What to Wear to Blacksmith Class

What to Wear to Blacksmith Class - Brown County Forge - Terran Marks the Blacksmith

When it comes to deciding what to wear to blacksmith class at Brown County Forge or any other blacksmith shop or school, there are a few good rules of thumb:

  1. No synthetics – Synthetic materials like lycra, spandex, nylon, and polyester don’t stand up to high temperatures and sparks. In fact, they melt almost immediately when the come into contact with fire and hot surfaces. To avoid injury, I always encourage attendees of my classes to avoid synthetics if at all possible.
  2. Boots or sneakers – Ideally, we would all be wearing leather boots in the shop, but I understand that not everyone owns boots. Sneakers are also fine, but be aware that the rule about synthetics also applies to footwear. I’ve seen some really nice shoes get damaged when a piece of hot scale or a spark landed on them.
  3. Cotton, canvas, denim – This goes along with the synthetics rule, but if you’re ever wondering exactly what goes and what doesn’t in the shop, stick to Cotton t-shirts and canvas pants (think Carhartts) or denim jeans. These natural materials, as long as they aren’t blended with lycra or elastane, will resist sparks. They’re not fireproof but they help.
  4. Hair tied back – Long hair in the shop is no problem as long as it stays out of the way and away from the fire.

And that’s it! I provide all other safety equipment in class including hearing protection, eye protection, and gloves.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in class soon!

What Is The Age Limit for Blacksmith Classes?

Blacksmith Class Age Limits - Brown County Forge

At Brown County Forge, we have an age limit of 14 years old for our classes.

In addition, anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult (parent or guardian).

The parent or guardian is not required to take the class, but must remain on site during it.

Why Not Younger than 14?

I’ve given the age question a lot of thought over the years.

Sadly, I’ve had to turn down a few folks and their kids if they weren’t quite old enough.

Here are the main reasons I keep the minimum age at 14:

  • From experience, I can be reasonably sure that most 14 year-olds have enough arm strength to safely swing a 2.5-pound hammer for a couple hours.
  • Hand-eye coordination is one of the most important skills involved in blacksmithing. While kids are still growing and especially during adolescence, they often have trouble controlling body movements. Adding fire and extreme heat to that equation can be very risky.
  • Ability to follow instructions. It’s incredibly important in a blacksmith shop to be able to do exactly as the blacksmith says. If you can’t, the risk of injury skyrockets.

The ultimate goal of the minimum age requirement is to keep everyone safe.

There is no way to guarantee that someone younger than 14 can’t meet those requirements or that anyone over 14 can.

There are many adults who struggle with those same three concepts above and I’ve met some younger kids who can handle the responsibilities very well.

As a rule of thumb, 14 is the minimum.

Other Blacksmithing Opportunities with Lower Age Limits

If you have a youngster with a deep interest in blacksmithing, I can recommend a few resources for learning more:

  • The Indiana Blacksmithing Association holds regular Saturday meet-ups that younger folks are welcome to attend. There are often opportunities to get behind an anvil and get to work.
  • Conner Prairie has a wide variety of youth-centered activities at their facility in Fishers. Full, hands-on blacksmithing classes may be limited. Classes cost $200+.
  • The DIY Blacksmithing Course is open to all ages and can be taken from the comfort of home. It costs $97 for a comprehensive foundation in all necessary blacksmithing skills.

Ax Class Photos

Blade smithing classes - Ax Class - Brown County Forge

On May 11, Brown County Forge hosted its 4th Ax Making Class with guest instructor Benton Frisse of River City Forge & Tool. 

Here are some photos from the day in class. 

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge

The class involves hours of heavy hammerwork to create a functional, 1.5-pound camp hatchet out of a billet of 4140 tool steel. 

We use a variety of different hammers ranging from 6-pound sledge hammers at the beginning of the process all the way down to 2-pound ball peen hammers to refine the blade edge before air cooling and grinding.

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge 2

The basic process goes like this:

  1. Heat the billet to a bright yellow in the forge. Higher carbon steels require higher temperatures to make them easier to work.
  2. Punch your ax eye through a series of heats (upwards of 20).
  3. Spread the eye with progressively larger ax eye drifts.
  4. Fuller (spread) the area just behind the cheeks that surrounds the eye.
  5. Fuller the bit edge from toe to heel adjusting your blows to create your desired beard shape.
  6. Thin the bit to near its final thickness.
  7. Set aside to cool before grinding. This makes it easier to grind.
  8. Grind the bevel and clean up the eye, cheeks, and butt.
  9. Re-light the forge and gradually heat up the bit to just past magnetic. This is important for hardening (one half of the heat treat process).
  10. Quench the bit with slicing motions through vegetable oil in a tub.
  11. Set aside to cool.
  12. Polish the bit so the “silver” comes back out. This will allow you to see the temper colors come through (tempering is the other half of the heat treat).
  13. Temper by dancing the bit in the fire of the forge, checking frequently.
  14. As soon as “straw” color appears, quench in the oil again.
  15. Set aside to cool.
  16. Grind to finish
  17. Head the ax with oak, ash, or hickory handle. Rasp or grinder work will be necessary to get the right fit.

