Buying Tools

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Where to buy

The new smith will find tools much more quickly and easily if he or she looks in some of the following places. Draft horse sales or auctions, Antique Tractor & Steam Engine show flea markets, Blacksmith club chapter meetings, Welding shop auctions, and Farm auctions. More on this below. Buy the best and be prepared to pay top dollar. And don't let the auctioneer panic you into buying something with ridiculous statements about these tools no longer being made or that they are the last of their kind.

Buyers beware.  While some good tools can be had at the events listed below, many of the tools are often junk. Know what you are buying or bring a friend who does. At a recent engine show flea market I saw several blowers which were broken beyond repair with an asking price equal to a working blower. At this same show, two junk forges were offered at $250 each. These forges had been found in a landfill and cleaned up before being brought to the flea market. The sellers described themselves as authorities on blacksmith's tooling and claimed they knew the 'correct' price for this stuff. These guys were nothing more then con-men and liars. Don't buy it if it looks wrong or doesn't work well unless you know exactly what you are doing. Some of the worst junk is actually pulled out of a scrap yard for a few bucks and then offered to unwary buyers for hundreds of dollars. Old tools and forges are often missing important parts or crippled beyond use while the seller has some bogus story about how the buyer (you!) could have it fixed like new again in a small amount of time. Beware! When you buy garbage, that is what you have.

For new tools see the links at the bottom of the page. For used tools see the following sources.


Draft horse sales; Blacksmith's tools are always found at these sales because draft horses must still be shod using the old ways (hot shoeing by a blacksmith). To learn of a draft horse sales in your area in the United States, visit the Draft Horse Journal website at http://www.drafthorsejournal.com/ . Use the navigation bar at the top of the webpage under 'Events' and navigate to 'Sale Schedule'. A good source of forges and anvils and blowers. These sales generally last two or more days. The tools and equipment sell early in the sale and horses towards the end.

Antique Tractor and Steam Power or Threshing shows have lots of old tools and are usually a source of blacksmith tools, though you will need to research a show of this kind in your area. The shows usually have a flea market selling everything from old tools to engine parts. A fair source of forges and anvils and blowers, but buyer needs to be very wary as a lot of junk is sold at flea markets for excessive prices by people who claim to be knowledgeable of good blacksmith's tooling.

Blacksmith club chapter meetings offer the new smith a chance to locate new tools because members of these clubs usually know others in the group with tools for sale and discuss their visits to other events and businesses that have tools for sale. To find a blacksmith club/chapter in your area, try this link http://www.abana.org/affiliates/affiliate_list.shtml and look for their local chapters section. The chapters are all locally run and cater to the members who meet to share ideas and have fun. Be aware that many of the people in a.b.a.n.a. can be downright arrogant and full of self-praising boasts, yet they can still be a good resource for beginners to try out tools and equipment and meet others interested in smithing.

Welding shop and Farm auctions often have lots of anvils and hammers for sale although, tongs generally aren't available. These are often posted in the business section of a newspaper classifieds, or in the farm section. Wide variety and range of tool quality and size. Be careful what you buy at these sales as the auctioneers tend to make it sound as though these tools are the last of their kind. Check your newspaper for sale dates.

 

The basic tools of the blacksmith.

To start smithing you will need an anvil, hammers, tongs, a forge, fire tools (rake, shovel, poker), blacksmith's forge blower or bellows, a cut-off hardie to fit the square hole in your anvil, and blacksmith's coal. This is all it takes to start. You can build your own tools from this set and add as you need them.

Things we buy. Buy what you have to. This means mostly anvils, and forges and forge parts such as firepots and blowers, and hammers. Many ready-made forges come with their own blowers, but if they don't then the buyer needs to be prepared to purchase one. Steel anvils or wrought iron anvils with steel faces give the best forging results with the least effort and last the longest. Forges and blowers, we can use blowers to build our own custom forges and buy a variety of sizes of forges ready made. It is better to build a forge but beginners might appreciate a forge which is ready to use until they learn to use it well enough to be able to design their own custom forge. Hammers, while they can be made very nicely, we need them just to get started. Buy nice high quality ones and they won't need replacement. See Centaur Forges website to order good ones. Peddinghaus makes very nice hammers for the blacksmith. Tongs can also be bought at Centaur.

