Blacksmithing has been around since at least 1500 BC and its still going strong today. But because it isn’t widely practiced, blacksmithing for beginners can feel like jumping in the deep end of the pool.
Don’t worry. It isn’t as complicated as it looks to get started. While mastering the skills can take a lifetime, anyone can give it a try if they have the right tools and information.
Even though blacksmithing was traditionally used to make practical items, it’s also a great way to create jewelry and art, which you can sell online or at local markets.
Looking to get started with blacksmithing?
Why Learn Blacksmithing?
To keep it simple, blacksmithing refers to the method of making items from heated metal that is then shaped.
A blacksmith is a name given to this kind of craftworker who shapes metal, typically iron, but often other metals like steel and copper. If you want to learn the art of blacksmithing for beginners, there are a few fundamentals to get to know.
Blacksmithing is an ancient craft that has evolved throughout the ages, from the copper age to the iron age to the modern age. At each phase, blacksmiths have been a critical part of making these materials into useful tools for agricultural workers and members of royalty.
You can make various tools from iron, like knives and cooking utensils. To get started, you need a hammer and anvil as well as a forge, the machinery used for heating the iron and crafting materials.
In recent years, there has been a movement toward artisanal blacksmithing. Instead of buying mass-produced items in shops, people are craving handmade goods that individuals have crafted.
Custom jewelry rising in popularity as people are looking for memorable gifts and pieces to wear that aren’t mass-produced. People are buying knives, axes, and swords that are custom forged.
But even if you don’t intend to make and sell goods, knowing these skills can be incredibly useful. On your journey to self-sufficiency, knowing how to do a bit of blacksmithing is essential.
As a homesteader, there are functional items like kitchen pots and utensils that you always need. Or you can forge decorative elements that can add a brilliant touch of style to your home. You can make yourself a new pair of earrings or forge a kitchen pot for cooking family meals.
If you are a passionate cook and want to find an old-school iron grill, it can be tricky to find one in a shop. If you learn blacksmithing, you can make your own.
Or you can repair things that have become worn or dull. There are so many reasons to have a basic understanding of how to blacksmith.
First, let’s talk about forging and hammering.
Set Up Your Forge
As mentioned earlier, one of the essential tools that you’ll need is a forge. The forge is the place where you heat the metal up. Think of it as a super hot oven or fireplace.
You don’t need complex, expensive tools when you’re first starting out with blacksmithing for beginners. You can buy a simple, quality forge at places like Amazon.
You can also make your own if you’re a bit more ambitious.
There are multiple options for heating your forge. You can use coal, charcoal, electricity, gas, and more.
The traditional choice is coal because it burns evenly and hot. But, if you’re concerned about the mess from coal and want to add extra safety when heating your iron, a propane forge is good for beginners.
Firing the forge can be as simple as pressing a button or you’ll need a lighter or blowtorch to get things started.
There are three heating techniques you’ll learn: annealing, hardening, and tempering. Annealing is softening the metal with heat, hardening is the process of heating and cooling to increase strength, and tempering is the final step to make the metal less brittle.
Pick an area on your property that’s away from flammable things and won’t be in the way of other activities. Some people place their forge in a shed where it’s safe from young children and animals.
Another benefit of keeping your forge in a shed is that it can be locked and secured when you’re away from your home. Of course, a roof is important to protect the forge against rain and wind.
As you can imagine, it takes a while to heat and shape metal when blacksmithing and that forge can get hot. You might want to pick somewhere with fans, air conditioning, or open sides to let in some air.
Tools You’ll Need
Here are the tools you need when learning blacksmithing for beginners. As you get better, you’ll be able to make most of your own tools, but to start you’ll need to buy or borrow them.
- Anvil for hammering on
- Hammers (you’ll need several sizes)
- Vise to hold materials
- Tongs to remove hot materials
- Drifts, chisels, and punches
- Protective equipment like goggles, gloves, and an apron
You must wear suitable clothing and safety goggles when you’re blacksmithing. If you’re worried about the noise levels from hammering, you can also buy yourself a pair of ear protectors, like earbuds or headphones.
There are a few techniques that even the beginner needs to know. As you become more advanced, you’ll learn some other techniques and you’ll refine the ones you already know.
Hitting is when you strike the metal on the anvil with a hammer to shape it. Quenching is placing the metal in water to quickly cool it. You can also cut the metal and shape it using barious techniques.
Here is a breakdown of some basic shaping techniques for blacksmithing for beginners:
Drawing is a term used in blacksmithing to make your metal longer and thinner. Typically, you hold your metal down with a pair of tongs and hammer across the surface to make it thinner and longer.
This technique can take some practice to truly master, but it’s necessary for making kitchen cutlery or other handheld items.
Upsetting is when you make the metal shorter and thicker. It’s the opposite of drawing.
This can be a bit more challenging, so it helps to practice your drawing a bit before you try it.
Instead of heating the entire piece of metal, you only heat the specific area and hammer it until it’s the shape you want it to be.
Punching is a method for making holes in the metal. Holes are necessary if you need to make a hole in the design so it can hang on a wall. Or, if you want to pierce holes in the metal to make jewelry.
You start by heating the metal and picking the area where you want to make a hole. Then, you press down on the surface with your hammer with a punching tool.
It’s important that you take your time when punching, as it requires focus and accuracy. Otherwise, you could accidentally make holes all over your metal.
You’ll need an anvil with a horn if you want to make bent shapes. Luckily, most have them. You also need a hammer.
Likewise, you can also unbend the shape by heating and repeating the anvil horn and hammering process.
This is perfect if you want to recycle old metal without wasting leftover bent scraps. You can simply reheat them and mold them into a new shape!
Blacksmithing for Beginners Tips
First, accuracy and caution are the most vital aspects to consider when you’re starting out with blacksmithing. Not only is precision necessary for your project, but it keeps you safe when operating a forge. The last thing you want is to hammer down on your metal and break your finger.
Second, think of blacksmithing as an art form. Take your time and try to see the overall big picture as you work.
Third, start small. Here are some simple projects for blacksmithing for beginners:
- Fire poker
- Simple hook
- Dinner triangle
Of course, these are only suggestions. You can get as creative as you like when experimenting with a forge!
Find a Mentor
A forge is an old-school piece of equipment, though they have been modernized to makae them much easier to use than those from hundreds of years ago.
Still, as an uncommon tool, most people don’t know how to use forges. Finding someone in your local area or online who can teach you how to operate your forge is a good way to learn the basics.
Blacksmithing for beginners isn’t a solo endeavor. You’re definitely going to want to tap the knowledge of experienced people.
It takes a lot of practice before you can master the art of blacksmithing. As every machine is different, there might be techniques that work on some forges that don’t work on others. Practice makes perfect.
Find a mentor that’s willing to help you learn the ropes of your forge, even if it’s just someone online. Most people are more than happy to share what they’ve learned.