15+ Blacksmithing Mistakes and How to Avoid Safely?
Blacksmithing is a fun and lucrative profession for anyone aspiring to hop aboard the craft's wagon. However, a lot of people have had their ambitions cut short because of simple avoidable mistakes.
In truth, you need more than an elemental forge and a hammer to get your blacksmithing project underway. Good smithing culture is not defined by how well you can swing a hammer or how fast you can forge a sword, but rather by the safety of your workstation as well as your capacity to evade reckless mistakes that can be harmful and deadly.
In this article, we take a deep dive into common blacksmithing mistakes. Our list might not exhaust everything, but it gives you an idea of what to expect and steer clear of.
Let's Know Each of the Blacksmithing Mistakes
01. Not Having Proper Ventilation
Your success at the blacksmithing shops relies heavily on your tool's quality, performance, and functionality. Ventilation is an integral part of any metal fabrication that occurs indoors. If you are using the best gas forge or coal forge, then proper ventilation is a must.
There should be an uninterrupted flow of air into the Workshop to eliminate any toxic gases produced. While the gas forge emits carbon monoxide, the coal forge emits Sulphur. Both gases are super deadly when inhaled.
Consequently, it is advisable to install a carbon monoxide detector within the workstation before commencing any activity. Other than that, have a ventilator close to the forge to boost airflow.
Another way to promote airflow into the Workshop is to incorporate a chimney or leave a window or two open.
02. Disorganized Workshop; keep your tools visibly nearby
A model blacksmithing shop should have everything organized in an orderly fashion. Whether it is the anvil, forge, or hammer, all tools in your workstation should have a place of their own.
The same goes for equipment layout, which you should do right for the sake of convenience. For instance, it is okay to have the anvil and forge adjacent to each other. Nevertheless, the distance between the two should be guided by the stock length you plan to work on.
Of course, flammable material should be away from the forge. Where you stand while forging is essential as well, depending on your hammering hand.
03. Keeping Forge near Flammable Materials
It is the first thing you should wrap your head around even before thinking about becoming a blacksmith. Flammable materials are your worst enemy. If you do not intend to see your shop up in flames, keep any volatile agents as far as possible from the forge.
In forging, it is normal for bits of charcoal and coal to escape into the air. Remember, fire is triggered when heat, oxygen, and fuel are combined. If the heat from coal or charcoal lands on wooden stuff, the outcome could be catastrophic, considering that oxygen is always present.
As a result, apart from putting away any flammable material, always have a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water close to the forge just in case anything goes south.
04. Wearing Polyester Clothing or clothing that can get distorted by heat or catch fire
The preferred clothing material for a blacksmith is cotton. It is less flammable hence ideal to use when close to the forge.
In the same way, it is all-natural and super breathable, allowing you to work for long without getting drenched in sweat. Contrarily, clothes that feature polyester are more likely to catch fire.
Polyester material may be inexpensive, but it contains compounds that make it relatively flammable.
05. Not using safety equipment or using the wrong ones; safety glasses, earbuds, gloves
Your level of safety at the blacksmithing shop is as good as the kind of protective gear you opt to put on. Moreover, every part of your gear counts the earbuds, safety glasses, or work boots.
The blacksmithing environment is quite volatile, with numerous unpredictable factors in play. Every part of your body that is exposed spells doom to your well-being.
Invest in top-notch safety gear to ensure your safety is not jeopardized.
06. Cutting or Grinding Without a Face Shield
Working without a proper face shield would be a grave mistake for any blacksmith. Any seasoned craftsman knows better than to work on a spark-producing project minus solid face protection.
Sadly, most blacksmiths tend to be ignorant of how dangerous metal sparks can be. Throwing caution to the wind in such a delicate scenario could amount to a life-threatening injury.
You could lose your eye if the metal spark or any flying bit of coal or any other material accidentally lands on you. Keep in mind that the likelihood of such an occurrence in the course of grinding or cutting is exceptionally high.
Therefore, investing in a quality pair of safety glasses would go a long way in keeping your eyes safe hence saving you from a costly hospital trip.
07. Starting with Advanced Projects that could exhaust you; start simple and build-up
You cannot go from zero to ten in a day, let alone a week, when it comes to working metals. It is a technological world. Blacksmithing demands tons of time, absolute attention, and unmatched dedication.
While learning the ropes, starting with simple, less demanding, or exhausting projects is advisable. Tackling an advanced project with unpolished skills is frustrating and can potentially kill your passion for the art.
The trade also carries a substantial amount of risk as it pertains to injury. Thus, working on a sophisticated project at a beginner level makes you susceptible to serious harm.
If you are still new to the craft, you should probably develop bare nails or chisels. Take ample time to understand the art and gradually build on your skills to an expert level.
08. Wrong Hammering Technique; hammering without rhythm, putting a thumb on the hammer
Occasional hammering is imperative for any excellent blacksmithing work. The hammer is a necessary work companion in a metal-focused workshop. Nonetheless, a considerable chunk of blacksmiths does not have the slightest idea about how to use this tool accordingly.
Like any other tool, the hammer can be deadly if used in the wrong way. The last thing you need is to have the hammer land on your thumb. Not only will such an experience be painful, but it can also put you out of work for life.
