Getting Started

//Getting Started
Getting Started2015-06-10T12:31:26+00:00
  • Creator
  • #1852513

    Seth Ruffin
    Post count: 62

    The idea of starting to do some blacksmithing is exciting to me. However, I have no idea where I would need to get started. Does anyone have suggestions on books, projects, things to know (like fire starting/stoking)? I’d love to hear how people got into it or suggestion on the best way to start.



  • Author
  • JSP
    Post count: 11


    I’m a blacksmith/bladesmith and would love to point you in the right direction! What to do when you start largely depends on what you want to do with the skills. There is a relatively significant difference between going towards blacksmithing vice blades, although there is of course a large amount of crossover between the two. Without a little more focus on what you want to do (or if you want to do it all!), it’s a little difficult to say what would be a good starting project.
    However, I would recommend to anyone getting into smithing to go to the hardware store and get a bar of 3/8~1/2 inch round stock and forge it to square, then back to round, then back to square, etc. Learning hammer control on something easy to forge like mild steel (usually A32 off the shelf) will help you immensely down the road. Concentrate on keeping the bar straight and free of twists, the corners sharp (for square) and the rounds plannished smooth. When going from square to round, start by forging on the corners to make a nice octagon, and then blend the eight corners to round.  Not the most exciting thing, but well worth the time and effort, especially when the stock isn’t going to be part of another project where the errors of learning would otherwise detract from the finished piece.

    For a forge, you can go either gas or solid fuel, and either will work depending on what you are trying to do. The easiest possible thing you can do is dig a hole in the ground and fill it with hardwood lump charcoal. Use a hair dryer or an air mattress blower attached to a pipe for your air supply, and you’re in business.

    Hopes this helps a little, and if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer!


  • Seth Ruffin
    Post count: 62

    I think at this moment if I tried a home blacksmith project it would be to make some holdfast. Would a square based holdfast to go into a square dog work? We have a small in ground fire pit in the back of our yard. I do not have an anvil though, any suggestions on a substitute to hammer on? What type of steel would you suggest for that? What type of hammer would be best to use for that type of project?

    I appreciate the what to practice advice. I may just start with that and see how my eagerness responds afterwards.

    Thanks for the advice and help.


  • JSP
    Post count: 11

    Holdfasts are a great idea!  Forging sharp corners can be difficult, however, especially without an anvil. Depending on the style you are going for, you might be able to get away with a gentle 1/4 or 3/4 circle instead of a corner.

    For an anvil, if you have a heavy sledge, that can work fine if you strap it firmly to a board, just don’t expect to be able to move a lot of metal very quickly. Otherwise, if there is a scrapyard nearby, look there for a block of steel. Mild steel will work fine, but if they have some sort of tool steel that would be great (4140 is excellent), but I’ve found that most scrapyards cannot/do not identify grade of steel. Or, if you have a few dollars to spare, check out Old World Anvils and search for their 4x4x4 cube anvil. It’s primitive, but awesome. For hammers, almost anything other than a framing hammer will be fine. I use purpose made forging hammers, but a cross peen or large ball peen will work great. If you get one from the hardware store, make sure it has a flat face (none of that textured ring business) and round over the corners before using it. Also, avoid fibreglass handles like the plague. A good old wooden handle is the best you can get.


    Forging a holdfast is great, but be weary of how thick the stock you use is. I’ve made a few, and universally, the corner is the failing point. Make it as thick as possible. Without a solid corner, it simply doesn’t work. Mild steel from the hardware store will work if it is large enough. I would actually avoid high carbon steel for now because of the learning curve with working temperature range and the trouble of heat treating it later.


  • alexander14472
    Post count: 4

    anvil alternative

    If you have a source, some people use small section of railroad track as a small anvil.

    I found a rivet forge and tools cheap at an auction. I had a lot of fun hammering away but not all that productive! I ended up taking a few classes from a local smith and read a few books. It is definitely a skill that you can learn the basics quite quickly.

    Good luck!

  • Historic Design
    Post count: 4

    Learning blacksmithing

    Forge work and blacksmithing are quite difficult to learn from books.  I think the only way to learn is to either take classes or spend time with an accomplished blacksmith.  Otherwise you will spend lots of time getting frustrated and use up lots of steel with nothing to show for it.  Even basic things like building a proper fire can be quite difficult unless someone has shown you how to do it.  Blackmsithing is much different from woodworking in this respect as many woodworking skills can be learned much easier on one’s own.   I imagine some people will tell you otherwise, but many of the people who call themselves “blacksmiths” have very rudimentary skills.   So, take much of the advice you hear with a grain of salt.  Truly skilled blacksmith are rare.  Guys who only bend bar stock into hooks or try to make railroad spike knives are not.

    Thank being said, see if someone in your area offers classes.  That is how I started and is, I think, the best route to follow.


  • woodnironsmith
    Post count: 1

    Basic skills source

    I agree you can not learn skills from a book.  You must learn by doing, but a good pdf on basic skills is the “Blacksmiths Craft”.  It can be downloaded from


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