Jim's Notebook
America broken!

Moose Forge's website is my "notebook" of things I've learned, run across, tracked down, and just plain discovered since I decided to start learning blacksmithing. I'm restructuring it more inkeeping with my original intent of a journal/notebook of what I learn.

Caveat: I do not sell anything via this website or on any other website! If you email me asking me to buy something from you, sell you something you see (or don't see) here then you merely end up in the SPAM folder. I'm glad to answer questions, but I'll only sell things at locations on my "shows" page'

While building this website, I had an unpleasant reminder that not everyone shares my view of the world and the need for education. Consequently, I've taken the entire site down and I'm restoring it a page at a time after some massive restructuring and rewriting. This unpleasantness was countered by the pleasure of an email exchange with Kenneth Schwarz, the master of the Blacksmith Shop at Colonial Williamsburg. He provided me with some fantastic information on nail making that I will incorporate into my nail making page. Thanks Kenneth.

Louisiana Blacksmiths

My first interest in blacksmithing came at the Pyromania Art Festival in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was there with my wife, a potter par excellence, at the suggestion of Randy Brodnax and Don Ellis, two potters we met at the Mid-Atlantic Clay Conference in Front Royal, Virginia. While I was wandering, I came across the Louisiana Metalsmiths Association demonstration. There I saw a young boy forging bottle openers for the crowd. Between hammer blows I thought I heard something like "if I ever see another bottle opener ...". I've attached a picture of the bottle opener and of the touchmark on the opener just in case someone recognizes the young man or the touchmark.

Richard Delahoussaye, president of the Louisiana Metalsmithing Association, has been identified as the "teenager" mentioned above. Thanks Seth!

Mokume-Gane Workshop

Rare opportunity to work with Tedd McDonah, one of the country’s leading artists in mokume-gane, the ancient Japanese technique of producing a mixed-metal laminate with distinctive layered patterns. Students learn the entire process from raw materials to finished billet, and receive expert instruction on the requisite techniques and tools and finishing options for completed work. Very small class — this one will sell out quickly.

Appalachian Area Chapter of Blacksmiths 2018 Conference
May 17th - 19th, 2018
Cannonburgh Village
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Presenters: Brent Bailey, Doug Merkel, Abraham Pardee

Botanical Blacksmiths at the Tucson Botanical Garden
April 13th - May 31st

The Arizona Artist Blacksmith Association has sponsored a series of Botanical Blacksmiths Exhibitions at Gardens around the state, and will be bringing their unique works to the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Smiths often use botanical motifs in their work, in a variety of styles; from naturalistic, to stylized, to abstract. The association invites smiths to bring their most imaginative and creative work to these shows, in order to demonstrate to the public what modern blacksmiths can do.

Northern Rockies Blacksmiths Association

Perusing other blacksmith association's websites my favortie new discovery is the Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association. At ABANA/Salt Lake I saw exhibited the neatest latch hook. I found the plans for it on their site. Kept scanning their site and discovered that they have two conferences a year. It's a small but good group. Hope you'll visit their site and consider joining.

I've developed a new page for "Gods of Smithing". It covers a number of mythological deities around the world. One example is Kagutscuhi in Japan. What's most remarkable is the shrine in Kyoto dedicated to him. I've gone way overboard with pictures because it is so beautiful.

Visit BlacksmitHER Radio - podcasts and information for the blacksmith. Fantastic site!!!

arboretum sign Botanical Blacksmith's Artist Reception
June 10, 2017
11 am - 2 pm
The Arboretum at Flagstaff
Flagstaff, Arizona

This weekend the Arboretum will be hosting a reception for those of us participating in this summer's Botanical Blacksmiths exhibit. This is a yearly event whereby Arizona blacksmiths create sculptures which are placed throughout the Arboretum, along paths and walkways. Visitors may purchase the pieces, with part of the proceeds going to the Arboretum, and pick them up in August when the exhibit is over. We'll be selling some of our other work and demonstrating forging for the visitors. Stop by if you're in the area.

California Blacksmith Association Spring Conference
April 27-30, 2017
Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum
Vista, California

Tongs made from a kit came out well until I turned my back for
2 seconds instead of 1; burned up!

My rendition of a viking-style chest hinge

Me fullering a flower vase (time for a diet).

Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
at the Pima County Fair

April 20-25, 2016

Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
Damascus Workshop

November 25-27, 2016
Grizzly Iron Works
Phoenix, Az


Left to right: Marty Young,
Pat McCarty (instructor),
Bob Hauser, Richard Miles, me
Festival Forging
John C Campbell Folk School
Brasstown, NC
Sunday, July 31 - Saturday, Aug 6, 2016

Fantastic class! With the small size of the class we got plenty of time trying out "Quick & Easy" projects for demonstrating. Among the projects were:

Quick & Easy vase w/Lag Bolt Flower
Close-up of Lag Bolt Flower
key rack
Rack for your keyrings
Ladle with riveted-on bowl
Supposed to be cowboy hats but turned
out to be more like construction hard
Pair of snakes heading for the river
My first nails
Also made,
but not shown
  • pot/utensil rack
  • wine bottle holder
  • heart hooks
  • flint strikers
  • letter openers
  • leaf

Would recommend both the facility and any class with Pat McCarty.

Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA)
2016 Conference

Salt Lake City
Utah State Fairpark
July 13-16, 20116

The 2016 Conference theme was EDUCATION -- the reason ABANA was started! There were hands-on demonstrations, teaching tents, seminars, and evening forging competitions! Attempts to get in on at least one of the workshops proved futile. No matter if I showed up a 7 am in the morning when the signup sheets were supposed to be put out the workshop was always "double-booked" for the entire day. Thoroughly enjoyed the workshops on animal heads and tongs, as well as the presentations by the California Blacksmiths, Louisiana Metalsmiths, and others. I found fantastic deals on a damascus pocket knife, sanding attachment for a bench grinder, and a new apron. With my experience in trying to sign up for workshops, I'm letting my membership expire. I doubt that I'll be attending 2018's conference in Richmond, Virginia, or any future ABANA conferences for that matter. I don't need to spend several thousand dollars to attend a conference that won't allow all members a chance to participate and learn. ABANA has proven, to me, that it's not an organization I want to belong to anymore.

Pima County Fair's new blacksmithing exhibit house
The cast of demonstrators outside
the new blacksmith's shop
Bill, Harold, and Travis heating metal
Harold, Travis, and Bill heating
metal for a demonstration
Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
opens shop at the Pima County Fair

April 14-24, 2016

A special thanks to the Flores family for the donation of the equipment.

damascus billet Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
Damascus Workshop

February 19-21, 2016
Grizzly Iron Works
Phoenix, Az

Well, good thing I can be flexible. My cholla handle idea didn't pan out. Cholla has a hollow center and a lattice-like surface. If I were to try to make a handle out of it, I'd have to forge a round tang to fill the center hollow area. And I'd have to keep forging for every little twist and narrowing of the wood. Or I could forge the tang to fit the narrowest part of the cholla and then fill the remaining space with an epoxy. Of course, the lattice surface would continuously "leak" the epoxy out of the wood so ...

So, I went with ironwood for the handle. I chose a "waffle" pattern to impress into the billet to create the pattern. Not a good idea. Why, because it pressed too deep into the billet and I forgot that all that pattern has to be ground out so you end up with a flat, clean piece of steel. Several hours of gringing on the horizontal grinder later I finally had the beginnings of a knife that I could forge into shape. Midway through forming the tang I gave up on hand forging and went to the power hammer.

Forever later, after hardening and tempering, and sanding galore, I started etching. I decided to leave it in the ferric acid at least twice as long as last time. Success! The pattern came out fantastically. This time I got the handle fitted, the holes drilled, and the pins cut and fitted. Eventually, I'll get the handle glued on and sanded.

damascus billet Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
Damascus Workshop
October 23-25, 2015
Grizzly Iron Works
Phoenix, Az

The class will begin on Friday evening assembling the billet and starting to weld them. Saturday we will finish the billet and forge it into a blade. On Sunday we will work on the finishing and handle. You will learn the basics of Damascus, including prepping the material, several different patterns, the basics of grinding, etching the Damascus, and finishing.

