. It might not look like your sketch, but I'm pretty sure you learned quite a bit. Maybe don't worry about making your practice piece look like a knife. Get a feel for how the steel moves, work up the conditioning and work on the accuracy. Then, when you feel like progress is slowing, do what you can to do a shop visit, or class, or hammerin. Ed Caffrey's advise help me get started. I did repeated round to square to round exercises with large scrap rebar. They get skinny and draw out so I called them rat tails and made dozens of them. Hold the work safely and get enough heat to cut your reheat time way down.

 

Best of luck, Craig

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its lookin good... remember you started with a big piece of stock..

 

i can say that if you have a better means of holding the stock, things would progress with way less frustration..

 

if it were me :huh: ... i'd hot cut the tang, and buy or make a pair of box tongs to securely hold the blade... once you have the work holding issues down... you will see your forging technique become much more fluid and the outcome will be more to your liking...

 

secondly... heating the steel shouldn't take long at all... if there is one annoying thing about a propane forge is that it should keep you running... just enough time to catch a few breaths and stretch out your arms..... and its back to the anvil..

-

 

but the long heat up time is good when you go to heat treat... then its easier to hit right at non-magnetic, and not shoot way over it ( the road to grain growth )

 

 

by the way... looks like alot of fun ! keep postin them pic's

 

G

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Good suggestions on getting books to read, I can indorse both books mentioned. I used to harp on that a lot but I started thinking that I was sounding like a broken record (You are old enough to know what a record is, aren't you? ;-} ) When I started forging I would keep these books on the floor beside by bed just in case I wanted to do a little light reading before I turned off the lights.

 

My suggestions are just somethings that you might want to think about. Knives have been made on anvils not a whole lot different than what you have for ages and ages. If you can go to Tim Lively's site, I think that he has some tutorials that show making anvils out of scrap pieces of steel that only ran him $20-30. You do seem to need to find a way to get your steel hotter, that you won't be able to get around. Just keep it simple. Remember that a forge is nothing more than a hole in the ground with an air supply running to it. All else are just design modifications.

 

Doug Lester

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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Well, y'all wanted updates, but I have little.

 

I took off the burner and removed the washer inside. The air flows WAY better. Before, what was full power is now only 1/3 power. It gets a more uniform heat, but still not quite hot enough. And it doesn't back-burn! Now, my limiting factor is the propane inlet. I took a look at the hose, and realized I can't make it any bigger without tearing apart the hose that goes to the tank, too.

 

How do you all do it? I could probably get to welding heat with this thing if I had proper propane flow. I'm just not sure what connections I'd have to use.

 

In daylight (Canadian daylight, mind you), the steel gets a uniform yellow temperature in a timed two minutes. Still not quite what others are describing. A copper tube melts somewhat. The top just burned off, and the bottom melted. An improvement for sure (No more hot spots), but still not what it's capable of.

So above and beyond I imagine, drawn beyond the lines of reason. Push the envelope, watch it bend.

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yellow in two minuites is ok.you should learn to work with the steel before you try anything serious.work with some smaller stock first.try making something simple like a wall hook it helps to learn the steel first.

The extraordinary has never been achieved without the sacrifice of security. Take your chances thin, and take them often.

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yellow in two minuites is ok.you should learn to work with the steel before you try anything serious.work with some smaller stock first.try making something simple like a wall hook it helps to learn the steel first.

The extraordinary has never been achieved without the sacrifice of security. Take your chances thin, and take them often.

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I was screwing around with the propane torch assembly, and I was swapping parts from our nice and working propane torch with my mangled one. In the process of swapping one of the parts, it sheared. So now I'm out a torch. However, the swapped part increased propane flow significantly. At its new hottest, I get some kind of bubbling on the steel, and it's hard to look at.

 

I also really really insulated the door.

 

What is this bubbling? It left molten something-or-other all over the forge bottom. It's not steel, I don't think. I have to wait until later to check. If it's any help, I did several heats to check temperature without any hammering, so it developed a lot of scale on top.

 

Here's a video:

 

Off-topic: Look what came in the mail today. :D It's from eBay. I'm not sure what animal it's from. Goat or sheep I think, judging by the size. Whatever the case, it's thin enough for some nice leather wrappings, and strong enough for some nice sheaths.

forge_032.jpg

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forge_035.jpg

So above and beyond I imagine, drawn beyond the lines of reason. Push the envelope, watch it bend.

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