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Where did it all begin?


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I have been lurking on this forum for quite some time and finally decided it was time step into the light.

 

My wife and I are currently working on building a house and like many things in life it has taken a lot longer than anticipated. Our current residence has little space for a shop and I doubt the land lord would tolerate the noise of a blacksmith shop. With that being said I decided to give stock removal a go which brings up the question: Where did it all begin for you? Do most smiths start with stock removal to learn the basics or was it something else?

 

Thanks,

 

Mark

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This question is almost like asking people how you tie your shoes! I can show you my way and how i came about it... and be amazed at how 15 other people actually have variations on how to get the same job done! The simplest way is to start with what you have. Buy very little just to give it a go. You need a good file or 2, some sand paper, some good steel, and a heat source to harden your blade with. Starting off with stock removal makes the most sense. Adding extra variables only complicates things. When i do new things i like to limit as many variables as possible so when something goes wrong i can accurately surmise the problem as to fix the procedure in the future. There's a learning curve with everything. Slowly build up your skills in grinding the blade geometry, making the handle etc... When you add forging to the mix you increase your areas of learning by a huge margin.!

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Gabriel,

 

I think you misunderstood my question, or maybe I was not clear in what I was asking. Where do most smith get their start in the craft? More of a philosophical question...

 

Thanks

 

Mark

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I got started by general blacksmithing, then moved on to sharp things. I highly recommend going down to "The Way" subforum and reading the pinned thread called "knifemaker interview series" to gain an appreciation of the WIDELY ( and wildly) variable ways many of us got where we are now.

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Oh, Doh'. Welp Ironically, i was reading a religious text about 6 years ago when i ran across a number of blacksmith related metaphors. To better understand the contextual meaning of the passages i had to understand a bit of the processes to obtain a full meaning....... and then i dove in learning more and more and not long after built a mini forge to start blacksmithing. Without a destined purpose for my trinkets i felt a little lost until i started making kitchen cutlery. I hope that is a more sufficient answer :P

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I started with general blacksmithing. I wanted to forge anything before I wanted to make blades. Infact if it weren't for Ric Furrer and the Nova special, I wouldnt be here today. When Secrets of the Viking sword debuted, I had no idea that blacksmithing was a thing still. From there I was hooked. Bought equipment, was gifted equipment, and have an awesome landlord that lets me do whatever the hell I want. So I converted my unused 400sq ft, 2 car garage into my shop. Its literally 40 feet from the back of my house.

Started making tools I needed to make tools. Worked on various techniques and methods, and forged (hehe) a pretty decent understanding of metallurgy and all things pyro through daily consumption of information found on various forums and facebook groups.

 

Thanks Ric.

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I fell in a youtube hole, and then said "hey that looks like fun!" thanks Niels Provos. So i made a breakdrum forge and started trying(key word) to do some pattern welding. 2 years later my failure rate has improved. I do what I find to be the most fun, and occasionally end up with something useful at the end of it.

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I guess i got started about 35 years ago on my grandfather's farm. He had a forge for making and repairing things on the farm, and he showed be some basics. He retired and sold the farm, and I didn't really think too much about it until last year when my wife mentioned a local arts school here in Seattle offered blacksmithing classes. I took an intro class, then a basic blacksmithing class, and then a damascus steel class. From there I was hooked. I converted one of the bays in my garage into a shop and have been acquiring stuff over the last few months. I bought a forge, found a great deal on an old anvil and vise, and finally splurged and bought a KMG grinder. Nowadays I spend almost every minute outside of work in the shop. I even started a blacksmithing meetup group here in Seattle.

 

BTW, is anyone going to the Northwest Blacksmithing Association Conference this weekend?

 

-Jeff

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I made my first few blades by stock removal, discovered Blade magazine, and noticed there was a maker 20 miles away. After a visit, he offered to show me how to make knives, but it would be his way... His way involved fire. I was hooked after my first forged blade, it is simply a more fun way, to me.

