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.
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.
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.
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!!!
California Blacksmith Association Spring Conference
April 27-30, 2017
Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum
- Hands-On Training Sessions
- Tool making workshop
- Making tongs from kits
- Hot cut chisel
- Center punch
- Round punch
- Hardening and tempering
- Drill and tap a screw hole
- Folding Cooking Trivet
- Forged Blacksmith Tongs
- Penandular (Cloak Pin)
- Viking Chest Hinges
- Braided Iron Bracelets
- Hanging Candle Holder
November 25-27, 2016
Grizzly Iron Works
- When you do twisted damascus a reverse twist DOES NOT make it look better!
- When cutting and folding the old blacksmith's had it wrong! Cut then arc weld it together, then start forging again.
Left to right: Marty Young,
Pat McCarty (instructor),
Bob Hauser, Richard Miles, me
John C Campbell Folk School
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
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
- pot/utensil rack
- wine bottle holder
- heart hooks
- flint strikers
- letter openers
Would recommend both the facility and any class with Pat McCarty.
Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America (ABANA)
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 doubt that I'll be attending 2018's conference in Richmond, Virginia, or any future ABANA conferences for that matter.
The cast of demonstrators outside
the new blacksmith's shop
Harold, Travis, and Bill heating
metal for a demonstration
opens shop at the Pima County Fair
April 14-24, 2016
A special thanks to the Flores family for the donation of the equipment.
Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
February 19-21, 2016
Grizzly Iron Works
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.
Arizona Artist Blacksmiths Association
Damascus Workshop October 23-25, 2015
Grizzly Iron Works
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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
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
Very 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 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
AABA 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
I 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.
January 2011 - Pieh Tools, Camp Verde, Arizona
I had the good fortune to spend 3 days in Gordon Smith'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
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.
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!
- Turley Forge Blacksmithing School
- Vesterheim Norwegian-American Folk Art School
- John C Campbell Folk School
- The Anvil Magaziine Guide to Blacksmithing Schools
- Appalachian Center for Crafts
- Colorado Rocky Mountain Blacksmith School
- National Ornamental Metals Museum
- Southern Illinois University
- Penland School of Crafts
- Haystack Mountain School of Crafts
- New England School of Metalwork
- Center for Metal Arts
Americans helping Americans to cross the finish line.