Trying out Blacksmithing, specifically Damascus blades

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  • #1
sbrothy
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This may sound weird but after having watched "Forged in Fire" a bunch of times on History channel (Europe) I've developed a desire to try out blacksmithing, and I'm not normally what you would call a "hands-on" kinda guy. I'm not even sure I could swing a hammer long enough to make a dent in a piece of steel without developing a cramp.

Anyone else who've been tempted to try forging by this program?

(Unfortunately it's almost always followed by another program called "Ancient Astronauts" which gives me a migraine almost immediately. I've never before accidentally watched 2 minutes of a program which makes me downright angry, but this one does! I'm not gonna mention that name, but I'm sure you know who I mean. Looking at it hurts physically. Especially when they use the words "quantum mechanics"!

If I doze off I always wake up when I hear the phrase: "ancient astronauts theoreticians say yes!"

No. Just No.)
 
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  • #2
Can you tell us what Flow-TV is?

Is it just scheduled TV ie watch an episode once a week?

or is it an app that gives you access to the History Channel in Europe?

On another note, I had a friend here get interested in black smithing and now he's about to get a job teaching it in a local community college. He's done some cool pieces that he shared on FB.
 
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  • #3
jedishrfu said:
Can you tell us what Flow-TV is?

Is it just scheduled TV ie watch an episode once a week?

or is it an app that gives you access to the History Channel in Europe?

On another note, I had a friend here get interested in black smithing and now he's about to get a job teaching it in a local community college. He's done some cool pieces that he shared on FB.
Oh, I thought the thread had been killed by the mods. With flow-TV I mean just ordinary TV. Non-streaming. The old kind.
 
  • #4
But yes, I'm seriously considering setting up a forge from scratch. I've tried to find a place I can rent but they all seem to insist on me following some course where I have to start producing a beer-opener or some such.

And yes. This thread might fit better in the DIY forum. You mods do you.
 
  • #5
I would argue for caution in starting with blacksmithing. Damascus work is moderate to high level craftsmanship, and requires a good understanding of how to do things like forge welding. I would suggest starting simple and working towards damascus over time.
 
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  • #6
You might try the Wood Barter forum. There are several blade-smiths there. I think a couple have even done Damascus.
 
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  • #7
I feel (arrogantly) informed and prepared although I surely expect most of my first attempts to look like garbage. I wouldn't mind paying for a place at an existing forge where there would be some experienced blacksmiths I could learn from, but I don't want to be forced to start out with, for instance, coal (although that might indeed be the right course for a beginner). In this city we have a fully functioning iron-age village which offers courses of this nature, but as I mentioned they'd expect me to start fixing wheel barrows and learning to forge horseshoes. That not what I have in mind.

I want to jump right into making my own katana (I'm joking here.)
 
  • #8
sbrothy said:
Anyone else who've been tempted to try forging by this program?
I have tinkered with machining metal for several years. Bending and flattening steel can be done without a forge but that takes you up a notch. If you have little experience of hot working then I'd seriously suggest you start off with a scaled down version. One heavy hammer, a hefty pair of pliers, a vise and a big lump of steel ('anvil') are all that's needed. A big blow torch (MAP gas) will allow you to get 5mm steel strip cherry red and you can make bookshelf brackets, garden tools etc etc. A good 'taster'.

I don't think there's an easy version of a home forge. You need lots of room (under cover but ventilated) loads of refactory material and a blower + flue. You can die of CO poisoning if not careful - same problem as indoor barbecues. By no means an impossible project but not good value as a one off fun project, whereas the tools will be for ever useful.

This is why a course can cost you such a lot of money and effort.
 
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  • #9
sophiecentaur said:
I have tinkered with machining metal for several years. Bending and flattening steel can be done without a forge but that takes you up a notch. If you have little experience of hot working then I'd seriously suggest you start off with a scaled down version. One heavy hammer, a hefty pair of pliers, a vise and a big lump of steel ('anvil') are all that's needed. A big blow torch (MAP gas) will allow you to get 5mm steel strip cherry red and you can make bookshelf brackets, garden tools etc etc. A good 'taster'.

I don't think there's an easy version of a home forge. You need lots of room (under cover but ventilated) loads of refactory material and a blower + flue. You can die of CO poisoning if not careful - same problem as indoor barbecues. By no means an impossible project but not good value as a one off fun project, whereas the tools will be for ever useful.

This is why a course can cost you such a lot of money and effort.
I’m becoming painfully aware, yes. I’ll need some industrial site with, as you say, proper ventilation and fire protection (check the mouse-over comment about prank fire extinguishers. :) ).

Then comes the basics: a propane forge seems like a good place to start. Buying one comes with assorted paraphernalia like tongs, gloves etc. Likewise buying an anvil comes with extra stuff too; like hammers and so forth. Then I’ll probably need a plasma burner, perhaps welding apparatus and a hydraulic (read: cheap mechanically operated) press. I can, as you mention do without a power hammer, if my surroundings can live with the manual hammering (I’m gonna work up impressive right-arm muscles!). It’s doable but having someone sharing my interest (and the bills) would be paramount.

EDIT:

I dont need to throw myself into blademaking right away, but ofcourse I’ll also need materials for experimenting with damascus steel.
 
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  • #10
sbrothy said:
I’ll also need materials for experimenting with damascus steel.
There's a good reason why those blades are so expensive. LOL
If you're like me, when you start on a new craze you have to discipline yourself to avoid acquiring too much stuff. Smithing is the sort of thing that loads of blokes (women have too much sense) get into for a short while and they then need to get rid of gear. I don't buy new things except when there's really no alternative. Amazon Marketplace and eBay are great sources in UK. A good torch can power a basic forge; you see loads of youtube vids of casting non-ferrous scrap but big steel items need lots of grunt.

Not for Damascus steel but a MIG welder will not cost much and needs very little peripheral equipment (after a good auto helmet). You can do all sorts with that.

Let us know how you get on. My efforts are not worth publishing but
 
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  • #11
sophiecentaur said:
There's a good reason why those blades are so expensive. LOL
If you're like me, when you start on a new craze you have to discipline yourself to avoid acquiring too much stuff. Smithing is the sort of thing that loads of blokes (women have too much sense) get into for a short while and they then need to get rid of gear. I don't buy new things except when there's really no alternative. Amazon Marketplace and eBay are great sources in UK. A good torch can power a basic forge; you see loads of youtube vids of casting non-ferrous scrap but big steel items need lots of grunt.

Not for Damascus steel but a MIG welder will not cost much and needs very little peripheral equipment (after a good auto helmet). You can do all sorts with that.

Let us know how you get on. My efforts are not worth publishing but
I’ll keep you informed. But as a “bloke” as you so aptly put it (and nerd) what we’re liable to buy are mostly, and traditionally, electronic gadgets (my last buy was a dj mixer using mp3 files capable of being operated by a drunk monkey!).

Buying things that can potentially kill me during operation is a new one since my last car. I’ve sworn never to buy a motorcycle because I’m sure that *will* be the last thing I do. :)
 
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  • #12
phinds said:
You might try the Wood Barter forum. There are several blade-smiths there. I think a couple have even done Damascus.

Yes. Working with wood is an integral part of the whole process for eg. handles and stuff so that might not be a bad idea.
 
  • #13
sbrothy said:
This may sound weird but after having watched "Forged in Fire" a bunch of times on History channel (Europe) I've developed a desire to try out blacksmithing, and I'm not normally what you would call a "hands-on" kinda guy. I'm not even sure I could swing a hammer long enough to make a dent in a piece of steel without developing a cramp.

Anyone else who've been tempted to try forging by this program?

(Unfortunately it's almost always followed by another program called "Ancient Astronauts" which gives me a migraine almost immediately. I've never before accidentally watched 2 minutes of a program which makes me downright angry, but this one does! I'm not gonna mention that name, but I'm sure you know who I mean. Looking at it hurts physically. Especially when they use the words "quantum mechanics"!

If I doze off I always wake up when I hear the phrase: "ancient astronauts theoreticians say yes!"

No. Just No.)

So, to sum it all up, what I need to get started is:

  • Propane Gas Forge (comes with gloves, tongs and other small items).
  • Anvil (also comes with paraphernalia. Hammers etc.).
  • Plasma Burner.
  • Mechanic Press.
  • Assorted tools like angle grinder and stuff (maybe these multitools with exchangable batteries would do).
  • MIG welder or similar.
  • Materials, various types of steel and wood and even smalller things like borax, acid, oil etc.
  • And last but not least a place to set up shop.

Oh I almost forgot: perhaps fireextinguishers of various types (water foam etc) should probably be at the top of the list along with ventilation, but these things go without saying.

If I aquire these things a little at the time I may also have time to play and get familiar with them. Heck, I might even have time to read the manuals! (If there is such a thing for an anvil?!) :P

EDIT: Oh, and for sure: some kind of insurance would probably be a really really good idea!
 
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  • #14
sbrothy said:
Yes. Working with wood is an integral part of the whole process for eg. handles and stuff so that might not be a bad idea.
Yes, but I'm talking about the METAL part.
 
  • #15
phinds said:
Yes, but I'm talking about the METAL part.
Yes I know. I just thought I’d be able to benefit from both.
 
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  • #16
sbrothy said:
Yes I know. I just thought I’d be able to benefit from both.
Ah. Gotcha. And you're right. We have more guys that make handles than we do that make blades (some just buy blade blanks and then make the handles).
 
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  • #18
sbrothy said:
  • Propane Gas Forge (comes with gloves, tongs and other small items).
  • Anvil (also comes with paraphernalia. Hammers etc.).
  • Plasma Burner.
  • Mechanic Press.
  • Assorted tools like angle grinder and stuff (maybe these multitools with exchangable batteries would do).
  • MIG welder or similar.
  • Materials, various types of steel and wood and even smalller things like borax, acid, oil etc.
  • And last but not least a place to set up shop.
You seem happy with a high cost solution to this. Fair enough but could be wasted money if the early problems prove to be too much for you. Frankly, I'd say that a good practical course could be the most cost-effective way in.
 
  • #19
sophiecentaur said:
I have tinkered with machining metal for several years. Bending and flattening steel can be done without a forge but that takes you up a notch. […]
I’m told that watching machines bending, flattening, yes, generally formning a piece of metal is an eerily satisfying experience. Is that true?
 
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  • #20
sophiecentaur said:
You seem happy with a high cost solution to this. Fair enough but could be wasted money if the early problems prove to be too much for you. Frankly, I'd say that a good practical course could be the most cost-effective way in.
I’ve looked into the cost of these things and they’re generally cheaper than I thought, especially used. Also I might not need them all. I may be aiming a little higher than I need but I’ll see….
 

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