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Three Rivers Forge
Three Rivers Forge
Blacksmith - forging iron by hand in order to bring a little bit of the wonderful trade to folks everywhere!
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Apprentice

Firstly, thank you. Your support means the world to me and I cannot thank you enough. It's because of great folks like you that I can experiment with new ideas, create new content, and keep the iron moving here at Three Rivers Forge!

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Like the previous tiers, you'll receive my undying appreciation for your support as well as the first look my reviews of tools, books and videos related to the blacksmith's trade. On top of that, you'll also get to look forward to receiving a special gift, some hand-forged ironwork, once a year as a token of my appreciation.

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Recent posts

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Three Rivers Forge
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When I recommend you buy a welder....


This is why.  

Yea, we can all agree that the hammer isn't the best design to ever come down the pike, but it's getting the job done.  Without a welder and some rudimentary skill at gluing two pieces of steel together, making even the most basic hammer is orders of magnitude more difficult and time consuming.

I'm not a welder by trade, and I would never allow my welds to be used on anything structural, but my smithy is filled with examples of how having a welder made things a lot easier.  Scroll forms, tool racks, hardy stems, candlesticks...  even my anvil stand is made from steel bars welded together.

Being able to quickly fabricate something, even if it's only as a proof-of-concept, is invaluable.  Sure, we all want to be amazing blacksmiths, but there's a time and place for everything.  Some will say that it's "cheating", but lets be realistic - the people who say that are the same people using steel made in giant factories, that they picked up using an automobile rather than a horse and buggy. 

I like this video because it shows a hammer design that can be made with steel sizes we see pretty regularly in the scrap bins -- small-ish angle iron and channel, with flat bar that you could buy at any hardware store.  From top to bottom, nothing about this hammer design would be particularly hard to source or stick together.  It's not the greatest design ever designed, sure, but it will get the job done and allow you to grow your abilities.  It's not perfect, but it's a step up from hammering by hand.  This is what a welder can do for you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_CF5cGNEg8
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Three Rivers Forge
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The Rag-in-a-Can Oiler. 


Around the blacksmith shop, rust is something you have to deal with.
While Mr. Sellers is a master woodworker and I'll trust his thoughts on how the oiler helps with cutting wood, my first thought was that his wonderful design would be a real boon here at Three Rivers Forge, too.
Visit any smithy, and you'll find that most folks have an oily rag that they use to wipe down their hammers and anvils before leaving the shop so nothing rusts overnight. The problem is that the oily rag always seems to dry out no matter what you do. And when you give it a dose of fresh oil, it's then too oily to wipe down your tools.
Overall, it's something that's more frustrating than not, so you can imagine how happy I was to see Mr. Sellers discuss his solution to the problem! Plus, I have to admit that I just love the old-school vibe the Rag-in-a-Can Oiler gives off. This is something my grandfather and great-grandfather would have done. 
Whether you work wood or metal, you should have one of these in your shop. Just remember that the cloth has to be cotton so the oil will wick up through the weave.

https://youtu.be/npKo1y2e8RI
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Three Rivers Forge
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Forging an Auger! 

Our ancestors certainly earned their honor. Every once in awhile, I'm reminded of what those who came before us had to go through just to end up with something we take for granted today.

Videos like this are also a great way to show people why blacksmiths charge as much as they do. We tend to think in terms of mass production, big factories with amazing machines that can churn out thousands of parts in just a few minutes. It's really easy to forget that doing the same thing by hand takes hours and hours of hard work!

Many thanks to Eugenio Monesma for taking the time to record the many trades in his region of Spain.  It's truly great to watch the old skills being kept alive, and that scenery is just amazing!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukpuEjCW5EU
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Three Rivers Forge
Public post

Drill Guides -- The Forgotten Tool. 

Even though I own a set, I will still often forget to use one.... and always to my detriment.