Coal is a little bit tricky to find. Blacksmithing requires the best coal available. Lignite and stoker coal are of no value to a blacksmith due to high clinker content. Several sources are available to help us find good coal. First off if you live in or near Iowa, visit Skei Coal & Wood, 639 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa. Tel. (515) 232-4474. Skei sells good blacksmith coal bagged in 50 lb. sealed bags. There is one really good page on the internet with sources of blacksmith's coal and it can be found at the Blacksmith's Gazzette website at http://www.fholder.com/Blacksmithing/default.htm and look for the link to Coal Suppliers, or go here: http://www.fholder.com/Blacksmithing/coal.htm  Your local blacksmith club chapters may also know of good sources of coal.

Steel. Sizes of bar stock to get the beginner started are 5/16" round, 3/8" round, 1/2 round, 1/2" square, 5/8" round, 3/4" round, 3/4" square, 1/4 x 1" flat and1/4 x 3/4" flat. These are also the sizes to make light tongs and light tools from.

Things we make. Tongs and many hand tools and fire tools can be made better by the smith than anything found at auctions. Most tongs found at auctions are junk somebody else pulled out of a garbage pile to be sold to the first dummy (you!) who will buy them. If you don't know how to make tongs, then learn. You'll need a pair of vice grips or the small flat jaw tongs to hold the small parts as you make your own first pair of tongs. Plan to make your own tongs or buy a set of (1/4") flat jaw tongs to get started.  Light tongs are easy to learn to make and can be forged without the use of a power hammer. I am working on a step by step photo page to help the beginner learn to make light weight blacksmith tongs and will publish it to this website soon. Several books teach the making of tongs (see my books recommendation page at ) including The Blacksmith's Craft by CoSIRA (or more recently by RDC or The Countryside Agency). The Blacksmith's Craft shows in step by step photos and text, how to make a pair of heavy duty blacksmith's tongs. Also Plain & Ornamental Forging by Ernst Schwarzkopf which also shows making heavy tongs. To learn to make light tongs the book Kunstschmiedepraxis by F. Wolf shows some photos in a step by step format in German and French. The video Blacksmith's Journal Techniques volume 1, by editor Jerry Hoffman http://www.blacksmithsjournal.com/  demonstrates the making of light weight tongs in video format.

Fire tools are also made by you. Get used to making things you will need as this will allow you to make them fit your style of work. We also make shop hardware, work stands, twisting wrenches, and wedges or pry tools are forged from plain mild steel scrap or bar. Punches can be made from coil springs from cars or trucks. Just be sure to never quench spring material in water or it will fracture, use oil. Plain cutoff hardies can be bought from Centaur Forge with a shank size to fit most anvils, but all special purpose hardies will be made custom by the smith. Hardies are made of good steel such as 4132 or 4340. This steel comes in a variety of sizes and can be purchased from a dealer of tool steels. This steel is oil quenched, not water quenched! Hammers can be made from 4340.

 

What to look for.

Centaur
Forge

Anvils -  Buy only steel or wrought iron and steel anvils - do NOT buy cast iron anvils. Purchase anvils only if they have good edges, perfectly flat face, rounded top surface of horn (not flat junk like that sold by Harbor Freight), square hole that is of standard sizes such as 7/8", 25mm, 1", or 1-1/4". Any anvil with a hardie hole smaller than 3/4" and you must make all of your own hardies because none smaller than 3/4" are manufactured and most hardie shanks are 25mm and 1" or larger. See my Anvils page where I have expanded this discussion and added lots of links to distributors and manufacturers.

Centaur Forge Firepots & Parts, 2002.Firepots and Tuyeres. The best material for manufacture of firepots and tuyeres is cast iron due to its great resistance to corrosion at high temperatures. We buy cast iron tuyeres and firepots from blacksmith suppliers. While we avoid cast iron anvils, we still enjoy the convenience and long life of cast iron tuyeres and firepots. A good manufactured firepot or tuyere will last many years and if the smith builds a new forge, the firepot and tuyere can be moved to the new forge. At right is a thumbnailed picture of Centaur Forge http://www.centaurforge.com/ catalog advertising firepots.

Side-blast style tuyers. At this time I still do not have a good source for these. I would like to add a source to this page for those smiths building side-blast style forges using tuyeres such as are available in England. I'm sorry I don't have a source for this yet. The Baker Group webpages don't have a lot of information on these tools. I will work on this source at a later date. If anybody has another source of side-blast tuyeres such as those made in England or other parts of Europe then please let me know. Currently there is more information on side-blast forges at http://www.beautifuliron.com/t_tempimages.htm.

