Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Zeb Camper

Advice on a historic blade forging demo

Recommended Posts

Hey guys!

I've been asked to do some demo work in the town of fincastle (which I live only a short drive from) for a heritage type day. May 16th. I'm told there is an old smithy in the town full of old tools, but no forge (or maybe it needed exhaust work). 

So, I'd bring my tools, and I would need to forge from 10am-3pm. I'm a little fuzzy on what exactly is going down, but I think it will be a tour of the town, or something similar where people will just pass by (possibly hang out). I have to meet up with the historical society soon to get better informed. 

But the thing is: I ain't no blacksmith. I'm a bladesmith above all. They know that. I wouldnt be against taking a couple months to learn to forge tools like hatchets or farm tools or whatever else. The town was founded around 1772, so I want to do something similar to that time period. Whatever it is; I think I need to have one pre-made and be able to forge several in that time frame. So, I gotta get busy.

I might look into a coal or charcoal forge (I gave mine away). Would you be upset if you watched some modern guy in modern garb with modern tools forging old stuff?

 

Any suggestions? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Depending on what the folks running the show want, here is my take (I am a medieval/Renaissance "reenactor", not blacksmithing though).  Don't feel bad using something modern where it is necessary.  Safety glasses and hear protection weren't really a thing back then, nobody should begrudge you using it.  If you don't have historical garb, don't sweat it (but maybe look at getting some, could be fun).  Don't plan on using something that needs electricity, though.  It should be easy enough to come up with a project that only requires simple tools.  Making nails, brackets, and such is always relatively simple (or at least can be).  If you make something simple enough, you can go from start to finish while someone watches.  Then sell it to them.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The rule for public demos is keep it short and simple.  Hooks are great, as are steak flippers.  If it takes more than four heats you'll lose most of your audience.  No forge-welding, either.  You can do horseshoes, but if there's an actual farrier there expect to get serious grief.  A simple drive hook with a twist impresses the heck out of folks who aren't used to seeing it done.  People like to see you make a sparkler out of 1/4" round.  Nails are good, but if you're not good at doing them don't demonstrate them.  

One of the newer guys at my guild volunteered to demo at an all-day history thing a few months ago.  Made something like 40 steak flippers and sold them all.  I haven't done a public demo (i.e., not for a guild or at a hammer-in) in almost 20 years, though.

 

If the organizers let you do blades, have some to sell.  A pile of Blacksmith Knives, say.  

 

Expect a lot of ignorant questions.  I used to have a FAQ sign years ago that said things like:

 

1. Yes, it's hot. Coal burns at up to 3500 degrees F when you blow air through it.

2. Yes, I get burned. 

3. The black rocks are coal.  They used to mine it near here.

4. Yes, I can make swords.  Got $1,500 and six months?  [used to be $750, but inflation, eh?]

5. No, I won't brand you.  Not for free, anyway.

 

I'd add to that now

 

6. No, I wasn't on "Forged in Fire."

7. Because I didn't want to be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

I'd add to that now

 

6. No, I wasn't on "Forged in Fire."

7. Because I didn't want to be.

:lol:  I get this question all the time now, and am getting a bit tired of it...

 

I've never done forging demos, but what other types of demos I have been involved with would cause me to echo the advice already given.  Keep what you are doing very simple.  I struggle with this because I am attracted to complex things, and want to share the knowledge with everybody.  It is always a failure when I break my "Short and simple" rule.

 

Before Alan's response, I too was going to suggest drive hooks.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My inclination would be to just forge letter openers out of mild steel. If you start with close sized stock, say 1/8" x 1/2" x 6", with the tips cut at 45* and the corners taken off the other end, I think you could come up with a nice design that could be forged in 4 or 5 heats, cooled in the slack bucket and sold immediately...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks guys! Hopefully my new regulator will be in by this weekend so I can start fiddling around with blacksmithy type stuff. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My take is a little different. I seldom make something simple like a hook or nail. I go for the WOW! effect. My most common demo piece is the wizard bottle opener* as shown in Mark Asperys book. I also interact with the crowd. With the talking and explaining the process, it takes about 45 minutes. And when I say explaining, I mean everything. I talk about the forge, the coal, the anvil, iron vs steel, how I made the tools, etc.... I've had people stay to watch a second time. I had one potter stay for 2 ½ hours. He didn't buy anything, said it was just so cool to watch.  When I'm demonstrating, I'm there to SELL, but I've also made an agreement with everyone that comes to watch. And that agreement is that you will enjoy yourself and you will have gotten something by watching me. Which by doing so, increases my sales, so it's win/win for all of us :-)

 

*Interestingly, the part that gets the biggest wow, is when I rub on the brass.

 

If you're going with blades, then I would suggest story boards and several step by steps that folks can pick up and handle. Leaving last piece unsharpened of course :-) Because bladesmithing without forge welding is Booorrring. Look he's making a point on the end of the bar. Look he's making the point longer. Not real entertaining, unless they understand what's happening as it happens.

Edited by Gerald Boggs
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Gerald!

 

I might do some blades after all, idk. I've yet to do anything in preparation for this, because I've been nursing my dog back to health. He got a leg amputated today. I feel bad for what He's going through (as does my bank account), but he keeps showing me he has the will to live, so who am I to say he can't?

 

So, what I know now: it's a guided tour. There will be 5 groups I believe. From 10-3 means I'll have each group maybe 45 minutes(?). They want to do the forging "outside on the concrete patio".... I told the woman the problems with forging outdoors. We're gonna meet in March sometime. I'm not sure this is going to be that great. Imagine me with my air pig style forge under one of those blue tent things. Might not be so bad. I dont even think they will entertain coal or charcoal. And maybe it would be looked at as jeapordizing history to forge inside. I dont really see it that way, but I can see how someone might. I wouldn't need to be as cautious outside at least. We shall see...

Edited by Zeb Camper

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...