Tool Box

Someone once said the most important tools to the blacksmith in order of importance, hammer, anvil, forge, vise, tongs. By and large it's tough to throw your anvil, forge, and/or vise into your tool box and go to work. So I'll limit this discussion to basic hand tools and an occassional semi-weird tool that does something strange and special. One of the first things you need to figure out is what is your tool box for. If you're a "forge-bound" blacksmith who does all of his/her work in the smithy, then you'll have a number of tool boxes each containing an assortment of tools of the same general type (i.e., hammers, tongs, etc.). If you're an eternal student, like me, then you've got a half dozen (or more) tool bags of different sizes, shapes, configuration, etc. Going to blacksmith association meetings/workshops requires one group of tools, while going to class, for whatever reason, seems to require a completly different set of tools. It's mainly smaller and lighter since I have to carry it a farther distance and since the school has a bunch of tools that I can use so taking my own is oriented toward the tools like hammer and tongs since I need to get used to them, and the schools tongs really suck.

My current favorite tool carriers

Canvas tool bucket from Harbor Freight 5 gallon bucket, Bucket Boss, parts storage seat I've gone through any number of tool carriers over the years. Currently my two top ones are the canvas bucket which I use when I just need a few tools and some metal, like at workshops. It's got pockets on the inside to store punches and chisels along with whatever small stuff I'm using that day. It has plenty of room for a hammer, pair of tongs, eye/ear/hand protection. I also keep a small container of bees wax in the bottom just in case. The 5 gallon bucket allows me to carry enough tools, etc. for when I'm leaving home to attend a conference/workshop. It stays in the truck and I use the canvas bucket to carry what I need from the truck to class. It's got a "Bucket Boss" placed on it to provide pockets both inside the bucket and outside. Sitting on top is a Husky storage seat organizer with little compartments for rivets, tape measure, markers, silver pencils, etc. That way they're handy and I don't have to dig them out of the bottom of the bucket. Plus, I have a handy seat to rest my weary bones.

Basic Tools

Hammer - A standard hardware store blacksmith's cross peen, weight 1-3/4 lb. (25oz.) to 3 pounds (800 - 1500g) is a good place to start. Don't make the mistake of starting with too big a hammer. You will tire quickly and become frustrated as well as possibly hurting yourself. If you are small or slight of build you might even want to try something less than 2 pounds (1000g). If you are under age 18 you probably need a light hammer. Look for an 800 gram (28 oz.) hammer. Under age 14 you probably want a 600-700 gram (24 oz.) hammer. 28 oz. or 800 gram hammers are very popular among experianced smiths. Ball peen, engineer's and rivet hammers are also satisfactory. DO NOT try to substitute a claw hammer. DO try to work with a variety of hammer shapes and sizes to figure out what's best for you.

Tongs - Tried making my own once. Now I buy them from a blacksmith supply shop or online at eBay. Long handled Channel-Lock pliers can substitute and so can Vise-Grips, but only in an emergency. Generally speaking, their handles are too short to keep you from burning your hands (but I know you'll try anyway, I did). Did you know that Vise-Grips were invented by a blacksmith trying to make better blacksmith's tongs?

While I was recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the New Mexico Artist Blacksmiths Association Spring Conference I fell in love with a pair of tongs in Helmet's Iron To Live With Blacksmith Studio. They worked great for picking up small objects from the forge and putting them on the presses. They were bolt-head bent-tip style and basically just had a flattened rivet joint and drawn-out tips. Here are some pictures of them.

NOTE: Vise-Grips actually make lousy tongs except for very small work OR odd billets and should only be used until you get a couple of pairs or REAL tongs. Real tongs don't require tongs to make, except perhaps installing the rivet if you heat it in the forge. There are instructions for making tongs by several methods available via Google.

Personal Safety Equipment

Safety glasses, good ones with side shields. Always wear the correct welding hood, shield or goggles when welding.

Great safety glasses
  • lens assembly is replaceable
  • confortable on face
  • fits over glasses

Welding googles
  • usually limited to shade #5
  • elastic strap tends to deteriorate over time

Weldiing helmet
  • solar powered (i.e., welding arc recharges)
  • adjustable shade
  • darkens in 1⁄25,000th of a second

A leather apron, these can be purchased at any welding supplier (along with gloves, eye and ear protection). Gloves - Numerous types are available. Welding gloves, designed for quick exits when it becomes too hot are generally cumbersome and worn mainly by welders. Leather gloves are the prefered glove and can be purchased pretty much anywhere gloves are sold (I buy mine at Costco, in quantity since I go through about 3 pairs every 6 months).

  • Helps protect cloths from hot metal & sparks
  • Helps keep tools handy

  • Steel toes to protect toes from falling steel
  • Leather resists burning longer (use rawhide laces)

  • Welders gloves too bulky for forging, but easily removed
  • Leather resists heat longer, synthetics (except Kevlar) burn onto skin

Hearing protection (optional but highly recommended). Shop noise varies a great bit and many smiths blame anvil noise on hearing loss.

Ear Plugs
  • fit in ear canal
  • last for awhile

Ear Plugs
  • fit in ear canal
  • hang around neck when not in use
  • tough to lose just one

Ear Plugs
  • disposable
  • usual come in dispenser box so there's always a pair around

Ear Muffs
  • cover entire ear
  • harder to misplace

Always wear 100% cotton when working with fire or hot materials. Most synthetics are flamable and melt, adhearing to the skin as they burn.

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"Thank you, Congress, for spending eight years wishing you could replace me with a Republican. Or, to put it another way," said Obama as a Donald Trump picture appeared in the background. "How do you like me now?" President Barack Obama appearing on the "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon".
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