 

With forging, you get to play with fire, beat stuff with a hammer, mess with sharp things... Basically all the stuff your mother wouldn't let you do when you were little...:)

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I took a 1 day knife making class with MS David Lisch (before he had his MS mark), was hooked in the first 15 minutes. Took a 2 day general blacksmithing class with him a few weeks later, and that was it. Everything from that moment forward was bent towards making knives. Hell, one of the major reasons me and my wife bought a house was so I could have a shop. 888 sq feet of detached garage became my shop. Since then I have been adding more and more tools to the shop. Every single knife I sells pays for more materials and tools. And its never enough :)

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I got into blacksmithing by way of 18th century reenactment. I needed a firesteel, so I figured that out, but I couldn't stop there.

 

Started slowly accumulating tools and such. And like Wes, make a little / spend a little.

 

First few blades were stock removal... planer blades and saw blades. Didn't take long to start wanting to do my shaping with a hammer.

 

Like George said, it's just fun to forge. I would have hundreds of knives to my credit if I didn't have to fit & finish them.

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I've always been interested in knives, and my first attempts were all stock removal. I learned that it takes hours when all you have is a bench grinder, don't whack files, or the blades you're making from them with a hammer, and dark steel can still be hotter than the dickens.

 

My first experience forging was when a ranch I was working on had a small forge, and I needed a pair of hay hooks. Two pieces of rebar and a lot of pounding later, I had two ugly, totally custom, worked great for me, hooks. Later, I attended a nearby rendezvous where a man was doing blacksmithing. I spent the day their, pestered him with questions, and the next year, proudly showed him the tongs I had made (again from rebar).

 

He looked at them, complimented me on my desire, told me to throw the tongs into the scrap heap, and walked me through making a set that actually worked. He also said that of all the people who'd expressed an interest in blacksmithing, I was one of the few who had actually done something.

When my wife and I bought our place, it came with a shop, and I decided to learn how to make actual knives and swords, and reduce a lot of coal and steel into slag and something resembling regurgitated modern art.

 

A couple of years ago, for Christmas, my dad's present to me was a piece of 0-1 tool steel and a day with his friend Cliff Morris, a professional knife maker. BEST PRESENT EVER!!! Even if I was numb from the knees down by the time we were finished. After that, I dove in. I still have a lot to learn, but I love it. A bad day in the forge is definitely better than the best day at work.

 

Oh, Doh'. Welp Ironically, i was reading a religious text about 6 years ago when i ran across a number of blacksmith related metaphors. To better understand the contextual meaning of the passages i had to understand a bit of the processes to obtain a full meaning....... and then i dove in learning more and more and not long after built a mini forge to start blacksmithing. Without a destined purpose for my trinkets i felt a little lost until i started making kitchen cutlery. I hope that is a more sufficient answer :P

Okay, I'm curious...what were you reading?

I've seen a lot of gospel parallels in blacksmithing, and even started writing a piece called "The Parable of the Blacksmith."

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An interesting question and great responses. My experience, like everyone else was quite interesting. At a young age I made wooden swords and knives inspired by movies such as Lord of the rings. I have twin wooden Legolas swords, among other wood creations. After failing out of college halfway through, I took 2 years off and started stock removal. Cracked many a blade and decided to grab some classes from a fellow out of Laport, Texas by the name of Lee Oates (aka BearClaw knives). Waking up at 4 a.m., I drove 4 hours to make it to his shop at 8 and get started with a day of forging. Among other things, I took basic forging classes (coal forge which involved fire tending), Damascus classes, and an overall fit and finish class. Needless to say Lee Oates is to blame for my need to make knives and can't thank him enough for getting me started. As of today, I do stock removal to make money and do forge work to make unique knives that are more special to me. I had a 4x36 grinder that was a champ, and updated to a kmg when I felt I was confident I knew what I was going to do.

 

Hope this helps!

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I started at 14 (1986) in Cordova, Alaska, grinding large bolts that were sitting in a rusty coffee can in our family warehouse into spear heads. My dad welded a nut that matched the bolts into the end of a steel pipe, and I had a (very heavy, clunky) spear. Start addiction here.

