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Cheap tools that will get you started. Answered

This forum is to transfer ideas about what tools to use when getting started blacksmithing. Everybody has to start with some tools and the cheaper, the better.


When I was growing up, and back when I was a LOT stronger and did some smithing, I picked up MOST of my tools at auctions.....but you have to know which auctions to go to. If the auction advertises old tools, or blacksmithing tools, or ferrier tools, forget it.....dealers will bid top dollar for them. BUT, if an auction listing has a lot of furnature, china, brass, and "other" antiques, and near the middl of the listing or close to the bottom there is a tool or two....that is the one to go to. You may get lucky and there may be NO ONE there interested in those tools. It took time, but that was how I was able to build up my shop working a min. wage job. I started with a rivet forge (portable), an older (and need of refacing) 210 lb anvil, a real vise (the type anchored into the ground), a bunch of swages, straight peen, cross peen hammers, one 16 lb sledge, and one 28 lb sledge (for straightening axels) along with a set of about 8 tongs. One of the most useful tools I made for myself involved taking a small "pipe wrench" and welding a "handle" to the TOP of the C shaped portion of the wrench. This afforded me TWO handles to use so twist metal bars, for ornate purposes. . . I sure to miss it though...

First of all, you need a source of heat. A propane torch will do, but you're going to burn up all of your gas unless you have something to reflect the heat. This site has many different instructions on how to build simple forges. Next, you will need a few different hand and power tools. A ball-peen hammer, a cross-peen hammer (or a sledge hammer), a metalworking vise (these have small anvils on the back), a big pair of pliers or vise grips (if you don't feel like making your own tongs), some punches and chisels, a good set of files, and an angle grinder. These are the bare-bone necessities in any metalworking shop. Yes, angle grinders can be expensive, but I assure you that carpal tunnel surgery costs much more. Buy a damn angle grinder. Also, as you become more experienced, I recommended investing in a good anvil. It doesn't have to be a Peddinghaus, cast iron will do.

Oh my, I forgot to mention a hacksaw. That is important.

A HAMMER : a hammer is really important of course. The hammer i had used before had a square face and on the back side it had a cross peen. Both of these faces were used lots for drawing out, and fanning/spreading metal. Both faces were polished up nicely and were smooth. Just think of the hammer face as a stamp. so if you have a gash, or pits in it, that gets stamped onto the metal every time you strike it. AN ANVIL: there are tons of anvils out there. In the class i took we used ones from princess auto (kind of a farm/tool/welding/ bit of everything supply place) These were cheap anvils and mine got beat up pretty good from miss strikes and just hitting hard. If you find an old anvil hit it a little bit with a hammer and listen for the nice *ting*. If the top of it is marred up and stuff you can take it into a machine/welding shop were they can fill in stuff and grind it all flat. As someone else has said you can use railway track although an anvil is nice for having the edges and the horn to work on. If you do get an anvil, try and mount it on a large round piece of wood. This helps absorb shock. As for the right height for your anvil, with your arm relaxed by your side, make a fist, and the face of the fist that you would hit someone with should be the same level as the top of the anvil. Tongs: I guess this really depends on the user, what style they like, what they use it for. Now i don't know to much about them, but i know it is nice to have some sort of pattern in them that helps you grab onto round stock and such. You should also be able to comfortably hold a piece of steel in them with one hand. Well i guess those would be the main tools. I can't comment much on forges cause i don't know much. i know you can have coal ones, or build a propane one. Of course you need something to cut metal with too like a hacksaw or chop saw. there are also tool you can get to stick in the hardy hole (the square hole in the end of the anvil) that you can cut metal with and such. As more questions come in i'll try and answer anything i can and maybe post some striking techniques and practice projects.

Correct me if I'm wrong but it was my understanding that you didn't want anything to absorb shock, it's couterproductive. The shock absorbed by the wood doesn't go into your workpiece causing you to need to work harder for the same results. This is the reason blacksmiths prefer really large heavy anchored anvils right?

well, we do not want the shock to go into the ground, especially if we are working on concrete or tile and such. I had my anvil (half inch thick peice of metal), and i hammered on it on a tile floor, which cracked, and i had a stern talk from my father. Also, the stump is used the boost the work up, and u can put nails to keep the anvil from walking around.

Yes, one's with plenty of "bounce" Just as a drummer uses recoil to his advantage, so does the seasoned blacksmith.

EZ curling tongs take a pair of needle nose pliers to your beloved bench grinder and round off the inside gripping surface. Prest-o Chang-o. Five minute tongs: Buy a pair of nail pullers or visit your local ferrier or stable and obtain a worn out horse hoof trimmer (they look like nail pullers) The cutting surface yellow hot and grip a peice of cold 1/4" round steel dead center. The cutting surface will take the shape of the quarter round. BAM smithy tongs Brass brush. Onto dull cherry-red steel for a brass finish

it isn't always cheap, but an angle grinder is a REALLY good investment. Also, i got my hands on this new metal grinding flap wheel, and it works WAY better than the resin-fiber discs, plus it finishes the piece much smoother, consequentially lowering the time it takes to finish a knife/blade/piece.


Don't be afraid to modify tools. The first tool to check is your hammer(s)-make sure that the faces are smooth, preferably polished, because every mark on the face will be repeated endlessly on your metal. Second is your anvil-the same thing goes for it. Luckily, the face of an anvil is usually large enough that you can find a flat spot when you need it.

Right on, jtobako ! The first tool I modified was where I took a small pipe wrench, and welded a handle off the top of it. With that tool, I could twist 1 - 2 inch square stock with both hands. Great for rail ornamentation.

I just completed the stubby handle for my 10Lb sledge head.... weights a tonne but get's the job done quick... or when there is a lot of mass to draw out...:) I call him Z...THOR...Z

first tool I ever got, needle nose pliers, last tool i used, needle nose pliers. I know you can't realy use them for blacksmithing, but man, i love those pliers.

I've found that I-beams, as in the ones they use to build housing foundations, work really well if you're on a budget. I got mine from leftovers of building the house, but you could probably find one in any junkyard.

A grinder. I loves me grinder, i've used it loooads and it's put up with all i can throw at it. Only cost me £15, too. Don't press too hard against the wheels, don't grind for extremely long periods, have a cooldown time. Wear a piece of sacrificial clothing, the sparks tend to make cotton shirts dissolve, so it's best not to wear your good suit :-) As for loose clothes, forget it. If you're grinding while wearing a hoodie, you're stupid. One of the hood strings could get caught in the wheel and pull you face-first to your demise. It'd have to be a closed-coffin wake too, unless your bereaved family hires a REALLY good undertaker.

I will start by saying that as a starting anvil, you can use a piece of RR track. They are fairly easy to come by, but easier if you have neighbor who worked on the RR for several years:)