Big Gator Tools makes what I consider the preeminent drill guides. No affiliation, sadly, but I have no problem recommending their product because it's solid quality, made in America, and more useful than you might imagine.
As a blacksmith, I often have to use a hand drill to make a hole because the workpiece is too large for the drill press. The Big Gator drill guide makes that job a lot easier and helps to guarantee that the hole will be oriented properly! 
They even offer "tap guides", a wonderful tool that helps make sure your tap is perpendicular to the work when you're trying to cut threads into a hole.  If you've ever had to hand-tap a few holes, you know how aggravating it can be -- especially when you get done and find out one hole is catty-wompus!
I can't say enough good about Big Gator Tools and their wonderful creation. If you don't have a set, get a set. You might only use them once a year, but when you need them.... you'll be glad you have them!

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Three Rivers Forge
Public post

A Great Addition to your Shop! 

In my opinion, Raymond Head knocked it out of the ballpark when he "invented" the economical hydraulic welding table idea because it covers several key points that everybody seems to need.

Firstly, they are small. Some will complain that they're too small, but that really depends on what you're making. If you don't have a lot of room but want to be able to weld, a hydraulic cart is the perfect solution and is far better than the lightweight, fold-away welding tables that you can buy.

Secondly, there's mobility. If you don't want the table in the middle of your garage.... just roll it into a corner. 

Third, while being able to raise and lower your work so you can weld in a comfortable position is nice.... what really makes these carts jump out ahead of the pack in my estimation, is just being able to use them for other things. If you need to unload heavy things from your truck... the cart is ready-made for that. Need to work on your lawnmower, the cart is ideal as a small bench that allows you to get to every part of the engine without any fuss. As a blacksmith, I can say with certainty that one of these would be really nice to have so I'm not stuck trying to freehand the 200# propane tank off the back of my truck every time I get it refilled!

Plus, being "multi-purpose" like that makes it a lot easier to sell the idea to the missus. ;)
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Three Rivers Forge
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Time is money! 

Nate's done it again with a masterful tutorial on something you rarely see in US circles. Upsetting the iron is one of those jobs that you hate doing because it's so aggravating, but sometimes it's the only way, or the easiest way, to get to your end goal.

In this video, Nate takes us along as he forges a wonderful diamond point, and explains the process as thoroughly as you could ask for. It's as good as being there in the shop with him!
Excellent camerawork and lighting, though I feel sorry for that poor light after he hit it so many times. Solid narration with no excess jawjacking to sidetrack things. Overall, well worth the time and I encourage everyone to join Nate's channel and encourage him to keep up the great work.
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Three Rivers Forge

A Cold One is a Good One!

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Three Rivers Forge
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Little Bits Add Up! 

Seems like every couple of months, I get asked about how I make my rune pendants. 

The end product doesn't look anything like what I see when I'm actually working on them. One of the best parts of the process is the "surprise" at the end when all's said and done.

The biggest difference between my work and other examples you might see around the internet is that I don't try to get the lines set in the iron in just one blow. When I first started doing designs like this, I knew I wanted my work to stand apart from the herd a bit, so I developed some tools and techniques that would let me vary the length, width and depth of the lines. One look tells you there's no way these were pounded in with a stamp or a single chisel.

Of course, the downside to all that is the time it takes to make one! As much as I like making these pieces, I've resigned myself to using them as something of a creative outlet rather than a rational business decision. That's the blacksmith life, though. Sanity is sometimes more important than keeping the lights on!
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Three Rivers Forge
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Backcountry Woodworking!
I celebrate the craftsmen and this video is an excellent illustration of why they should be celebrated. Few tools, no fancy shop, yet he's able to put together a working water-wheel that powers so much.

This is that "can do" attitude that everyone should aspire towards. Max takes the time, sticks with it, and sees things through to the end.

It's an hour-long video, sure, but it's also far better than what you'll find on any of the regular television channels. Educational and Inspirational, you can't ask for better than that!

I've got a piece of truck leaf spring in the shop and think I just might have to forge one of those timber slicks!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=war9v2DxMs4
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Three Rivers Forge
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Forging a Leaf


Nathan has just uploaded what I think will go down in history as the best tutorial on forging a leaf. 

Aside from fantastic videography, this video takes the time to really explain what you do and the all important WHY you do it. When you watch #blacksmiths forging leaves, you'll often hear them warn about working too cold or having that dreaded snap as their leaf just falls off the parent bar after all that work. Lord knows I've lost a bunch of leaves!

Nathan explains why that happens and how to avoid it. And he turns out a leaf that is about as beautiful as you could ask for.

If you're not subscribed to Working with Iron, I highly recommend it. Nathan produces some of the best videos out there and is a genuinely good person!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ci93coi_0tI
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Three Rivers Forge
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It's the little things.... 


One of my favorite channels on youtube is Desert Owl Forge. Tim hails from over in Europe and brings a unique aesthetic to the American smithing scene, in my estimation.

In this video, we see him making a gate latch. It's a beautiful design with elegant lines and enough topographical change in the steel that there's no doubt in your mind that a blacksmith made it.

What's most impressive, in my estimation, is that each step along the way is very simple. Tim is using the basic movements that every blacksmith uses. The magic is in how he chose to combine the fundamental movements. 

Little things add up.  Tim started out with some plain iron bars and ended with a truly beautiful piece that'd be the pride and joy of any garden gate in the land!

Kudos to Desert Owl Forge for reminding me of an old lesson!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP12vtz_fjQ

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Three Rivers Forge
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Perun Blacksmithing Tongs


If you're like me, you've never heard anyone talking about this brand name.  Maybe you can find a review of one of their anvils if you search through Youtube, but what about their other products? 

Well, I couldn't resist the temptation and decided to buy a pair from Blacksmith Depot.  I had misplaced my other set of V-bit Bolt Jaw tongs for holding 3/8" bar, so it was as good an excuse as any. Right? 

The description on the Blacksmith Depot website specifically said that these tongs would hold stock between 3/8" and 5/8" - always a warning sign since no tongs will hold that wide a range of stock comfortable or securely.  Still, knowing that I was using them for the smallest size listed and confident that I could reshape them a bit if needed, I felt good about the purchase.

Imagine my surprise when I get them in the mail a few days later and saw that not only would they not hold 5/8" bar, but they were so incredibly delicate around the jaw that even holding 3/8" bar was something of a challenge.  Because of the design of the bit, square bar would sink down into the valley and be held with relative security, but round bar was just barely captured and quick to pop out.

As you can see in the company photograph, the tongs look large and beefy.  You're told that these will hold reasonably thick iron, and the jaws and reins look parallel in the photo, so you'd expect that that's what they'll look like when wrapping around some 3/8" round stock you're about to hammer into shape. 

Now, compare that to the photos of the tongs as I received them, a 6" nail in the jaws, and you begin to see just how small the things are.  That nail has a shank diameter of 1/4" and you can see that it's held perfectly, the jaws parallel just like in the company picture.  There's no extra meat in the wings of the bit, but even if you drew them out to paper-thin to get some more room... you'd still have the problem of the jaw right behind the bit being so small.  I measured them at roughly 1/4" in diameter, far too wispy to provide any long term strength when twisting and bending bars larger than 1/4".  In other words, even if you could forge the bit to a new shape, the Achilles Heel would still exist right behind the bit.

Overall, the Perun model 80x400 tongs are an absolute delight in the hand.  They are light, well balanced and comfortable.  The reins have no sharp edges and are long enough to get your hand away from the heat of the forge.  Their appearance is spot on with what you expect to see in a blacksmith shop.

They just aren't sized to hold 3/8" bar like the advert claimed.

If I was to describe these tongs in one word, it would be "dainty".  They're great for doing light work with light steel and I'd certainly recommend them to anyone needing tongs for 1/4" and 5/16" bar stock.
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Three Rivers Forge
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Thinking outside the box 

One of the reasons I've never purchased a swage block is because they are covered with a bunch of shapes and holes that I just don't need. I thought about having one cut out from a plate of mild steel, but that's every bit as costly as buying a cast iron block, and I really don't have much need for one.  Most blacksmiths don't use 90% of their swage block's options so it seems like a lot of mass to have around collecting dust.

Kudos to Adriano Pasquino for coming up with a swage block design that gives folks the ability to make their own, getting exactly what they want and nothing they don't. With the bolt-together design, you can cut out the shapes you need right now and have plenty of room to add new holes in the future.  Plus, it's a good project to help broaden your metalworking skills!

A great video to watch, as well.  Adriano does a great job making a door handle!  https://youtu.be/2kb93p5hzfc
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Three Rivers Forge
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Books for Beginner Blacksmiths


If ever there was a book you shouldn't judge by its cover, it'd be the Engineer's Black Book

I was first introduced to this great book by Adam Booth over on his abom79 Youtube channel and can't believe I spent a lifetime without having this wonderful resource in my shop.
How does it help the #blacksmith?  Well, most of us are in a perpetual state of "you don't know what you don't know!"   How can you look something up on the internet when you don't even know what question to ask?

The EBB is certainly filled with a lot of information that you won't need.   But it's the other three-quarters of the book that you'll find fascinating.... and you don't even know it.

Want an example?  How about being able to find the easy way to space out legs or bolt holes on a piece you're making?  When I was making up my Tool Carousel  last year, I need to space five outriggers for the wheels around the perimeter of the base. I could have looked it up on the internet if I used the right search terms, but it was far easier to just browse through the EBB because I could carry the book with me to the shop and not worry about any batteries dying.

How large of a square can you fit into a circle of given size? Might not seem important to the #blacksmith, but it sure comes in handy when you're designing a floor lamp or coat rack.... or forging down an axle you found because you want to make it into a hammer.

I could go on for days, but I won't bore you by waxing poetic about the Engineer's Black Book. If you don't have a copy, get a copy. Get a copy for your children while you're at it. It's a definite "must have" for the average home shop no matter what your particular hobby might be!
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Three Rivers Forge
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Books for Beginner Blacksmiths 

Paul Hasluck - Bent Ironwork

This is one of those books that's both educational and just plain fun to read. I highly recommend it for your blacksmithing library whether you're new to the craft or have been around the anvil a few times!
Published in 1902, Bent Ironwork is written for the novice.  Unlike a lot of books, the author doesn't wast precious pages on unnecessary information.  Everything is kept clean and simple with the focus on exactly what you need.  Best of all, Paul gives us detailed recipes so you're not left guessing how much iron you might need.

Bent Ironwork was written at a time when money was hard to come by and often Widows and Orphans needed to make a few pennies just to earn a crust of bread. It's both a tutorial on doing decorative ironwork with few tools, and a window into the past when things weren't nearly as comfortable as they are today.

You can usually find this book for sale for under $10 all over the internet and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  If you have young children who are interested in learning the trade, this is a must-have item for their Christmas stocking.

All of the patterns can be scaled up or down however the aspiring reader likes.
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Three Rivers Forge
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Hello!  Welcome to Three Rivers Forge.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you and hope that you find the adventure as enjoyable as I do!

When I first started down this path more years ago than I care to admit, I never would have imagined I'd end up here.  Truth be told, I never imagined there would be this thing called the "internet" or that it'd be possible to reach out across the world with the push of a few buttons. 

I'm not at all savvy when it comes to this technology stuff, but I'm deeply grateful for the fact that it's allowed me to share my ironwork with customers around the world.  From Singapore to Switzerland, Israel to New Zealand, you can ironwork from Three Rivers Forge.... and it's been a tremendous honor.
What are my goals for this page?  Well, I actually haven't set any, to be honest.  I could talk all day long about how I'd like to purchase a hydraulic press or sell a dozen t-shirts every month, but the truth is that I'll be overjoyed just to receive your support and know that there are folks out there who have my back.  It's support from good people like you who keep the iron moving here at Three Rivers Forge.  I realize that not everyone has the need for some ironwork or a t-shirt of their own at the moment, so I thought I would offer this option as well.

Every dollar raised goes directly to the #blacksmith shop's operation.  Maybe that'll help buy some more iron.  Maybe your support will make it possible to try something entirely new to me.  In short, I'm not sure about a lot of things but I can be certain that it will be an exciting journey.

Exclusive content not only on how I make the projects like the dishes I'm so well known for, but why I make them the way I do.  In the #blacksmith trade, the why is just as important as the how, and you'll be the very first let in on the secrets.  :D

So, again, welcome!  It's great to have you here and I look forward to sharing the journey with you!
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