 

Graduated to grinding large files into short swords. Keep in mind, there were no books on knifemaking or bladesmithing to be purchased, or internet at this point. The best source of knowledge I had was a local welder who had only a passing understanding of heat treating.

 

Then I found a copy of David Boye's "Step-by-Step Knifemaking." Later, I found "The Complete Bladesmith" by JPH, and made my first pattern weld in 1989. The doors of the mind began to open. Okay, maybe I can do this . . .

 

I took a very long break from blades while I went to college, then graduate school, then more graduate school, but when I came back to the craft I found this forum and it was like I had won the lottery. Ask a question and someone who had learned the answer the hard way just gave it to you. Revelation! Disbelief! Holy shit . . . the knowledge came like I was drinking from a fire hose.

 

I hate to sound like an old fart, but for those of you that started the quest in the age of the internet, you have no idea how good you have it. In the 80's we hoarded scraps of knowledge like gold. When I learned that 20 mule team borax could be used as a flux it was like I had discovered a way to transmute lead into gold. Today you can look it up on your iphone while sitting at a traffic light.

 

An embarrassment of riches, that's what this forum is. So, enjoy your start in the craft. You've got a great resource here.

 

Dave

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I hate to sound like an old fart, but for those of you that started the quest in the age of the internet, you have no idea how good you have it. In the 80's we hoarded scraps of knowledge like gold. When I learned that 20 mule team borax could be used as a flux it was like I had discovered a way to transmute lead into gold. Today you can look it up on your iphone while sitting at a traffic light.

 

 

AMEN!

 

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I've always been interested in knives, and my first attempts were all stock removal. I learned that it takes hours when all you have is a bench grinder, don't whack files, or the blades you're making from them with a hammer, and dark steel can still be hotter than the dickens.

 

My first experience forging was when a ranch I was working on had a small forge, and I needed a pair of hay hooks. Two pieces of rebar and a lot of pounding later, I had two ugly, totally custom, worked great for me, hooks. Later, I attended a nearby rendezvous where a man was doing blacksmithing. I spent the day their, pestered him with questions, and the next year, proudly showed him the tongs I had made (again from rebar).

 

He looked at them, complimented me on my desire, told me to throw the tongs into the scrap heap, and walked me through making a set that actually worked. He also said that of all the people who'd expressed an interest in blacksmithing, I was one of the few who had actually done something.

 

When my wife and I bought our place, it came with a shop, and I decided to learn how to make actual knives and swords, and reduce a lot of coal and steel into slag and something resembling regurgitated modern art.

 

A couple of years ago, for Christmas, my dad's present to me was a piece of 0-1 tool steel and a day with his friend Cliff Morris, a professional knife maker. BEST PRESENT EVER!!! Even if I was numb from the knees down by the time we were finished. After that, I dove in. I still have a lot to learn, but I love it. A bad day in the forge is definitely better than the best day at work.

 

Okay, I'm curious...what were you reading?

 

I've seen a lot of gospel parallels in blacksmithing, and even started writing a piece called "The Parable of the Blacksmith."

while i dont remember specific examples it was the BiBle, i did a cover to cover read and surprisingly a lot of metaphors in there pertaining to blacksmithing! I just didnt want anyone to feel too uncomfortable with the religious stuffs =\

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Ok...

 

Might as well throw in on this...

 

I started going on 50 years ago with an Amish blacksmith that owned the farm across the road from us...I pestered the hell outta him until he got tired of it and decided to show the English Kid (as he called me..) what a day's work was like thinking that us English don't have the work ethic to stick with it..WRONG... It only mad it worse..well Herr Hauffmann showed me a LOT of stuff..from sharpening scythes and plows to making wheel tyres, harness bits..sharpening picks, axes..general blacksmith stuff..showed me a lot of tricks and how to weld high carbon to low carbon steels to make froes, chisels and axes...he forgot more than I will ever know...

