Blacksmithing Odds and Ends

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try learning some different skills in blacksmithing. I had seen videos on how to make a leaf and a suggestion that making a lot of leaves was good practice for hammer work and a couple of key techniques. So I made a couple of leaves, though the leaf broke off of the stem for one of them. This past weekend, I made another, which was somehow a regression from my first (I used thicker and I think maybe harder round stock and had a devil of a time getting it shaped). Only my first/best leaf is pictured below.

The same weekend I started trying leaves, I heated up some 1095 steel I had bought and wanted to try out. Previously, I had used only the sort of dubious steel (including rebar) you can get at a box hardware store. I was curious whether this steel with a better “pedigree” might forge differently. Mostly what I learned is that I don’t have the right tongs for working with steel that comes in long, flat bar form. There are special sorts of tongs that make this stock easier to work with. So I spent a lot of time bruising my tong hand to try to hold my work piece in the tongs by brute force. This made it harder to work the steel.

I did on that first day pound out what looked like a nice dagger (if very wide) or sword (if very short) point, roughly. I put it down when I ran out of propane. This weekend, I picked it back up and decided to tinker with it some more. My son had been talking about making spearheads, and I thought I may as well try to thin this one out into more of a spearhead shape. Doing so gave me fits. You can see that the notches that define the posterior end of the spear blade are way out of alignment. I can correct that later somehow. The main thing I struggled with was narrowing and drawing out the piece. I wanted to keep a bit of curve to the edges, but I haven’t figured out a good technique for that and wound up having one edge curved and then flattening it while trying to curve the other edge. So I need to figure out how to resolve that. The next step, which I may not be able to manage with this bar, is to make a big rounded triangle of the butt end that I can then forge into a conical socket to stick a handle into securely. I don’t know if I’ll get that far, honestly. Pictures, at any rate:

Also this weekend, I tried dressing a hammer using this guide. That blacksmith has been making videos since he was pretty young, and he strikes me as sort of a prodigy. He has a pretty cool hammer that’s probably way more than I could ever justify spending on one. It has a flat face and a rounded face, and though technique is as important as tool, it does look like it’d be nicer to strike with. His video purports to teach you how to turn a $7 hammer into one as good as a $200 hammer. This sounded appealing!

I started with the cheap 3-pound, 16-inch Pittsburgh sledge hammer he proposed and followed his tips as best as I could to fix up the hammer faces. The rounded face definitely leaves less severe hammer marks. Probably I need to work on technique a lot more than I do making a fancy hammer, but this was kind of a neat grinding project anyway.

Finally, I came into some big long spikes. I have no idea what they’re for. They were very rusty and dirty, and I decided to clean one up this weekend by grinding it down. I’ll try some rust-busting compound on the other one first to compare how well it does. I burned through the better part of two grinding wheels to get this one shiny and I’ll bet that using some chemicals to get the worst of the rust off first would save me grinding. I wonder if one of these might be better for a spear, given that there’s plenty of material to forge the head out of and then a nick thick bunch of stock to forge the conic socket from. I feel like I could get at least two spearheads out of these (maybe three from the one without a hole in it).

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