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Conner Michaux

I need a little bit of help.

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Afternoon folks, I’ve got a problem. I am not progressing in my skills as a blacksmith or bladesmith, I feel like my lack of knowledge about operating my tooling is holding me back. I just don’t really know what I’m doing anymore. I need a mentor, someone to help me a little bit with the the more advanced aspects of forging. This forum has helped me a huge amount and owe you all a big thanks. Do any of you know of a smith in the treasure valley Idaho area that May be willing to help me out a little bit?  

I feel like I’m just growing more bad habits with forging rather than actually working on my skills. If any of you know of someone who might be willing to help please share. Thanks all.

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Posted (edited)

The best resource to find anyone is to do some searches for local guild/clubs then join up right away. There are more people out there working that you know of, it would be like joining up on the forum for the first time when you find out how many locals may be around. An then you'll think where have they been? 

 

The vast majority of the people I've come to know, stay away from an online presence other than maybe a etsy page or another means to sell off their stuff.  Other smithys are out there, and they are not far off. 

 

There is a point where you can read how to do something - and sometimes take it for the only way its done or just the more accepted way to do processes.  Through my hobby years, I've been taught various way to achieve how to do some very simple things, but yet I still run into a more experienced person who shows me a different way.  The end result is the same, its just a different technique and if i choose to adopt it.

 

Feeling like you are not progressing, and your making more mistakes, or bad habits, think of a different way to do those steps. Overall, getting hands on instruction is going to help you overcome a lot.  Every class I had taken in the past had made me feel like I took a leap forward.

Edited by Daniel W

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Ive been trying to find people around me, there are 2 people that I know of so far. one is http://www.boiseblacksmith.com/ and the other is http://www.durbinsforge.com/

I just don't know how to go about contacting them, I cant really email someone asking for them to help me forge a knife. I don't know how willing someone might be to help a teenager asking to have help forging. One of them lives within a few miles of me, but again I just don't know how to go about contacting them 

 

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Conner Michaux said:

I cant really email someone asking for them to help me forge a knife. I

 

Why not, Conner?????  I do it all the time.  I've generated conversations with a lot of prominent blacksmiths and bladesmiths.  They were beginners once too, you know.  Send them an e-mail and ask some questions.  Don't just say "teach me how to forge a knife", but ask questions about the process as a beginning smith.  I have never been turned down.  I e-mail back and forth with Walter Sorrels (and many others).   I've asked advice about blade material for a bunch of different projects..........and sent pictures of the finished knives asking for critique.................and he responds without fail. We e-mail back and forth fairly frequently.  I've done that with Jason Knight and...........................heck the list just goes on and one and on.  Don't be afraid to say "I don't know how, don't know where to start, and need some experienced advice.   Experienced blacksmiths and bladesmiths are just humans like yourself.  Not many people learned how to blacksmith or bladesmith while stuck on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Artist learn lots from other artists.

Edited by Chris Christenberry

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Yep! I think you'll find that most people will want to help.

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The thing is, both of those Smith’s have classes, and I can’t afford to take a class.  I don’t want to ask to take up their time for free. But I definitely can’t afford to pay 250-300 for a class. If I were to ask either of them they would probably refer me to their classes. See my dilemma? 

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Ask!  Ya never know what their response may be.  Just don't ask for the whole "enchilada".  Ask specific questions about steps of the process.  You'll learn how to make blades if you ask enough questions of enough people.  And don't forget, there are a LOT of experienced bladesmiths on this forum who will gladly answer your questions.  (I know because I've done way more than my share of asking for help!)  I've NEVER had a member of this forum refuse to answer a question, either on the forum or in PMs.  "Nothing ventured, nothing gained.!"

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I don't evny you, that is a dilemma. However, you have age on your side. I spend some time in another bladesmiths shop, and they offer classes, but we have an agreement that I can attend some classes or just have one on one time without paying them money. Instead they find things for me to do, like house sitting and cleaning the shop.

If you contact these smiths and express how serious you are about learning, they might be willing to exchange teaching for some help around the place. If that's something you would like to do. Most of the blade smiths I have met are hugely supportive of a young person taking serious interest in knife making and will do a lot to help them learn.

Remember, it never hurts to ask.

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1 hour ago, Conner Michaux said:

I cant really email someone asking for them to help me forge a knife.

HI Conner.  I'll agree with the above, and encourage you to go ahead and give it a go.  What's the worst thing that could happen?  If they say no, then you move on to the next one.  

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I second what everyone else said. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by just asking. The worst thing they can do is turn you down, which puts you exactly where you are now! Or, more likely, they will try to help, and you'll end up ahead. Give it a go. 

 

Also, if it's just information you need, ask the forum! Were all here to help.

 

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Have you looked at the blacksmith and knifemaking associations you have in the region?, networking goes a long way.  Your search only showed you the smiths that have an on-line presence.  My casual observations makes me think the ratio is about 10 not on-line to everyone on-line, but a lot of them will be active in the associations.

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Thanks for the info all, I ask all my questions on the forum, but that doesn’t compare to having 1 on 1 mentoring. Ive looked everywhere I can find and the closest guild is 4 hours away. I’ll contact the Smiths in my area. 

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Contact your guild. Their HQ may be four hours away, but my guild has members spread across a couple hundred miles too.  And I'd go so far as to say the ratio of smiths online to not is more like 1:20.  And definitely ask your local guys. Be polite, show what you've done so far. I bet you'll get some help.

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If your closest guild is 4 hours away, think about starting a club in your area. Offer to trade grunt for work shop time. If you spend 2 hours pulling weeds, mowing, washing cars or splitting firewood for 1 hour in a good shop you will come out ahead.

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Posted (edited)

From Jason Knight's lips to your ears, I think he says it better than I tried to.

 

https://youtu.be/2DEL-hq7F9A

Edited by Gerhard Gerber

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If you find someone let me know! 

 

You are only about 2-3 hours away from me and I have struggled with isolation as well. I also think a lot of people don't understand the degree of isolation in the west. I grew up in rural Nevada where you could literally get in a truck and drive 60-90 miles an hour (on a dirt road nonetheless) for 5-6 hours before coming to the next town. 

 

 I have actually found a guy in my area that gives classes on knife making, and at this stage in my life I'm willing to pay for classes; however, I can pay because I have a job, but I can't go because I have a job (and wife, kids, etc.). I've honestly learned everything I know from this forum. I have been coming to this page daily for at least 15-16 years (I joined in September of 2007 and was coming here for at least several years before that). I didn't have a place to work or tools until about 5 years ago, and my progression has been pretty slow because of a demanding career and household.

 

I think a big obstacle in this hobby for me is analysis paralysis... I want it to be perfect the first time so I don't get things done because I spend to much time researching the process. The internet doesn't help this process (to many options!) which is why you eventually yearn for someone to stand in front of you and just tell you how to do something. I think the answer here is to just finish stuff. You can always try out new techniques and things you see on the next project. 

 

I say all this to encourage you to just keep trying, have patience, and enjoy the ride.

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Posted (edited)

Conner, Faye, Adam, et. al., 

This art is a lot like other arts or endeavors. Learning and skill progress is not a steady curve. There are plateaus on the learning curve. You will progress for a while and show remarkable improvement in leaps, separated by periods of time where you seemingly make zero advancement.  What you cannot see during those times of what appears to be stagnation, is the little things your body is learning.

 

If I may wax philosophical for a moment, there are two types of knowledge in many things like sports, arts, and crafts: Intellectual and physical.

First you learn intellectually. You hear concepts on form and function, placement and process, and so on. Then your body has to learn the minute details of how that happens.

That's the physical side. The body improves at a much slower rate than the mind can grasp the concept. 

 

Think of it this way. You are learning to play guitar and you learn how to form chords on the fret board. You know how to position your fingers on the strings to create specific musical structures. That's intellectual knowledge. Getting your fingers to go exactly where you want them to go, and at the exact moment you want them there is physical knowledge. The body has to learn that part.

 

So in forging, you understand how to form the taper and bevel of the blade., but your body may not have that process tuned yet. It takes practice, and a lot of it, for the body to do things automatically and with any precision.

 

Yes, a good mentor will take years off of a learning curve by showing you little techniques, or tricks, but the practice is still necessary to fully learn the body knowledge.

 

 

Edited by Joshua States
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1 hour ago, Adam Weller said:

analysis paralysis.

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"

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1 hour ago, Gerald Boggs said:

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"

Sage advice.

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Having just started to play guitar myself, I was going to give the same analogy as Joshua the other day when Gerald was telling you to keep on with those bevels and you will improve, but I erased it instead. And now both these guys have extended even more excellent advice.  

 

And I just wanted to add: you'll never improve by staring at a screen. You need hours and hours and hours of practice. 

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Nobody's going to stand behind you at the grinder and guide your hands, ditto for forging, watch, learn, practice.....that's how you get to Wimbledon :P 

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Posted (edited)

I would send out some e mails to the smithys you've found. Be upfront and give a general overview of who you are, and what you want to accomplish.  I have not met a grumpy blacksmith other than myself, so whoever you reach out to will offer guidance.  They may even know of things in your area that you can attend (hammer-in, etc. even other local people).

 

Don't have the cash for a class, Summer job and put some money on the side for one?  If you budget, you can do it.

 

 

 

I'm going to add this as a minor note, being a teenager, that will have it's pros and cons. #1 your starting out nice and early and your skill will grow. I worked for a school for a while and there is red tape about an adult working with or even near a minor. That would be another topic and don't want to dwell.  I would suggest parental supervision, if someone is willing to teach you or even if they invite you see their shop.  Hammer-ins, classes and other social events you should be good there, but see if you can get a parent to go with you anyway.  

Edited by Daniel W

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On 3/3/2020 at 5:39 PM, Zeb Camper said:

You need hours and hours and hours of practice. 

Here's a really important point about practice time:

15 minutes everyday is better than 3 hours once a week.

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18 minutes ago, Joshua States said:

Here's a really important point about practice time:

15 minutes everyday is better than 3 hours once a week.

 

Never really considered that, Josh, but you're right, of course.

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Unfortunately  I don’t have very much time in the day due to schoolwork, when I have fuel and steel I usually try to get a few hours in a week, that’s if I have fuel and steel though. I’m going to do a little bit more modification to my forge, and then I will be able to make some bigger stuff. 

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