New Mexico Artist Blacksmith Association
Hands On Workshop With Randy McDaniel

July 17-19, 2015
Iron To Live With Blacksmith Studio
2873A Industrial Road
Santa Fe, NM 87507

Randy presented a 3 day master workshop from July 17 to July 19 on the use of hydraulic forging press for creating works of art in steel, bronze, and copper. This was a hands-on workshop and participants used several presses under Randy's direction to create artistic works. Randy demonstrated and presented material from his recent book "Hydraulic Forging Press for the Blacksmith" and discussed his artistic inspiration, tooling and techniques.

belt buckle texturing toolWe started off making "pressing plates". Pressing plates will make the impressions on the steel, bronze, brass, and copper that we will press into our plates. First off, I made several plates. One came from an pattern I had made previously for textured belt buckles. I made the master by taking a piece of ½" mild steel and using an angle grinder with a cutting wheel to make the texture. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the master before I left home so I took a piece of sheet metal that had the impressions pounded into it with me. Less than ideal, but better than nothing.

My other plates were made with a section of twisted railroad spike, and a piece of 5/16" mild steel rod that I folded over and then twisted. My final plate was to be a snake. Following a trick Randy told us about, I pounded a piece of ¼" rod using half-face blows to give a oval shape to the snake. The purpose of the oval shape is to allow the "snake" to be taken out the the plate after being pressed into it. After forging, I gave it a couple of wiggles. Next I heated the blank plate to an orange heat, placed the "snake" onto the plate and used the press to push the cold snake into the hot plate. After quenching the snake and plate, I was able to pull the snake out of the mold. I then reheated the plate and using my "eye socket punch" put a head on my snake. After hardening, the plates are ready to go.

Old Friends
Randy and his teacher Frank Turley

Next up, we heated the pieces of copper/brass/bronze we were using in the forges. I quickly learned that heating the non-ferrous metals isn't quite like heating steel. The melting temperature is definitely lower. A sure sign was when the copper started melting in the forge. Also learned that brass and bronze can flake and crumble while heating if you don't pay enough attention.

While the metal was heating the pressing plates were put onto the anvil of the press. When the metals were ready we put them on top of the plate and let the hydraulic press do its work. The result, a nice piece with a raised imprint.

New Mexico Artist Blacksmith Association
Summer Conference With Randy McDaniel

Host: Helmut Hillenkamp, Iron to Live With

Saturday, Jul 11-12, 2015
Iron To Live With Blacksmith Studio
2873A Industrial Road
Santa Fe, NM 87507

The theme of the two day conference was hollow forming, using 2 dimensional cut patterns to produce 3 dimensional works of art. Along the way Randy McDaniel presented material from his excellent book "A Blacksmithing Primer" and shared his forty plus years of blacksmithing experience with the group. Randy spent time at the power hammer and hydraulic press but emphasized and demonstrated techniques and tooling useful for all blacksmiths from beginning to experienced.

March 23-28, 2015 - Special Toolsmithing Frank Turley Forge, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Forging tools from specialty steels and then hardening, tempering, and finishing them. Once again I had to deal with coal forges. This time we had to shovel the coal into wheelbarrows, then break the big chunks into smaller chunks. Then we had to build, light, and maintain our fires. At home I'd turn on the valve, light the gas, and then get to work.

Class usually started with demos and instruction on particular steels by Frank and his assistant Taylor, and what methods we'd use to anneal, harden, and temper the tools we'd make. Between oil hardened, water hardened, and air hardened guess which is my favorite! We made a variety of tools, including chisels, punches, and tongs. My major project was a new hammer. I previously had a 800 gram Hofi-style cross pein that I loved. Now I have a 3.5 pound cross pein with a longer handle. Don't know what I was missing all these years. Plus, Frank got me to abandon my "dinky blows"; those little taps between blows to the metal I was working. Returning to Santa Fe recently for the Randy McDaniel demos and workshop allowed me to show Frank and Taylor my finished hammer complete with handle.

normalizing on the floor
Resting on the floor before grinding and sanding.

My new hammer!
Forged, normalized, hardened, annealed, ground, and sanded.
It was made specially to banish all dinky blows.

April 24-26, 2014 - California Blacksmiths Association Spring Conference Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum, Vista, California

Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum Blacksmiths Shop

Fabulous trip, but it just reinforced my dislike of forging with coal. Best project was the Iron Age Knife (Kvinde Kniv) by Beth Holmberg. Most valuable tip I took away from the project was peening out the blade vs grinding it down and leaving a slightly thicker edge. The thicker edge helps keep the blade from warping, and is easily ground/filed down in finishing. Also found out that peining out the edge can cause the top of the blade to curl upwards. Got to work on that some more.

