Spring 2014

Blacksmithing is something I’ve done only a little of in my life until last year when I got my forge. It’s been increasingly hard to get good carving tools in the last few years, and I’ve also wanted some particular qualities which I couldn’t seem to find.
Hoffman anvil, Cliff Carroll anvil, Lee Valley tools anvil
My progression in anvils over the last year, with my Lee Valley anvil on top, a 35 pound Cliff Carroll, and now my Jymm Hoffman 110 pound anvil on the bottom.

I started out with something called the one-brick forge, which is just a soft fire brick with a propane torch stuck in the side. It was precarious, but helped me make some repousse tools for my jewelry making. I even bought a small anvil, which is about one kilogram, but is actually hardened properly.

The limitations of the one or two brick forge are mainly that I could not get even heat on a piece, and it was kind of slow. Not a problem with the repousse tools, but I couldn’t seem to make a decent knife with it.

Thermal Art Design makes a bladesmith forge which is pretty simple to use. It has some interesting little innovations such as a stainless steel burner, and a dish-shaped hearth inside. It is also a ‘through’ design, with not doors on the front or back, but it still works better than the other propane forges I’ve used. I got the one burner design which seems to be working just fine for me for knives and adze blades. I want to start making some jewelry stakes also, and might need a slightly bigger forge for that.
3 anvils (1)
My old anvil stand with construction ties and big wheels in the way.

I just got my Jymm Hoffman anvil this week also, and set it up on my old anvil stand. The construction ties didn’t look as retro chic as I thought they might, and just kinda made the stand look slapped together. So I and hammered out some mild steel straps, darkened them with some wax and screwed them on for much better results. The construction straps all vibrated and made noise also, which drove me nuts. I’ll probably put a couple of holders on it for a hammer, punch, chalk pencil etc., but I don’t really like to have stuff jangling around on the anvil stand as I find it distracting and noisy.
Hoffman anvil
Fixed up the old anvil stand: removed the wheels, changed the braces, and cleaned it up a little.

I caulked the new anvil in place, and removed the big wheels from the side of the stand, as they were getting in the way. I might move a smaller wheel under the flat horn side, where I think it’d be in the way less, or even make a small dolly for the entire thing. I move stuff around my shop all the time, and having things on their own wheels seems best for me.

I’ve only really used a few anvils in my life, and out West here most have been more like farrier anvils used for horseshoes. I was looking at Nimba Anvils also because they and the Hoffman anvils both have big centre masses, but went with Jymms anvil because it has a little less in the horn and more weight in the body, and I think the H13 steel is wildly tough, after having tried to forge some of it. In the picture above of my three anvils, you can see the horn on the Cliff Carroll anvil is about the same size as my new Hoffman anvil. As I don’t make horseshoes, or do any ornamental scrollwork, I’d like to keep the mass where it’d do me the most good.

I used it yesterday for the first time and I have to say that I love it! It’s got some mass, but I can still move it around my shop when I need to, and the finish on the surface is excellent. There are a few bumps in the hardy hole, but my Cliff Carroll anvil’s hardy was really uneven, so tooling I made for it could only fit in one way, and often seemed to get stuck. I’ll just file out this hardy hole a little, or file down my tooling; pretty easy either way.
Har lev hammers

Among a few other odds and ends, including an old leg vise, were the purchase of a Har-lev rounding hammer to compliment a diagonal cross pean I got for my birthday. I fiddled around with them a bit and liked the feel of them enough to also buy Amit’s dvd on blacksmithing and ergonomic hammering. It’s great for me, as I have no one around to show me what to do with my tools, and I’ve had an ongoing problem with tennis elbow and am really paying attention to my adzing and hammering technique. The handle shape is far superior to any other hammer I’ve used, and the hammers I got were really well made, with some kind of rubber holding the hammer head on and dampening the vibration. I think I’ll add a bit more of a convex shape to the rounding hammer, but at 3.5 pounds it really moves metal. I’ve only ever seen short handles like these on silversmithing hammers used to forge spoons and the like, but Amit’s hammers have more of a rectangular shape like you see on Japanese hammers.

I’d put up a YouTube video a couple of months back and was astounded by the number of stupid comments. Anyway, if you’re here on my webpage you may be less disappointed that I show how to make a carving knife, than how to make a zombie killer knife (while living in your moms basement).

I’ve done several workshops on this because I can’t take it for granted that people will know how to sand and grind blades while not destroying the temper of the steel. This tool is inexpensive to make, and of all the knives out there which can be modified, Opinels are pretty easy to get, have a steel (similar to 1095) which holds a decent edge and isn’t too hard to sharpen. These blades are also quite thin, which means it can cut the long thin slices of wood we tend to take off while woodcarving; so it doesn’t ‘wedge’ the wood open like a thicker blade does, and create a lot of drag.

opinel knifeopinel carver
If you can make this blade modification, you have also learned how to be safe with a knife, how to sharpen, and respect for a tool because you’ve essentially made it yourself and know how long it takes.