If you are reading this article, chances are you want to learn to become a blacksmith. You have probably found some starter blacksmithing projects that you are keen to start, but do you have everything you need to get underway? This guide will introduce you to the beginners blacksmithing toolkit as well as provide information about where to work and the materials you want to start on this new venture!
If you haven't read already, please check out my Guide to Blacksmithing and Metal-working for starters. It will answer any questions that you might have. Once you see the big picture, we can dive into detail, and find out how does a basic blacksmithing toolkit look like.
As I have already mentioned, there are basic tools that you need to obtain before you can start crafting, melting, and casting metal. A beginner's toolkit contains the following:
A forge or furnace and a crucible are needed to get the metal hot enough temperatures to be malleable, and likely the tool you need to consider most carefully when starting out. Typically, they are fueled either by coal or propane and should be large enough to accommodate the size of projects you are hoping to build. We will be using small amounts of material. The space you plan to do your work often helps determine which heat source and fuel you need, and I will discuss that in more detail later.
Anvils are the base that you do most of your work on, so it is again important to get the right one for the job. If you are planning to learn bladesmithing, you should need a small, sturdy surface to hammer out and give shape to your creations. When thinking of an anvil, don't imagine a 300-pound weight. That does not have a place in the beginner's blacksmithing toolkit. We won't be making cars! Any strong surface is ok, as long it can withstand the continuous hammering.
The hammer is the tool you need to shape your red hot metal on the anvil, and it is useful mostly when you want to make a blade, knife, or a sword. Your hammer will become your most trusted and cherished tool if swordmaking is what you are looking for. Of course, if you want to craft jewelry, you don't need hammer and anvil. Fine or small work will require precision and smaller tools, so again keep in mind what type of projects you accomplish. As a beginner, your goals often determine how your blacksmithing toolkit looks like.
Power tools such as drills, saws, polisher for working with metal are often necessary. Most likely your father already has them in your garage. Those who are highly skilled and want to take it to the next level might want to consider getting a mini-lathe. Off course, that is an arsenal for the advanced blacksmith.
Appropriate safety gear is extremely important, which why I have included it in my beginner's blacksmithing toolkit. Arming yourself with an apron, heat-resistant gear, ear protection (remember the hammering!), and eye protection should help save you from some of the unpredictability of working with hot metal. Helmet, visor, or at least googles are best, and everything should be heat rated. Sparks often fly, and shards break off metal all the time, so you are much better off safe than scarred. And you don't want that molted metal on you. It will burn you deep.
Quenching liquid is no fancier than a bucket of water used to cool your formed metal. I have included it in my beginner's blacksmithing toolkit because it is essential to lock the shape of the material and cool it down enough for handling. Rapidly cooling heated metal strengthens its physical structure, which is created for blades and weapons. It is also a great safety feature, just in case all that hot metal gets a mind of its own and starts a fire. Always remember safety first and that hot metal can stay hot, even when it looks cold, so keep a bucket of cool water around your work area.
Of course, there are other items that I have not included in this beginner blacksmithing toolkit list, including clamps, vices, workbench, bending forks, etc. Over time you will decide if you need the multitude of available tools to increase your skill and flexibility as a hobby craftsman, but I have tried to keep this list to the true basics that are crucial to beginners.
I believe the most important item is the right work space. You need enough room to fire up your forge and start melting and hammering away. Sorry, a two-bedroom city apartment is probably not going to cut it. Its vital that you find a place that is safe to have a mini-furnace running at extremely high temperatures, Enough room to swing molten metal around, and proper ventilation. Blacksmithing is no joke, and beginner blacksmiths often require more diligence in setting up their space, as they have more of a chance of making rookie mistakes.
A well-ventilated garage, or better yet a backyard, is the most important part of the equation for any blacksmith workshop. Depending on your heat source, you might also think about getting a good CO (carbon dioxide) tester, just to make sure you vent properly and don't breathe in the disposal fumes.
Since most blacksmithing requires liquid for cooling, you should probably consider a space you don’t might getting a bit damp. Steam will rise and cling to any surface available, so protect any objects that are within your space. Cars and other outdoor tools are usually waterproof, but if you have anything that is sensitive, or that you really like to keep spotless, cover it with a tarp or car cover for protection.
It's probably a good idea to check with your local authorities if there are any noise regulations or open fire laws that apply to where you live. Blacksmithing makes a lot of noise, imagine hammer on an anvil, so your neighbors might appreciate a head's up! If you don’t have access to a yard, your neighbors are picky, or you just don’t feel comfortable, there are likely local schools that offer classes, or other blacksmiths, who might have some room to spare.
All considerations of space are easily solved if you live in a house.
Once you have the beginner's blacksmithing toolkit, and your space is prepared, you will also need the most important part of the project, the metal. You might find it hard to source metal from larger distributors since they do not typically sell in small quantities. Local junkyards, home improvement shops, or smaller suppliers are great options for beginners looking to hone their skills inexpensively. New steel is a safer option than reused, but you should also bear in mind what you want the finished product to be like, and the chemistry involved in heating up any unknown materials.
Hopefully, you are well on your way to completing your beginner's blacksmithing toolkit, and this information has set you up well to learn to be a blacksmith.