Into to Blacksmithing Part One

by laurie jane kern on November 27, 2011

Yesterday morning I headed down to the Vista Forge which is a part of the
Vista Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum for the first session of the Introduction to Blacksmithing class (there are 3 sessions).

I wanted to take this class since returning from Haystack but due to the ongoing heart issue I had to keep putting it off.  With everything now under control and being given the A-O-K, I signed up last month and yesterday was the first session.  This is traditional blacksmithing with coal fires where as you can be more modern and use a gas forge.

In this first session we learned the parts of the forge; how to clean, set and light the forge; how to maintain our fire by turning the crank on the blower; and we made our first tool – blacksmith tongs. For the tongs we had to do some forging, bending and riveting.

It is a dirty job.
It was a hot job
It is a tiring job.

The fresh coal that is put into the forge need help to start to burn which requires you to turn the crank of the blower. The coal also burns “dirty” so you get a green black smoke that is very dense and goes everywhere. Eventually the coal will burn and make “coke” . Then during the heating process you have to keep turning the crank to force more air over the coals which to helps to provide air to the coal and thus gets the item being heated up to temp faster.

I thought that taking the class at the end of the year would be a good time since the holidays were upon us and it would be cooler. I was wrong. The class was still full and it was 80 degrees F outside – which made it rather warm in the barn.  I had to take off my sweatshirt and I did sweat quite a bit.

I finished my tongs around 1:30 pm – so I sat,  had my lunch and then went home feeling very tired.  Once home, I knew I had to shower (again), I could feel grit on my face; my classes were covered in soot and my clothing had a black dust all over.  At 9 pm which was 5 hours later, I could still smell the coal smoke in my sinuses.

laurie jane kern

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

paulcrosby December 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm

One experience I hope to do soon!

Suzanne December 9, 2011 at 7:37 pm

What an amazing opportunity. The skills you’ll be learning will be priceless. Even though it’s “…dirty, hot & tiring”…I’m jealous!

michaeljohnson November 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I’ve always loved watching blacksmiths, and I’ve always wanted to try it. I would love to be able to create my own tools.

Bravo to you. It looks like you’ve had a great time.

marilyn November 28, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Nice looking tongs. It would be nice to make your own stakes if you do any copper or silversmithing.

laurie jane kern November 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Even though I did a lot of camping as a wee lass, I don’t mind the smell of wood smoke; the coal did bother me. I know a gas forge would be really nice but at this barn they are traditionalists so you make do with what you have access to. It will be a while before I get around to making tools. I have to get through 2 more intro classes then the Blacksmith 101 course before I can take 102 for tools. But someday… someday…

Bentiron November 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I used to love forging hot iron until my back injury, now I sit and watch others do it. I gave up the coal forge when my neighbors complained about the smell, then I went to charcoal until they complained about the potential of the sparks setting the desert ablaze and finally I went to propane, no complaints there so far but then again I’m not doing much forging these days. Steel is so plastic at heat and so much fun to forge to shape. Enjoy yourself making all the stakes, hammers and other goodies you can think of.

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