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Blacksmithing basics

It’s an age-old craft that once learned, will mean endless possibilities

Years ago my husband took a one-day blacksmithing class and made a triangle dinner bell. He did a great job, but told me I couldn’t use it to call him for supper.

Garry Kalajian owns a blacksmithing business in New Hampshire and also teaches classes on the craft. He says there are a few things every blacksmith needs for the process.

"The first tool is a tool to get the metal hot, that would be the forge, or furnace. One needs an anvil, that beefy block of iron that the hot bar rests on and that’s used to back up the hammer blows," says Kalajian. "And then there’s a host of hand tools that are needed. Of course one needs hammers and tongs, those are the primary hand tools."

Once the fire is lit in the forge, a blower or other type of forced-air blast is needed to get the fire red-hot. The forging temperature range for the tools he makes is from 1,000 degrees on the low end, up to about 2300 degrees.

Kalajian says you can tell what the temperature is by the color of the metal bar as it’s being heated.

"The bar starts to assume a glow at about 1,000 degrees, and it goes from a very faint dull red, to kind of a faint and a medium cherry, to orange, and then yellow," he says. "And as it starts to approach the top of the forging range, it almost looks like it’s white-hot."

When the bar is pulled out of the fire, it’s very malleable. It’s rested on the anvil and pounded into the desired shape. But as the metal cools, it loses the glow of heat so when the color is gone, it’s time to stop hammering. If you need to keep working it, just slip it back into the forge.

Check out these blacksmithing tutorial videos

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