Adventures in Blacksmithing: Days 4 & 5

In the days following my last blacksmithing adventure, I realized that having my anvil on the ground really wasn’t a good idea even for the short term. The Monday after, my back was incredibly sore, but by the end of the day, it was better. Tuesday, I decided to go to Muay Thai, but I realized just about twenty minutes into class that my back was not ready for normal HannaH activity. In light of that experience, I have decided to include Saturday as Day 4 of my blacksmithing adventure, even though I did no forging that day.

My New Anvil Stand
My new anvil stand

I did however get my anvil up off the ground on Saturday. Mike was back home, and he decided to take me on a trip to the yard at work, where the crew left a few, somewhat cut up, giant trees they had felled at a coworker’s house. She did not want them, so the guys put them in the yard. There, Mike and I found a huge selection of logs I could choose for an anvil stand. I did pick one eventually – an odd log composed of two trunks splitting the main one. It was super heavy. Even with both of us pushing and prying, just righting the stump proved difficult. It was virtually impossible for us to lift it into the back of the truck, so Mike got the forklift and transfer was much smoother and safer.

Having returned to the house, Mike drove the truck through the backyard, and we slid the log out of the truck. We shimmied, pushed, and pulled until my new stand was in position. After a little leveling, we plopped my anvil down onto the shorter of my natural platforms, and I clapped.

Anvil on Stand
The new setup 🙂

Day 5 (Day 4 of actual forging), I was at it alone, as work again called Mike out of town on Sunday. I began by making a modification to my forge box that would, hopefully, prevent me from melting any more air compressor hoses. At Lowe’s, I purchased two 90 degree, galvanized steel elbows and a short, threaded, galvanized piece (Well, in hindsight, it could have been an eight incher). By simply screwing them on, I was able to put some distance between the smoldering fire and the hose.

Forge Modifications
Forge modifications … to prevent burning rubber

Mission accomplished, I proceeded to heating metal. My plan was to work two skills I had already used but that certainly need honing – tapering and flattening. I got to work tapering. Though my tapering skills still need massive work, I have gotten quite adept at using Mike’s grinder. My cut tool still needs to be sized to my anvil, so I ended up cutting off a few tapers with the grinder after I had completed them.

Tapering is challenging for me; for what reason, I can’t readily identify. But, my tapers are not symmetrical, and they have tendency to break and flake while I am forging them. Some of them do this more than others. Working my first taper on Sunday, the metal at the narrowest part flaked first. Then, little chunks flew off. After several tapering attempts, some were better, but none were quality. I believe, after some reading, that I still am probably not be getting the stock hot enough to draw the metal out to such a degree. I know that heating it too many times can do this too, but on my first taper, this happened after I returned the piece to the fire the third time. So, I can’t imagine that overheating is what actually happened.

A Bad Broken Taper
Bad Taper, stop breaking!

I used tongs on Sunday. This was actually my first time using them. I have until now just held onto the stock far enough down that the metal is not hot, or even warm for that matter. The tongs were challenging to manipulate. I fumbled a lot, and there were several times that the stock cooled too much by the time I got a good hold on it, so I had to return it to the fire.

Flattening seems to be a much easier skill for me, and by the end of the day, I found I had made a handle…that still needs to be punched or drilled. (If I could only master this taper and make myself a punch and drift, this task would be a bit more straightforward). Making the bends symmetrical was a bit challenging because of my fumbling with the tongs, but in the end, I managed to do an adequate job.

Day 5 Project: a Handle
Day 5 (or 4 depending on how you look at it) Project: a Handle

So at the end of the day, I was tired and dirty but feeling accomplished with a little more experience and knowledge of what to try differently next time.

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