10 Blacksmithing FAQs
- How Can I Get Started Blacksmithing?
- Can I Burn Wood for Blacksmithing?
- Can I Burn Charcoal Briquettes for Blacksmithing?
- Can I Insulate a Propane Forge With Rockwool or Roxul?
- Is Propane or Coal Better for Blacksmithing?
- What Is the Circular Hole in an Anvil For?
- What Is the Square Hole in the Anvil For?
- Why Are Anvil Horns Rounded?
- Why Do You Hit a Hammer on the Anvil Before Striking?
- Should I Purchase a 55-lb Iron Anvil for Blacksmithing?
1. How Can I Get Started Blacksmithing?
One of the best ways to get started blacksmithing is to take a class near where you live. Blacksmithing is not an inexpensive hobby. While you can end up producing fine work that is valuable, the skills, tools, and time required to get started are significant. A blacksmithing class will give you a taste of what to expect, which will enable you to make a more informed decision to continue metalworking.
2. Can I Burn Wood for Blackmithing?
Yes, you can. However, it will burn colder than coal. You will need more fuel in order to forge and to get more airflow, and it will take longer to heat metal to the proper forging temperature. More insulation in your forge will also help. You can also create lump charcoal by burning wood in a low-oxygen environment. Converting wood to lump charcoal will decrease impurities and remove water, which will increase the temperature at which it burns.
3. Can I Burn Charcoal Briquettes for Blacksmithing?
Yes, you can burn grilling charcoal in a forge to blacksmith. However, charcoal briquettes have fillers and other additives that cause them to burn at a lower temperature than anthracite or bituminous coal. It will take longer to heat up metal in a forge that uses grilling briquettes. Increased airflow and insulation will help, but charcoal briquettes are intended for grilling food, not heating metal.
4. Can I Insulate a Propane Forge With Rockwool or Roxul?
Rockwool and Roxul are mineral products that are touted as being excellent for use in homes to slow down house fires. They are less expensive than ceramic wool blankets, and they certainly are tempting to use in a forge. However, rockwool is listed as being able to withstand "more than 1000°C" or about 1800°F. However, the binder used to hold rockwool together will evaporate at 250°C (482°F). Rockwool also melts once it reaches temperatures over 1220°C or 2300°F. Propane with ambient air can burn hotter than that, but your forge should have a refractory or reflective coating, which would decrease the temperature of your insulation somewhat. Coal will burn even hotter than propane with ambient air.
A representative from Rockwell responded to me with: "Our products have a maximum continuous service temperature of 650C. See datasheet below. We don’t recommend use of our products outside this temperature range. It is true that the Stone Wool fibers itself do not melt until temperatures reach above 1000C. However, our products are not tested for use at that range. With temps that high, sintering and shrinkage may occur and the thermal conductivity is not known. In terms of a comparison to ceramic fiber blankets, in general the thermal performance is similar, however ceramics have a higher melting point and can withstand higher temperatures than stone wool insulation. Also ceramics typically do not contain or have very little binder, so it is a softer material for handling. Sometimes for high temperature applications, a combination of both materials are used, with a first layer of ceramics to cut down the heat below 650C and then the rest mineral wool in order to save on costs."
A ceramic blanket is available on eBay and Amazon. I recommend getting the 2600°F, as this one-time cost will benefit you the entire time you are using your forge. Your metal will heat more quickly or you will be able to use less propane, saving time or money in the long run.
5. Is Propane or Coal Better for Blacksmithing?
Like most things, the answer is not simple. Certain situations make choosing what kind of fuel to use better or worse for blacksmithing. Propane is easier to use on a daily basis, but coal burns hotter and makes forge welding easier. However, coal burns much hotter, and it can cause damage to your work if you let it get too hot.
For a backyard hobbyist, I would recommend starting with propane. For a professional blacksmith, where speed is important for overall output, coal might be a better choice. A knifemaker might like propane, electric, or induction because it is easier to control the temperature. Certain steels need to be held at temperatures for extended periods of time in order to harden and temper correctly. This is more difficult with a coal forge.
6. What Is the Circular Hole in an Anvil For?
A pritchel hole is a circular hole, generally in an anvil. A pritchel hole is used for punching holes into metal. The piece of metal is placed over the hole, with the desired hole placed over the center of the pritchel hole. A punch is driven into the metal, generally with a hammer. The metal is flipped and the punch is driven into the opposing side. A metal slug will eventually be forced out of the metal, leaving a hole. Punches may be different shapes but are frequently round or square.
7. What Is the Square Hole in the Anvil For?
A hardy hole is a square hole, generally found in an anvil. A hardy hole is used to hold tools with which to work. Hardy tools have square shanks that fit into the square hole, preventing them from moving excessively. One of the most common hardy tools is a "hot cut." A hot cut hardy is used for cutting metal rods or squares.
8. Why Are Anvil Horns Rounded?
A typical anvil horn is rounded in order to allow a blacksmith to put curves and bends into metal. This can be decorative or functional, depending on what is needed.
9. Why Do You Hit the Hammer on the Anvil Before Striking?
When forging, scale forms on the exterior of the metal on which you are working. Sometimes, this scale can get stuck to the hammer or remain on the forge. Tapping the hammer on the anvil face will hopefully dislodge any scale that has adhered to the hammer face. If you watch a blacksmith work, they frequently wipe the anvil clean of this scale as well. Scale left between the hammer, metal piece, and anvil will leave an imprint on the metal on which you are working.
10. Should I Purchase a 55-lb Iron Anvil for Blacksmithing?
If it is given to you, you can use an iron anvil to get started. However, iron makes for a very poor anvil. Consider it a stopgap until you can get something better. Even a light piece of steel mounted to a stump or some 4x4s is going to make a better surface for blacksmithing than iron is able to provide.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.