Most blacksmiths have access to plenty of wood which can be used in blacksmithing. If you do not have access to coal and do not want to pay for coal when blacksmithing, using a wood fired forge is the best option. Here is a good video of a wood fired(charcoal) forge, the MINI Whitlox Wood-Fired Forge, which can do anything you can do with a coal or gas forge including welding.
If you plan to build your own gas forge for blacksmithing, you should insulate the forge with an insulator such as Kaowool. This product has the ability to resist extremely high temperatures and can protect you from burning yourself if you accidentally touched on the forge. A short demonstration of the heat resistance of Kaowool can be found at:
In the past, many people who became blacksmiths first started as an apprentice. Those new to blacksmithing may not have a role model to follow and learn from today. With the internet there is plenty of knowledge out there to learn how to be a blacksmith, what blacksmith supplies you need, and techniques to shape metal. Although the internet is a great resource , including websites dedicated to blacksmithing, its always good to have a resource that has everything at the tip of your fingers. In other words, a good blacksmithing book is very helpful when starting out in the world of blacksmithing. A very good book for a new blacksmith is the The Backyard Blacksmith: Traditional Techniques for the Modern Smith
Its full of good information from an experienced blacksmith and will guide you in how to correctly forge and shape metal into anything that you want.
Here is a video of the author, Lorelei Sims, teaching some blacksmith techniques. Not sure the reason why the video is compiled the way it is but the info from Lorelei Sims is good.
Another tool in your blacksmith supplies that is more of a creative and artistic tool is a Swage Block. A swage block is used by blacksmiths, artists/sculptors to form various tools such as spoons, ladles, shovels, bowls, stacks and . When blacksmithing, the blacksmith can use a swage block like an anvil to shape metal into one of the molds in the swage block. A good site to visit to learn how to use a swage block is at SwageBlocks.com
Below is a good example of how one can use a swage block to shape a ladle:
When you are finished creating and shaping your metal work, a traditional metal finish that you should have in your blacksmith supplies is blacksmith beeswax. As the name implies, beeswax is made by honey bees in its bee hive. After the blacksmith is done with his creation, beeswax is applied to the metal while it is still hot. However, be careful beeswax is flammable if the metal is too hot. Beeswax helps prevent rust and gives it a nice sheen. Beeswax can be used as is but many blacksmiths like to mix beeswax with linseed oil and turpentine for an even better sheen and protection.
Here is a great video describing the beeswax, linseed oil and turpentine recipe:
Another arsenal in your blacksmith supplies is a blacksmith leg vise. When buying a vise you should buy a leg vise instead of a bench vise. A blacksmith leg vise has a “leg” that can be extended and anchored to the floor to give it strength and stability. Most leg vises are steel (not cast iron) and are made to take the abuse of heavy hammering of metalwork while being held in the vise. You should be able to find a blacksmith leg vise at your local flea market. Most modern leg vises are very expensive. When choosing a leg vise make sure that the jaws are at least 4-5 inches wide and that the jaws are not damaged and line up evenly. Because the vise has a leg it can be mounted to more locations than a regular bench vise. You can mount a blacksmith leg vise to a tree stump, a post or a workbench. The leg vise can be used to bend iron at 90 degree angles, twisting and as a third helping hand.
Below is a short video of a Columbian blacksmith leg vise:
Another major component to your blacksmith supplies is an anvil stand. It is vital that you place an anvil on a stand that is the correct height. If the anvil is not at the correct height, the faster you will become fatigued when hammering metal into shape. The height of the anvil stand is different for every blacksmith. Many blacksmiths use the knuckle rule which means that when the anvil is placed on the anvil stand it will reach your knuckles when you loosely ball your fists with your arms at your side. This usually enables a blacksmith to get maximum swing and velocity of the hammer without straining your back. Of course the knuckle technique is no magic bullet and you should adjust the height of the anvil stand to fit your body and needs.
Blacksmiths use various materials to make an anvil stand or you could just buy a stand. Some anvil stands are just a big piece of oak from a fallen tree or if you are in your backyard you can cut down a tree and place the anvil on the stump. Whatever type of anvil stand you use, it must be secure and level. If the stand is not sturdy enough it will just bounce around all over your blacksmith shop. The anvil stand must also be able to secure the anvil from moving around when hammering. If the anvil stand or the anvil itself moves around when you are hammering you will lose efficiency and it will take more time and energy to create the metalwork.
Below is a good video I found on how to make an anvil stand:
To supplement my previous post about gas forges, below is an article providing the fundamentals of a blacksmith gas forge:
Blacksmith Gas Forge Fundamentals
Blacksmith Gas Forges are an Economical and Clean Alternative to Coal Forges
The basic flame for a blacksmith is the forge. Traditionally the forge used charcoal or coal as the fuel. These are generally still used today and are referred to as solid fuel forges or most often coal forges.
