After producing your own food and making your own alcohol I think the next best long-term survival skill to have is blacksmithing. There use to be a blacksmith in every town and on every ship. I know when alot of people think of blacksmithing the main thing they think of is knives and horse shoes but that is about the furthest from what the blacksmith produced. He made the nails for building homes, hinges for doors, handles for gates and drawers, locks, rails for stairways, fixed wagons, and pretty much anything else that has to do with metal. There has been a huge resurgence in the past 5 years in blacksmithing. Most of it has to do with the show Forged in Fire. That show is more about blademithing than blacksmithing even though a blacksmith can make knives. I prefer to make usable things for my daily life. Not just flatten and grind metal.
As the empire continues to decline I do believe shortages will continue to get worse. We need to be able to produce as much as possible for ourselves in an attempt to step away from the system. Blacksmithing for me is one way to do this. I love producing my own tools, racks, hooks, gate latches.
Getting started in blacksmithing doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. I’m going to go over the cheapest way to get into blacksmithing.
First thing is we need the equipment. That is where the biggest costs will be. The equipment needed are the anvil, forge, hammer, some sort of tongs, and a vice.
Let’s start with the anvil. For a beginner the best and cheapest thing you can do is look for anvil shaped objects or just large blocks of steel. If you have a scrap yard you may be able to pick up something you can beat on. What you are looking for is mass. A chunk of steel 3x6x6 is a great starter anvil. You can do alot of work with just that piece of steel.
Another option is a piece of RR track. This is what I started on. Track doesn’t have the mass and weight that a 3x6x6 piece of steel has but it will work. The problem with track is trying to get it. It is illegal to go onto railroad property and get it but if you know someone who works there is shouldn’t be hard to get.
Now if you are wanting to pay for an anvil probably the first place you will look is at harbor freight. I have no experience with them. I have heard they are soft and cheap. There is a more expensive anvil selling on Amazon and eBay right now. Some sort of Chinese off brand I do believe. Also I have no experience with them also but some of the videos I have watched seem to show they are ok. The next step up will be farrier anvils. There are alot of them. I have an NC TOOLS farrier anvil. I do believe it’s a 75 lbs anvil. This has been a great anvil and I honestly could have gotten by my whole life with just this anvil. They run somewhere around $350 or so depending on the model.
I ended up buying a Rigid double horn 175 lbs anvil. I love this anvil. I love the double horn. The face is at least twice as big as the NC Tool anvil. The horn of closer to a perfect circle. The mass keeps the ringing down some compared to the NC Tool anvil. It was definitely worth the money. Now speaking of money. You may think it will be cheaper to go out and get an old anvil. You will be sorely mistaken. Used anvils are going for more than new anvils if you can even find any. If you are wanting to spend $1000+ just buy a new anvil.
Next up you need a forge. The cheapest way is to make a brake rotor/brake drum forge. Below I put a diagram how to make a brake drum forge. Its simple and effective. You can use coal or charcoal in it. You will need an air supply. You can use a hand blower, a bellow, or even a hair dryer. I used a hair dryer on mine until I go my propane forge.
My personal preference is a propane forge. It heats my shop when it’s -10, I can heat multiple pieces at once, and I have less likely chances of burning my piece up. Now the downside is it heats my shop up so summer time I don’t do alot of forging. Also gas is expensive compared to coal or charcoal.
Next you need a hammer. Below is the standard cross peen hammer. The one in the picture is a Harbor Freight hammer. Very inexpensive but also not top quality. I’ve been using a 3lbs Estwing Blacksmith’s Hammer since I’ve started. It’s still my goto hammer. You can also use ball peen hammers or a farriers rounding hammer. After awhile you will want all 3 of these hammers for different forging techniques. Also a rawhide hammer is a great addition. You use it when you want to bent metal and not forge it.
Tongs, tong, tongs…
You are going to need something to grab the hot steel. You are gonna need tongs. At first a cheap pair of channel locks or vice grips will do but eventually you are going to have to buy a set or try forging your own… I would highly suggest learning to forge your own. My first set were not good. I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was supposed to make tongs. The funny thing is that those tongs I still use the most to this day and I actually know how to make tongs now. I’m still not great at it but I can do it.
Next you will need a vice. A standard bench vice will serve you fine. The couple problems I’ve seen with bench vices is that the heat from the steel you put in them end up breaking the teeth of the vice. The other problem is they aren’t built to take beating a piece on them like a leg vice. Leg vices have no teeth really to break and are made to hold a piece of metal while you work it with a hammer. If you can find a leg vice definitely pick one up.
You are gonna need metal. If you are just starting out the best thing to do is find scrap metal and try making things out of it. Rebar is your friend! Used lawnmower blades are great for knives. Old files work great for knives and firesteel. Any scrap metal will work to practice with. At some point you will want to buy your metal. It will save you time in forging when you use a piece the size you need.
There will be some other tools you may need. A used farrier rasp file is one. We use it to hot file heat metal. Normal files are a must for filing cold metal. Punches and hot cuts. You can order them or forge them out of some high carbon steel like sucker rod from the oil field or buy some 4140 3/4 round stock to forge them.
This is plenty of information to get you going in the amazing journey of blacksmithing. This is by far one of the best hobbies I have. With a little work you will be making your own things in no time. Happy forging!