Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This lovely backscratcher is being delivered to the post office this morning.  We hope it'll be enjoyed at its new home, but we couldn't let it leave without a few photos since every piece that comes out of the forge is different, you know! 

Monday, November 8, 2010

BGOV Hammer-In

Hammer-Ins are blacksmithing get-togethers which usually include a demonstration by a master blacksmith, "tailgating" (buying coal, tools, books, etc... from vendors or each other), lots of good food, and a bunch of hanging out with other blacksmiths.   And, posing in front of 1200 pound anvils. 

I had a great time at a Hammer-In yesterday with my buddies Curt Welch and Michael Rininger (our beekeeper/gardening friend).   I drove 5 hours, but it was well worth it.  I came home totally excited about trying some new things out in the forge. 

And, since I saw Michael I also brought home non-blacksmithing goodies -- beautiful, rolled beeswax candles and lots of comfrey, which we've already planted.  Last summer, my wife learned how to make healing salves from comfrey, and it'll be great for her to be able to make them here at home, if the plants take. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Meet Jeff, the Blacksmith (Circa March 2008)

Here is a blast from the past! 

It sure looks smokey, doesn't it?

Clearly, beginning blacksmiths aren't terribly good at building fires in the forges!

And, I would know, because I was one of those beginning blacksmiths in March of 2008. (The photo quality is terrible, but I am the 2nd person on the left).  I came home with all sorts of impressive tools that I had crafted (some I am still using!), and a smile on my face.  It's cool to think back and reflect on how far I have come since then - and how far I still have to go!

Mike Tanner's Guy Welding Portable Forge

I found this photo online of one of Mike Tanner's guys making the portable coal forge I have.  It was neat to find a shot of it in process.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Good Coal

Good coal is usually easy to find if you search for blacksmith coal, but the quality varies considerably as I am sure you can imagine.  Coal is what you start with usually, but it has to burn for a while until it becomes "coke", which is what the blacksmith needs.  Coke has all of the impurities burned off and as a result burns hotter and cleaner.  You can buy bags of coke, which skips a step, but drives up the cost some.
Essentially, you want to avoid coal that is considered "dirty" or "dusty".  Dirty coal burns with a very green smoke and the more green smoke, the more impurities are present.  All coal has some green, but some stuff even has yellowish smoke coming off of it, so it is a little hard to tell that way.  It is more art than science, that's for sure.  The second criteria is how much dust is in the coal.  What you want are pieces that are about the size of small ice cubes, say maybe 1" or so.  Larger than that and they will not burn evenly and will need to be smashed into smaller pieces, which often creates a lot of dust as well, so it is better if you can find coal that is the right size and not too dusty.  The problem with dust is that it creates clinkers when it is turning into coke, so it essential is wasted energy and the clinkers impede your fire, so the best thing is to minimize dust if you can.  Some guys sift the coal to get the dust out before every fire, which works great, but if half your bag is gone through sifting, you can see how this could waste a lot of what yoiu bought as compared to buying coal that has less dust to begin with.
The dramatic variation in quality makes coal hard to buy online as you can imagine unless you know of a trusted source with proven quality.  I usually buy coal when I am at hammer-in events because you can see it first.  I am headed to one next weekend and there is usually a guy there that sells coal in 25lb bags.  I think they are about $20, but I honestly can't remember.  I guess I will find out when I get there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Rough Day in the Forge


I have a commission for an adjustable candlestick holder.  It's a beautiful piece, but I've had a bit of difficulty welding the base since it doesn't fit into my propane forge.   I recently tried starting up the portable coal forge, but the fire burned so smoky that we were waiting for alarms to ring and the fire department to show up!  One neighbor did come over to check on our house.  Needless to say, the forge weld didn't stick, so I will have to move to plan B.

I think I was so nervous about the smoke and the disruption to the neighborhood that I didn't let the fire get hot enough.  Time for Plan B.....once we figure it out. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mom's Favorite Centerpiece

My Mom sent me this photo of one of my candlesticks in place on her table.  It is really nice to see people enjoying the things I make.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Finished My Pass-Through Ring!