February 2014 - Powder Coating in Jewelry
Mesa Arts Center

Mesa Arts CenterVery pleasantly surprised by the facility at the Mesa Arts Center. Sam Troxell taught the class. We started out in the jewelry lab with the presses and punch-outs to create our initial pieces out of copper sheet. Then we moved to the blacksmithing lab outdoors (great ventilation) for applying the powder and curing it. For my own uses, I didn't like the number of layers that had to be laid down on the small pieces, though it seemed to go reasonably quickly. Learned that for jewelry sized pieces a toaster oven from a thrift shop works just fine. After working on the jewelry bits we moved to making a flower. Sam had already precut the sections for the petals and drew out stems for us (I drew mine out some more for a smoother fit). Grit blasted the sections to clean them up, welded them to the stem, heated with a torch to bend and shape, then we powder coated them and cured them in a kitchen oven (not used for food prep). Using the candy colors turned out great and putting on a little thicker coat cut down on the number of layers needed to get a respectable looking piece. All of the pieces (jewelry and flower alike) had base coats of silver applyed before the color coats. For my purposes, every piece probably won't get a silver base coat as I wire wheels most of what I do so it's already bright and shiny. Base coating does help to brighten things under a transparent/candy coat so I'll experiment until I come up with my own likes and dislikes.

September 2013 - Adrian Legge Demo
Camp Verde, AZ

Thoroughly enjoyable and better than I expected. Mark Aspery came along with Adrian and was a perfect foil for Adrian's humour. Gotta remember to bring my folding chair, those bleachers are killing my back. Before I go to another AABA demo I need to go online and order a foldable stadium seat to give me support for my back.

June 2013 - Appalachian Center for Crafts
Candle workshop
Candle Holders – From Traditional to Organic

Spent 3 days in the Tennesee mountains forging and learning from blacksmith Joe Brown. We made a candle holder incorporating dogwood flowers, leaves, grasses, and tendrils. Other than forging and assembly, Joe taught us useful tricks on blending welds and finishing with bees wax. At the end of the class we worked on twists and handles. Would recommend both the facility and any class with Joe Brown.

September 2011 - Arizona Artist Blacksmith's Association

primitive anvil and hammerAABA had an interesting weekend September 17-18 at Camp Verde, AZ. Camp Verde is the home of Pieh Tools and Gordon Williams blacksmithing classes (see below). Highlights were Saturday with Gordon Williams as the demonstrator, and Sunday Terry Porter showed how he makes his wizard bottle opener.

April 2011 - California Blacksmith's Association

Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum Blacksmiths ShopI spent four fabulous days in Vista, California at the California Blacksmith Association's Spring Conference. I got to work with Mark Asprey on making tools, copper foldforming with Pat Downing, inlays with Jay Burnham-Kidwell, folding riveted trivets with Dave Carroll, door knockers with Gary Browns, and steer heads with Josh Buhlert.

class with Gordon Williams

January 2011 - Pieh Tools, Camp Verde, Arizona

I had the good fortune to spend 3 days in Gordon William's blacksmithing classroom at Pieh Tools in Camp Verde, Arizona. It was a fabulous experience and I learned a lot thanks to Gordon and the small size of the class.

April 2010 - Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
Lorelei Simms Demonstration
Fred Borcherdt's Buckskin Ranch
Wilcox, Arizona

Lorelei did demonstrations on her morning glory flowers and vines, including making the tooling for them. She also demoed making grape clusters from carbon balls. These involved a bed of sand, the side of your fist and a MIG welder. For a better and more complete description, follow this link.

Pima Community College West CampusContinuing ....

I'm taking a break from the blacksmithing class at Pima Community College. I first took the class in 2008, but I keep going back to learn more and practice what I've learned since. In this class I started making items that I can sell at local craft markets and I've continued in my "laboratory". I'm sure I'll be back in the future; I miss the flow of ideas and the company (as well as the power hammer).

    Gee Mom, look what else I've found!

Wisdom of my father: "It takes more of a man to walk away from a fight than to stay and fight."