Forging ahead

It’s a craft that always captivated me: blacksmithing. The art of working and shaping metal into useable objects.

I was always fond of the “Skippers of the Kameleon“, a Dutch series of childrens books, written by Hotze de Roos. In the books the twin sons of a Frisian blacksmith have all kinds of adventures with their boat “The Cameleon”. De Roos, a carpenter by trade, knew the activities of a village blacksmith well, and describes them in detail when the twins help their father in the shop.

The books spoke of the idea that it is possible to make and repair stuff yourself. Regardless of the material, the boys were always tinkering. In 2016 I wrote this blog post about it…

For years I have wanted to try this craft myself. To make some of my own woodworking tools; chisels, gouges, knives etc.

But where to start? Buying a forge and the tools was far too expensive, so I had to make and collect them over time. Making a small break drum forge, getting a couple of thongs, hammers and an anvil…

My forge: an old break drum on a foot. A ventilator pushes air through the orange pipe.

Three weeks ago the moment was there. I gathered a couple of basic tools, charcoal, far too few information but enough hubris to have a go. A first day of trying this new craft was planned.

Started with four hooks for the rope walk. Heating up the ends, and bending it to shape. Then on with a small gouge, made from an old spade bit. Flattening out, and bending it to shape only took a couple of minutes. So three other examples followed…

On with two small hacksaws after the Mastermyr example. Two hammer heads and finally starting a set of hinges (just before running out of charcoal).

It mighy sound crazy but it went a lot better and easier than I expected. In my mind it always had been one of those impossible tasks. A secret and sacred art, only to be learned by the sacrificing years of dedication and at least a couple of virgin unicorns to Vulcan. At least not something giving reasonable results at the first try… The biggest sacrifice was a couple of very sore and painfull muscles which nagged on for a couple of days.

The Mastermyr-style hacksaws.

Working metal this way is completely different than wood. Metal is a very plastic material which becomes malleable by heath. You can always add to it and undo mistakes. While wool is less forgiving and worked mostly by substraction. Like the difference between sculpting in marble  or clay.

The iron I use is sourced from waste materials. Some old leaf springs and drills for knives, and chisels. Other pieces of scrap for the hinges and saw frames. The hammer heads were a cold chisel in their previous life…

One of the finished hammers.

And the approach is different. Metal has a deadline. When you take it from the fire you have got to know what steps you will take. While wood gives you all the time you need to work, look and measure between steps.


I would to learn more and expand this new craft. Not to do anything professional with it, but as a step towards that ultimate goal of making an entire instrument with home-forged tools…

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This entry was posted in Projects, Research, Tools, Uncategorized, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Forging ahead

  1. Berniesr says:

    Looks great and simple too. Is the orange pipe plastic ?

    Liked by 1 person

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