Legvise. For a beginner at least one legvise is needed. Later the smith will need 2 or 3. Whatever you can find as long as the jaws are at least 4 inches wide or larger. 5 inch wide jaws make a nice intermediate size that will be used forever. Make sure the jaws line up evenly. Bent screw handles can be straightened and so can bent legs. But stay away from bent or broken jaws or broken or bent screws. Those cannot be repaired properly. You are looking at a huge price range. I never pay more than $60 for a good legvise and even then it had better be a good one. Most I picked up for $12 to $40. To learn more go to the Legvise page.

Tongs. Buying them at flea markets- Never buy them used unless they are in perfect condition AND priced $5 or under. Large factory made tongs $10 and under. This is your cost to make and replace them. A good pair of tongs can be made by hand for $5 in materials cost including steel, coal for 2 hours of work. Using a power hammer to make them greatly speeds the process but including maintenance time for power tooling, still costs about the same. Figure $5 a pair for tongs you make yourself and understand that you can make nice ones the way you want them made. The seller must compete with the quality and utility of the tools that the buyer is capable of making. If the seller won't come down in price, then walk away. To see more on finding, buying, making, and pricing tongs go to the Tongs page.

Hammers most used by the smith are the 2-lb. and the 3 or 3-1/3rd pound cross peen. Also needed for very light work is the 1-lb. and 2-lb. hammers of ball peen design. If buying German made hammers then a good selection would include, a 1500g cross peen, 1000g cross peen, 800g cross peen, and a 500g cross peen hammer along with a 1 pound (400g) and a two pound (800g) ball peen make a good selection of hammers for most work. I personally use the Swedish blacksmith and German locksmith pattern hammers. Others like the French pattern blacksmith hammers. Before buying the French style it would be wise to first try them out as the shorter length of hammer head might prove objectionable to some smiths. These hammers are bought new through Centaur Forge. See the Links and Resources page for the link and address for Centaur and other suppliers. These German-made hammers are of much higher quality and workmanship than anything found in the usual lumberyards or hardware stores.

What not to buy.

Don't buy cast iron anvils no matter what anyone tells you about them. Cast iron anvils cushion the work and absorb half the force or more, of every hammer blow. Try this out using both a cast iron anvil and steel anvil side by side. The extra effort needed to work with a cast iron anvil compared with a steel anvil, is very noticeable and very tiring even for the simplest of projects. Shape of the horn is important. Only  anvils with round or semi round horns are of value to the blacksmith. Flat top horns such as those found on Harbor Freight cast iron anvils are useless and should never be bought.

Don't buy 'portable' forges. Most of these are junk that the seller found at a scrapyard and is now trying to sell to you. Think about it. Another smith realized that it couldn't be fixed or didn't work well enough to bother with, so he discarded it. Then the current seller later found it at the garbage dump and now he is looking for an idiot to pay more for it than he did at the garbage dump. Don't be that idiot.

Broken or chipped hammers should not be bought. You need good hammers, so don't buy another person's junk. If the hammers aren't in excellent condition, then pass them by. Broken and chipped hammers were discarded by the previous smith. The current seller found the broken hammer at a garbage dump and is trying to sell it to you. Don't be an idiot. Buy only hammers in excellent condition.

Tongs with jaws missing or welded or handles poorly made should also be avoided. Broken tongs cannot be used no matter what kind of lies the seller tells you. Bent or broken parts don't make them more valuable. Mismatched parts and severely bent or damaged parts suggest that the tongs were found at a garbage dump and previously discarded by the previous smith. If the previous smith discarded them, then why would you want them? If the tongs aren't in perfect condition then pass them by. You can make good tongs. You can buy good tongs at blacksmith suppliers such as Centaur Forge.

Vises which are missing tension springs to keep them open or other parts missing or jaws that won't line up squarely should not be bought. Hardies that don't fit your anvils' hardie hole should not be bought. Forges with tiny blowers should not be bought no matter what the auctioneer tells you. Forges with missing mounting flanges beneath the firepot or tuyere, or mount flanges which are broken off should not be bought. Blowers which won't turn easily and silently or forges so equipped, should not be bought.

 


Updated on 25 June 2008.

Page created May, 2002.