 

The rest I learned pretty much on my own..there wasn't much around in the ways of info except what you could pick up from here or there..made my first pattern welded blade in 1969 in middle school with the help of my metal shop teacher...made it from some old files and some shim stock..wasn't anything spectacular but it worked..it was my class project for that class...put a piece of plum wood on it for a grip with some brass castings I got from melting down old cartridge cases...Boy how things have changed since I was in school making a KNIFE in CLASS?? Nowadays that would get me arrested and expelled!!

 

JPH

 

Mr. James: Not to worry about the religious stuff and blacksmithing..just about every culture has a blacksmith/metalworking deity or other connection...It's part of history...Hephaestus, Vulcan, Goibhniu, Gu, Tubal Cain, Gofannon, Wayland and many..many more..

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Got my start young, Dad had a side business building birdcages and ornamental iron items ( fishtank stands, mailbox stands, stairway yrailings and such ) but didnt do any actual blacksmithing, it was all welding and mild steel.

 

All the males in my family had some sort of side work going on as I was growing up, so after i bought my house, i decided i was going to follow suit, ive always loved knives, swords, and other weapons, so after we got settled in the house it was time to start building a shop.

 

Most of the tools i have suck, crappy harbor freight anvil, charcoal forge made of brick and a hair dryer, etc. But i spend nearly every waking moment thinking about knives i want to make. To say i have an addiction to this hobby is putting it mildly.

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I was starting to feel like the Ancient Mariner, until JPH chimed in, whew. I lived in Japan in the early '60's, and even though we didn't have a TV, pop sword culture was everywhere. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to make blades. My parents and all of their friends were Left Coast, educated (educators) and many of them were artists, so the idea of making your own stuff is pretty well wedged in my head. I ran into the early members of the NWBA (North West Blacksmith Association) in the early '80's and took classes from Jerry Culberson (who was running a full scale architectural iron shop) Gene Chapman and others, a guy named Goddard you may have heard of. Got some tools, made a bunch of pretty bad stuff, got some more tools and a little bit better shop. In 2000 I took a flier and did 2 weeks at the ABS school and got my JS in 2007.

 

Each one, better than the last.

 

There is so much stuff to try, so many places to go, so many good people to meet. I wish I had started when I was 5 or 6.

 

Rehabbing the right shoulder now. It'll probably be Fall before I can really work again, but I'm still here.

 

Geoff

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Where did it all begin for you? Do most smiths start with stock removal to learn the basics or was it something else?

 

Thanks,

 

Mark

I will skip the torrid details of my personal history, and focus on this question, which contains only part of the torrid details.....

Yes, I started as a stock removal maker. Not because I didn't have the forging equipment or skills either. I had the forge and the anvil and a whole lot of time spent forging mild steel into stuff other than knives. The reasons I began my knifemaking doing stock removal were these:

1. My first two knifemaking lessons were both stock removal blades. One was a flat ground hunter with a guard, spacer, and stub tang. The other one was a hollow ground full tang with bolsters and scales.

2. My teacher and mentor told me that I should learn to grind before I moved to forging. The reasoning was very sound. The grinding is the "meat in the sandwich" so to speak. It's where a piece of steel becomes a blade. By learning to grind first and get it right, you learn what you need to do at the anvil to make the finishing process easier.

 

This all made sense to me because I already had a welding background and welders have a saying about how the guy with the grinder can make a crappy welder look good and a good welder look terrible. The same applies to knifemaking. The time at the grinder can make a well forged piece of steel look like a nice blade or turn it into a piece of scrap. The reverse is also true. The grinder can make a poorly forged piece of steel look like a blade or not. I strongly advocate learning how to grind proficiently first. Starting as a stock removal artist is a good choice.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Started in high school for me, was banging on cold steel to make armor(which still looks like crap), that progressed to using a fire pit to bend steel, then I added a blower and forged a bodkin arrowhead. It escalated from there, and after I found out about my heart condition at MEPS(military medical screening) I knew the marines wouldent take me so I found a craft school and learned general blacksmithing to refine my skills with a hammer. Now here I am slowly gathering stuff until I can make my own shop.

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