This past summer, I took a week-long blacksmithing class from Mark Aspery.  The entire class was spent trying to create a pass-through ring, which is quite tricky.  You can see details from the class in my earlier post here:

I didn't quite get it finished at the class itself.   He spent a few more hours in the forge, though, and got it to work last week.  Here's one happy blacksmith!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One More From Market Fair

 Many thanks to my buddy Mark McAfee for this photo from Saturday's Market Fair:

Posted By Caitlin to Headstands, Hooligans and Hammer Blows at 10/19/2010 11:14:00 AM

Monday, October 18, 2010

October Market Fair, Day 2

We had another wonderful day at Market Fair.   The family had all sorts of fun and I had a fun day as well, talking to over 3,500 people during the past 2 days and demonstrating the art of blacksmithing.  It's been good. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October Market Fair, Day 1

Thanks so much to everyone who came out for the fun!  We had a wonderful day:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Claude Moore Market Fair -- I am Blacksmithing this Weekend

Hello everyone,

If you've seen the kids recently, they are probably talking to you about Daddy blacksmithing at Market Fair this weekend.   They are correct – I am getting ready, as we all are, to don colonial attire once again for Claude Moore's Market Fair this weekend, where I put my blacksmithing hobby and teaching gifts on display.  The boys and my wife will be at the toys' stand, although our son has plenty of plans to make candles and potpourri, paint watercolors and do lots of the other kids' activities.  J

If you are interested, we'll be there both days and attached is the official flyer.  If you go to the website, there are discounted tickets available.

And, if you can't make it but would still like to see what Jeff's blacksmithing is all about, please don't hesitate to call us or email --  we'd love to fill you in.   

Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Hand-Forged Trivet

In my forge, creating the parts for a triangular trivet:

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Custom Light Cover

I made this light cover last year for St. Aidan's church to solve a problem they had with kids kicking over the light when they were playing.  I made it with 1/2" square bar and twisted and punched the corners before wrapping the ends around.  I think it turned out pretty nice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Candleholder in Action

Our friend Michael Rininger sent this photo of my candle holder at their Hume Day booth.  You can see more about their bees and honey at

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anvil Floor Repair

I have been working in my forge for over a year now, so I've had enough time to see what works and what doesn't.  Most things work wonderfully, but I've had a bit of difficulty with the floor of the shed shaking when I use the anvil.  The floor was the wood floor that came with the shed and it was simply placed on a bed of gravel.  

Our friend, Steve was a huge help in building the base for the anvil (among lots of other things!) and he teased me about the problem-- "You mean, we went to all that trouble to build a solid stand and you put it on plywood?"  He had a point.

So, the boys and I and our good friend Brad went to work.  We cut out a section of the floor where the anvil rests and poured a new cement floor. 

The kids had a great time trying out various methods for mixing cement (they liked rolling the cement, but Jeff preferred the wheel barrow-mixing method) and got to put their footprints on the new floor. 

I haven't had a chance to do much smithing on the new base yet, but we think it'll work great!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Claude Moore Colonial Farm Autumn Market Fair!

Hello Market Fair visitors--

The Autumn Market Fair is only 1 month away! I've attached a flyer you
can print and post or hand out. And don't forget you can download
50%-off passes from our website:

Make sure you put the dates of the Fair on your calendar: Saturday &
Sunday, October 16 & 17.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beeswax Candles

These are a couple photos of our friend Michael and Donielle Rininger's candles ( today in my candlestick.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Woodworking at Kanuga

We just returned from a week at Kanuga, an Episcopal retreat center that offers what is basically an old-fashioned family camp with lots of crafts and I discovered a love for wood carving & basket making and met lots and lots of wonderful people.  We look forward to returning next year!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Market Fair Craftsmanship

We took some nice pieces to Market Fair today: