Sunday, September 17, 2017

Another Forgotten Old Skill ~ Blacksmithing

Well Folks, 
I am just not quite sure where to begin this tale.
It's a young but quick journey and far from over.
If I hop around a bit, please forgive me.
When serendipity is at play,
things seem to appear out of thin air.
If you've been around for a while, you might recall that 
Mr. LB is a metal fabricator by trade.  
If you are new to the blog or just happened by, now you know.
He regularly uses the Fibonacci sequence and the Pythagorean Theorem 
when building railings, staircases, ramps, etc. - for those teenagers who ask when they will ever use it.
He loves what he does so there is already an interest in "playing" with metal.
Back in June, we attended Flora Pioneer School Day.
That was actually my idea.
I thought it would be interesting and I liked the cause.  I'm all for preservation of old buildings - especially in rural communities.
As stated in the post, he spent the majority of the day with the blacksmith and ended up making a steak turner.
He was hooked!
As it turned out, my mom had a forge in her yard holding a pot of petunias.
She offered to move her posies so he could have the forge.
The blower was seized, but he was able to take it apart and clean and oil it
so now it works.
He was using an old piece of railroad track that was in the shop as his anvil.
I found an anvil (a few at one place) about four hours away.
Mr. LB and his boss made a special trip only to find out it was a scam.
My heart sank for him so I did a quick Craigslist search for that area and found another source.  They went and looked at it, but it was shot.
The guy selling it knew nothing about anvils/metal so was at least honest in his communication.  When Mr. LB thanked him but said he'd pass, the guy said,
"You don't want a vice do you?"
He also had a post leg vice in good condition and was asking a reasonable-fair price so it was a sale.  At least after that much travel he didn't come home empty handed.  
An evening or so later, we were chatting with a neighbor and sharing the story.
He said, "Well, I've got an anvil that was given to me if you want it."
It's about 75 lbs. so is small, but got him started. 
The very next week, again on Craigslist, 
I found an ad for misc. blacksmithing tools.
There was a picture of a table with various tongs and tools on it, but it was a bit difficult to make out.
I called, and it was an elderly man who thought he might want to get into blacksmithing one day but never had.
I asked him how much for the whole table.
He chuckled and said he hadn't really thought about it all together.
He thought for a moment then stated a price that was extremely reasonable.
I had Mr. LB call and make arrangements.
He made the drive (about 2.5 hrs. away) after work as 
they were to be in a yard sale the following day if not sold.
Included was an amazing drill press.
With the basic tools, he was off and running.
He has been working on making some of his own tools.
He began with his fire tools - each has a different handle so he can tell by feel when he's grabbing for them.
He then moved on to a pair of tongs.
Then came a fun day.
Recognize that fella? Yep, that's the blacksmith from Flora (Nathan from Rusty Hammer Forge - Facebook.)  He and his family have actually become friends.
He and Mr.LB joke that they each have an ulterior motive to the friendship - metallurgy and functions of one and blacksmithing and design of the other.
For the visit shown, I had found a big hunk of metal while sorting in the shop.
It was enough for 2 hammers.

It began in a cylindrical shape and ended up as a straight peen hammer.  He loves it!
Oops ~ well we had to eat!
It seems very natural and "right" for him to take on blacksmithing.
He fishes and rides motorcycles (dirt-bike) and skis, but this is something that he can do at home and even if he only has an hour or two.
He happened into it, but I guess it has become popular due to a TV show.
(We don't even own a TV.)
From what we hear, it focuses on knife-making.
Mr. LB might make a knife at some point, but what he wants to make is a bucket.  Yes, you read that right.  Kinda like this.
Remember this load of wood?  That's the project in mind.
Again, he likes the math and science of it to go along with the skill.
You would be surprised at what goes into making those rings fit snugly at angles and a comfortable handle.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago now, he was informed of some larger, nice anvils for sale.  He looked, but financially, it's been "a little tight" due to several factors - large expensive factors.
It was several nights later when we were sitting in the evening.  I looked over at him and said "Whatchya thinkin' 'bout?"
His response was, "A 300 pound hunk of metal."
It took me a few days and some working things around, but long story short,
he got his anvil.  It's a KingFisher built in 1918 and weighs 364? pounds.
That's one heck of a paperweight.
He is out there pounding on metal as I type this, and he's in seventh heaven.
In looking at various antiques, it's amazing how many have hand forged components.  We both appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of old items that have lasted a century.  I have a feeling there are many projects yet to come from this skill.

Just as a note~ In making the first hammer, they used a type of charcoal that wasn't the best quality which made it difficult to get the mass of metal up to the proper temperature.  The very top photo was when they were working on the second hammer.  The charcoal they were using was a much better quality. The metal heated quicker and seemed to hold the heat better as they were working it.  The better quality charcoal also produced less ash in the forge.


  1. Wow! What a story. It's a great feeling to use your inner talents. The dinner looks delicious, too.

    1. It's fun to see him like a little kid at Christmas.

  2. I had to sell what few tools and one leg vice and an anvil I had to buy groceries a couple years ago. I hated that.

  3. Bummer, one leg vice? So you have a spare;?) I hope whoever got them appreciates them and uses them properly. Those old tools were made to last and do if taken care of.

  4. How exciting! My guy is also a metal fabricator. But he isn't a blacksmith, though I dated one for a couple of years. Handmade things have a soul that store bought things never could. What a great new skill!

  5. Ooh, I like how you put that. They do have a soul.

  6. what a great new hobby DH has found I am sure he is gong to come up with some wonderful makes

    1. Hope so. He is more creative than he gives himself credit for.

  7. That sounds exactly like what my hubby and I did a few years ago! We have an old homestead not far from our house that has a permanent old blacksmith shop and our local smithies do demos, etc. One demo and my hubby was hooked! We happened upon a yard sale one day not long after that and as we were looking around we spotted a huge anvil on its log stand. It was in our price range and the rest, as they, is history! We have found a lot of vintage tools at various places and now he is looking forward to moving everything up north to our new place we are building.

    1. That is amazing! It really is incredible when something is meant to happen. I told hubby when I win the lottery, I'll build his a real Smithy shop.

  8. Your post reminds me so much of our own marriage. Working hard to see the one we love happy. Not new car happy, but productive and creative happy. There is a big difference. Please keep us posted on his projects.

  9. Or a huge! pile of compost for the garden :-). Will certainly keep you posted thought it's hunting season so might be a while.