Similarly, missing your target frequently leads to unnecessary energy loss. Effective hammering requires a seamless flow of energy from your shoulder, onto the elbow, and to the wrist joint.
Other vital factors that you need to mind include the thickness of the hammer's handle and its weight. It would be unwise to work with a bulky hammer, especially if you are a beginner.
Similarly, go for a loose grip instead of a tight one for heightened flexibility. For power strokes, ensure you grip the hammer as close to the end of the handle as possible.
On the flip side, if you intend to get more control for a precision stroke, you need to grip the hammer close to the head.
Most importantly, you ought to keep every strike strategic and systematic by hammering in an angle parallel to the anvil's face.
09. Wearing Gloves at the wrong time; you need a handgrip to hold metals that aren't hot.
Wearing gloves when working on machines is vicious. Although this may sound contradictory to what we have discussed about safety gear, it is true.
Gloves are only applicable when holding hot metal or working around the forge. Gloves are pretty slippery in comparison to working with bare hands.
For this reason, doing machinery work with your gloves heightens your chances of snagging your fingers.
It is not wise to use your gloves on the lathe or drill press.
10. Setting an Improper Height of the Anvil that does not support good hammering.
You need to set the anvil at a perfect height to hammer your metals without struggling. Generally, hammering is a physical session that might cause discomfort when the size of the anvil is not correct. Your lower back will strain a lot when the anvil is set too low.
Inversely, striking the anvil when too high will injure the elbow, wrists, and shoulder. You need to be more accurate to curb any bodily stress that an improperly set anvil height might bring about.
Depending on your hammering hand, stand by the anvil's side with your legs wide apart. Stand on the right side if you are left-handed and vice versa.
After that, using your hammering hand, make a fist, then use your knuckles to estimate a precise height for the anvil.
11. Leaving Hot Metal Everywhere during sessions
One of the many mistakes that most artisans fail to watch out for. A good number of blacksmiths tend to leave hot metal over the anvil. The end to such a simple mistake can be catastrophic.
What if it falls on your foot while you walk by?
If you do not incur severe burns, you might have to deal with a broken leg.
Who wants that?
Maybe they imagine that since the metal is not red hot, it does not pose any serious threat to their well-being. This doesn't seem right and misguided.
The situation can deteriorate even further if you accidentally leave the hot metal next to flammable material.
To be on the safe side, make an effort to keep everything organized regardless of how exhausted you may be.
Your safety and that of your Workshop should be a top priority.
12. Not heating metals properly for hammering
Rushing is not a good smithing practice. This habit is synonymous with beginners who are often in a hurry to get through the heating stage.
In opposition, an actual blacksmith should allow the metal to heat sufficiently before hammering it away. Only when the metal is hot and malleable enough is the hammering process effective.
Otherwise, you will be wasting a lot of time and effort. Hammering the metal when it is not hot enough could lead to breakage, which is a massive loss to your resources.
Thus, let the metal heat up long enough to turn dark orange instead of the usual deep red color for effortless hammering.
13. Not watching your fire to ensure it doesn't cool down.
It is simple: when the fire is not enough, your metals will not be heated sufficiently, resulting in time wastage. You have to keep a close eye on your fire at all times to ensure the forging session goes on without a hitch. It is particularly challenging when you have to multitask.
For instance, you might have to wait for the metal to cool down or focus on hammering, which will divert your attention from the fire. In case the fire goes out, you will have to lay around idle while the forge restarts.
All this waiting and lingering have a detrimental impact on your psyche apart from being incredibly frustrating.
14. Forgetting to clean your ash trap
An ash trap that is stuffed or clogged will give you a hard time during your blacksmithing work. It forms a barrier that causes sparks to fly all over the place.
Indeed, it is almost impossible to control the sparks emitted during the process. Even when you are donned in full protective gear, getting used to the sparking is pretty tricky. It makes it hard to focus.
Working with a mind that has not settled is not healthy in the blacksmithing environment. The best way to keep the sparks in check is to always keep the ash trap neat at all times.
15. Being absent-minded; be present to avoid accidents
It would help if you focused on the work at hand and let your mind drift away when working around the fire, hammers, and hot metal. A single misdirected strike of the hammer can be dangerous.
Let us not even talk about holding hot metal with bare hands. It is just the tip of the iceberg concerning the harm that absent-mindedness can bring you.
However, it is elementary to fall into mental exhaustion when smithing; always stay awake and put your mind in the game.
Make sure you know your intentions before working the forge, doing machine work, or striking a piece of metal.
16. Not having fun while at it; to produce great work, you need to enjoy what you do!
It is especially crucial for beginners. You can never expect anything positive when working with a negative attitude. The secret to a flawless blacksmithing session is to enjoy every bit of it. It is a craft honed after dedicating hours and hours of practice.
Frankly, you cannot become an expert overnight; you have to start small and work your way to advance. Whether you do it as a hobby or expect a payment, put your heart into it, and the outcome will be fantastic.
Working with a twisted mind will only culminate in stress and unwanted injury.
We hope that your experience will be much safer and more enjoyable now that you are aware of a good portion of common blacksmithing mistakes that you are likely to encounter in a workshop.
Whether you are a beginner or even an expert, do not be afraid to make mistakes. They are part of the learning process.
Instead, work on bettering your skills with every shortcoming. Crowning it all, your safety should come first all the time.