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge 3

This photo shows the original 4140 steel billet sandwiched between two student made, finished axes. Fully hung, heat treated, and sharpened. Ready for work. 

Blade smithing classes - Brown County Forge 4

This in-depth class is offered just a few times per year. The students who gain access to the class have taken at least one, and ideally two, classes at Brown County Forge first. 

The reason for this is so that I can get a feel for hammer skills, hand-eye coordination, ability to follow instructions, and physical/mental stamina. 

If you think you might be a good fit for this class, please take a look at our introductory classes here: browncountyforge.com/classes

Looking forward to working with you!

-Terran the Blacksmith

Prepping for Ax Class this Weekend

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

Prepping for Ax Class this Weekend

The above photo is an example of student work from an ax class back in late March.

A few times a year, I like to invite past students who have shown interest in the ax class to come back and forge one themselves.

The ax above starts out as a 3.5-inch long, 1-inch wide, and 1.5-inch tall billet of 4140 tool steel.

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

To get the billets ready for forging, there’s a little bit of prep involved.

First, I measure 1 inch from the end and find center.

Next, I mark center with a center punch and a hammer. You can see the dimple in each ax billet in the above photo.

The corners of each billet can be rough once I cut them from their original 12-inch piece.

So they head to the Multitool 2×36 Belt Grinder for cleanup. The chamfered corners are visible in the above photo as well.

Ax Class Prep: Drilling Pilot Holes

x Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

After the billets have been cleaned up, I drill pilot holes in each one using the center punch dimple as my guide.

When you’re drilling out tool steel, even if it’s annealed (softened), you want to gradually move up in bit size.

Jumping right into the quarter inch holes that you see in the picture without pilot holes would create too much friction and heat.

So I start off with a 1/8-inch bit and work my way up using plenty of lubricant to reduce the friction (heat).

During forging the holes will be punched and drifted until they’re wide enough to fit the hickory handles later in the class.

Ax Class - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes

Even with pilot holes, it takes a lot of heavy hammering to get the ax eye just right.

Students can expect to spend a full 8 hours at the forge during the ax class going blow for blow with friends (it’s more fun to work with a buddy).

After all that hammering we start to fan out the ax head into its iconic beard shape.

Once it’s fully forged, we set it aside to cool completely before diving into the heat treat and finish work.

Forging an Ax - Brown County Forge - Blacksmithing Classes Near Me

If you’re interested in taking an introductory class with us (that could lead to the ax class), please take a look at the Classes Page for all the details.

I’d be happy to have you down to the shop!

Modern Metal House Numbers in Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Modern Metal House Numbers 2 - Brown County Forge

Modern Metal House Numbers

About a year ago, I started experimenting with offering standalone house numbers and house number plates.

Through some trial and error, I found a layout that I liked.

The photo above is of a 4.5 inch tall by 11 inch long house number plate that can be used for apartment numbers in a complex or for your home’s curb appeal.

Cut from Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel Modern Metal House Numbers - Brown County Forge

To resist moisture and stand up to all weather, the number plates are cut from stainless steel sheets.

Each number plate is 1/8-inch thick so they stay lightweight making them easy to secure when it’s time to mount.

How to Mount

While the plates can be drilled out with mounting holes, I usually recommend leaving them clean and using a construction adhesive.

Gorilla Glue is extremely durable and can bind to metal, wood, brick, and vinyl.

Mounting the house numbers this way also saves you from drilling holes into your siding.

Here’s how to mount the plate:

  1. Wet the mounting surface (your siding).
  2. Apply Gorilla Glue to the back of the plate.
  3. Press the plate firmly against the moist siding.
  4. Secure with painters tape so it doesn’t slide down the wall while it cures.*

*Minimum curing time is 2 hours. Full curing is achieved after 24 hours.

Stainless Steel Address Plate - Brown County Forge

Where to Buy Modern Metal House Numbers

I sell custom plates in Brown County Forge’s Etsy shop.

I’m also taking custom orders and bulk orders if you work for a construction company specializing in housing developments and apartment complexes.

I can be reached at browncountyforge@gmail.com with any questions you might have.

Turnaround time is fairly quick on large and small orders. Typically 1-2 weeks.

Stainless Steel Address Plate 3 - Brown County Forge