In recent times with the availability of propane gas, an alternate form of heat source developed. The blacksmith gas forge is really a small convenient tool that allows similar temperatures while not quite as hot as a coal forge but with out the mess or even the smoke, and it is quite portable.
A gas forge has many advantages and some disadvantages as a heat source for a blacksmith. The main disadvantage is the fact that it usually has a lower heat than coal forge. Another disadvantage is that no matter what you\’re heating, it needs to easily fit in the box. Large complex shapes become very difficult to work with.
The blacksmith gas forge is ideal for knife makers and many artistic blacksmiths use it too. Knife makers are often working long straight bars for their knives. they can also employ the gas forge for heat treating many alloys of steel. It typically has a longer more uniform heat
than the usual coal forge. This means you are able to heat treat a longer blade in a gas forge than the usual standard coal forge.
In several parts of the world propane is easily available and it is cost effective in comparison with coal or charcoal. The bottom price of a blacksmith gas forge is greater than a coal forge as there are many parts that have to be synchronized as well as some exact tolerances.
It is a fact that a coal forge is more versatile and cheaper to construct however it does require a supply of coal and isn\’t very portable. What this means is you need a dedicated spot to do your blacksmithing. This location needs to be within an area where smoke isn\’t an issue.
Gas forges and solid fuel forges consume oxygen and produce both deadly carbon monoxide (poisonous) and carbon dioxide. Smoke is a major by product of the coal forge. Proper ventilation is essential for both. The propane forge can be vented just with keeping the windows open and doors or with a collector and vent above the forge.
A coal forge needs a chimney to draw the smoke from the building. A well constructed chimney will remove all the smoke easily. Look for plans for any side draft forge for just one of the best options. For chimneys which have under optimum draw you can also add a fan
within the stack so that it will be a power exhaust for that smoke. This is effective.
Although a coal forge reaches higher temperatures, the heat is more concentrated. A properly constructed fire radiates hardly any heat into the room. A gas forge radiates a great deal of heat into a work shop. This is fine during the cold months but can be horrible in the summer time.
Many blacksmiths love the tradition of the coal forge. Lots of other blacksmiths have discovered the simplicity with the propane forge, and it is a great place to start or a versatile supplemental tool. Some blacksmiths utilize it as his or her main heat source for all their work.
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It is possible to build a gas forge and save money as well as being able to customize it for individual blacksmith needs. For details on building your own gas forge visit Blacksmith Gas Forge Plans.
Many blacksmiths wish to buy a ready made gas forges which can be found at Blacksmith Gas Forges
Another vital component to your blacksmith supplies is the type of fuel to use in your blacksmith forge. There are various fuels that can be used including charcoal, coal/coke, and propane/natural gas. Below we will go over the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Charcoal was the first fuel source used by blacksmiths and it is still used today by many blacksmiths. Charcoal is made by slowly burning wood and is regularly made by blacksmiths. Making your own charcoal can save you money on fuel costs and since charcoal and coal for blacksmithing is not always widely available, this is one option a lot of blacksmiths choose to do.
Coal, more specifically bituminous coal, is a soft coal and one of the most abundant types of coals that is mined in the world. Unlike charcoal, coal does not need to be made and is ready to burn as soon as it is mined out of the ground. Coal, like charcoal, produces up to approximately 15,500 BTUs. However, the advantage of coal over charcoal is that pound for pound, it takes less coal to fire your forge and produce your ironwork. When choosing coal for blacksmithing, be sure that you buy coal that has the least amount of impurities you can find. Never buy coal with a high level of sulfur because it is not good for steel which makes it more brittle. The disadvantage of coal is that it does produce soot and smoke which can be hazardous for your health.
Coke is made from coal. Coke is produced when all the impurities in coal, such as oils, gases and liquids, have been burned off. When using coal, it is the coke that is directly used to heat up the iron and not the coal. You can buy ready made coke but its really not necessary since coke is produced when burning coal. It is also harder to start a forge fire with coke compared to coal. The advantage of using ready made coke is that you will not have the fumes, soot and smoke associated with burning coal into coke.
Many blacksmiths are now using propane or natural gas as their forge fuel for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that a gas forge saves time and allows the blacksmith to focus on creating rather than tending the fire and ensuring the forge fire has adequate fuel. A gas forge is also easier to use, especially for new blacksmiths, than coal or charcoal forges. The most important reason to use a gas forge is your health. Unlike the other fuels discussed above, gas does not give off dangerous smoke or fumes that could be detrimental to your health. The only disadvantage in using gas is that some gas forges are limited in size compared to coal forges.
I hope this information helps you in choosing the fuel for your forge.
In shaping iron two blacksmith supplies, chisels and punches, are important in forming the metalwork exactly the way you want it. Blacksmiths use chisels is cut both cold and hot iron. Punches are used to created holes in the metalwork and to add design details. Most blacksmiths do make their own chisels and punches and making these tools should be an easy project for you to do.
Below is a series of four videos on how to make a blacksmith chisel with a handle and two videos on how to make a hot punch: