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Thomas Price

Beginner here with some questions

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So I’ve decided to try my luck with bladesmithing and i am very excited! I am already in the works of obtaining an old air compressor tank for my forge tomorrow from a coworker for free. Score there. 

1) As far as hammers and tongs are concerned, can I just buy my hammers from Lowe’s? Do they sale a bladesmithing quality of hammer? The tongs I will look at buying from a flea market or farrier outfit if I can find one or if you guys can recommend a place/website I would be greatful. 

2) is leaf spring steel a good starter metal for a beginner? Is there a particular set of years in the automotive years to look for when hunting leaf springs? My dad seems to favor studabaker leaf spring steel because at the time he was able to get a hold of some and did well with only simple tools.

Thank you in advance guys!

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Dont buy a lowes hammer. I dont believe they sell wooden handled anymore. Tractor supply has a decent 3.5lb for $20 same with harbor freight actually. 

Making your own tongs is an excellent exercise for beginners, but if you'd rather just make knives; contact @JJ Simon for a pair of his monkey tail flatbar tongs. $50 shipped to your door. Sometimes he's easier to get in touch with on facebook. Those are great for bladesmithing. If you follow the correct procedure you can forge an entire knife with those. 

And what Geoff said!

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Posted (edited)

Thomas,

First of all, what Geoff and Zeb said. Then there's this.

Hammers are like wands in Harry Potter books. The smith doesn't choose them, the hammer chooses the smith. What I mean by that is that hammer choice ends up being a very personal thing. There are lots of different styles, weights, and purposes for this craft. Most of us experienced smiths have used literally dozens of hammers over the years and have a favorite one for most work and several specialized ones for different tasks. You can start out with a 2 or 3 pound double jack from Lowes, (you will certainly use it for a lot of stuff over the course of your career), but it will not serve you well for the specific requirements of bladesmithing. For that you will likely need a blacksmith's hammer of one sort or another. Try and find a local blacksmith's organization that has open forge events or other participatory meetings. At these you can often use a variety of hammers and anvils and find what "feels" best for you.

You can also buy a bunch of hammers and test them yourself, but that gets expensive. My wife's favorite hammer is a Tom Clark and cost around $100 new when we got it. They are collector's items now and the value has probably tripled. My primary hammer is the 1Kg Swedish pattern by Peddinghaus, but not everyone likes this style. For a quick insight into how many different styles of hammers there are, and how expensive they can be, check out this site and this site.

Don't get me started on a "good steel for beginners". Ask two blade makers the same question and you will get 3 answers and come out more confused than when you started. I'm one of those guys who will tell you that if you do not already have any forging experience, start with mild steel and Mark Aspery's books on blacksmith basics. Go make a hundred coat hooks and learn how to move steel before you ever try and make a knife.

Welcome to the madness.

Edited by Joshua States

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Yeah, the big box stores these days rarely have decent wooden handled hammers. You do want wooden handles all that fiberglass shaped handles, just blister makers.  Moreover, finding wooden handles to replace handles when they break at the big box store are pretty much impossible. Most guys laugh and say "just get a new hammer its only 12 bucks!"

One of the few things at Harbor Freight that I will say are of decent quality are their hammers. They have a wide variety of sizes and weights, heads stay on pretty good too.  I know a few guys that rework their hammers to what they want.  Start out with either a 1, 1 1/2 or 2lb hammer to start with. Most people tend to think about jumping to a 3lb hammer - but that can cause you some injury/discomfort pretty fast. Ball piens are nice to have around too, and they come in a good variety of weights.

17 hours ago, Joshua States said:

 I'm one of those guys who will tell you that if you do not already have any forging experience, start with mild steel and Mark Aspery's books on blacksmith basics. Go make a hundred coat hooks and learn how to move steel before you ever try and make a knife.

I also second this.  Mild steel is about the cheapest steel you can get your hands on to learn how to move metal. Mark's books are well worth their price, I haven't seen another step by step book out there quite like it.  There is a lot of reading out there, aside form that local forging groups help out a lot!

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Try GS Tongs for hammers and blademakers tongs.  They also make a great guillotine tool.  However, I'll have to admit that his knifemakers tongs are not my favorite.  I would recommend that you go to another blacksmithing supply house and look for a selection of square jaw or chainmakers tongs.  Get them in the approximate size of the stock that you'll be using then forge the jaws to fit that stock exactly if you need too.

Personally, I don't like the idea of using structural flat bar to practice forging blades with.  Practicing to make other things but knives with it works but lets say you forge and grind out a pretty acceptable knife shaped  object, you can't do anything more with it.  It doesn't have enough carbon in it to practice hardening and tempering and you can't see how the blade stands up to testing to failure.  That involves breaking the blade to get a look at the grain.

If you have to go to recycled steel because of economics I would recommend old leaf springs.  Just be aware that they are a bit subject to stress fractures.  If you have a shop near you that repairs auto suspensions you might see if they have cut-offs.  They might cost you a box of donuts or what they sell it for recycling.

Doug

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Depending on where you are, you can sometimes find hammers at flea markets, then use an angle grinder to clean them up, then put a new handle on it.

The best steel to start with is a know steel, something that you for sure know what it is so you can get the specifics, numbers, science, no guess work. 

If you have access to a welder, you can just weld a piece of steel to the end of a piece of rebar, some people like to work like that. 

You can get about anything from Uncle Al's aka Riverside Machine, Arkansas,,,, Great People!

https://www.riversidemachine.net/ecommerce/

https://www.riversidemachine.net/ecommerce/knifemaking-supplies.html

Good luck on your adventure,,,,,,, 

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Much like you I am a beginner in this amazing craft, but I will share what I think has helped me the most with starting out.

I got my first hammer from Sears. It was a 2 1/2# cross peen. As far as tongs go, Black Bear forge on YouTube has videos on how to make your first tongs very easily. 

I've tried to use leaf springs for knives and they just cracked in heat treat. I would use new steel for knives because you never know when reclaimed steel will have stress fractures.

I did not start out just forging blades, I made hooks, bottle openers, and tools way before. I think that skills from different areas of blacksmithing helps with bladesmithing skills. 

I liked the tool making area of blacksmithing because I've been able forge all my hammers and tools. I have never bought any hand tools except my first hammer.

Also if you need an anvil, go to the local junk yard and get a big chunk of steel.

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Check out the Build a Gas Forge and the Ribbon Burner attachments on the Forge Supplies page at www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com.

Let me know if I can help you.

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