There’s an idea floating around out there that making money as a blacksmith isn’t easy. As a profession, the number of local blacksmiths has declined significantly over the past hundred years or so. Back then, your local blacksmith was essential, able to make horseshoes, farm equipment, and fix anything else that you needed around your home.
In 2020, with fewer people than ever living in the countryside, demand for traditional blacksmithing services has plummeted. However, thanks to the internet, interest in custom-made metalworking is booming. Instead of functional equipment like horseshoes, people are buying all sorts of ornamental items online.
If you know what you’re doing, even relatively beginner blacksmiths can make a serious side income selling their blacksmithing projects online. Here are some of those projects, and where exactly you should go to sell them.
For the most part, you don’t need much to get started on these projects. A basic hammer, tongs, anvil, forge, and maybe a workbench are all that you really need.
If you still haven’t bought your initial blacksmithing equipment yet, I’d strongly recommend you check out this article on how you can get started smithing with just $200.
As for the materials you need, you have a bit of choice. Stainless steel works well, but you can also make use of iron as well in these projects.
Where to sell my projects?
Local fairs are a great place to go if you want to sell your projects in person directly to potential customers. However, I’ve always been an advocate of having your own online business.
While starting up your own website and eCommerce store might sound like a good idea, the next problem you’ll encounter is how to direct traffic to your store. This is another big issue that you could spend hours learning about. Instead of messing around with things like Facebook ads or other things, I recommend selling on a platform that’s already established.
Websites like Etsy are my go-to place to sell my blacksmithing projects. You’ll find plenty of smiths already on the site offering their goods. Despite what you might think, plenty of competition is a good thing, as it means there’s a strong demand in this area. You’ll find blacksmiths selling custom products for very high sums of money, and it wouldn’t be surprising if many are making a full-time, six-figure plus income from their Etsy businesses.
1. Wedding Rings
Surprised? I bet you are. Few people would have expected that wedding rings (or even just basic metal rings) to be such a potent money-maker for beginner blacksmiths.
Believe it or not, even some of the simplest metal rings that you find on Etsy can sell for hundreds of dollars each! Nor am I talking about anything complex here. Just a simple, thick, metal ring made out of iron or titanium could sell for as much as $500!
Here’s just one example I found after a quick search on Etsy. This Canadian blacksmith is selling these simple, titanium rings for around $200 USD. As you can see, they aren’t overly complicated. Each is custom made, and they are selling pretty well.
How long would it take for a beginner blacksmith to make something like this? Once you’ve got the hang of it, I’d say maybe 2 to 3 hours in total work from start to finish. If we say that your total profit margin after taxes, shipping, cost of materials, and Etsy fees come in at around $150 USD for this ring, you’re making a solid $50-75 per hour.
Of course, I’ve found plenty of cheaper rings on Etsy as well, as well as many that are much more expensive. Wedding rings in particular, tend to sell for much more than your normal, accessory-type ring, so that’s definitely something you should take in mind if you want to start making your own rings to sell online.
This is definitely one type of product where it’s more of a quality over quantity type of approach. At the same time, selling wedding rings requires a fair bit of trust in what you can offer to your customer. People generally aren’t going to fork out hundreds of dollars on a completely new Etsy store, but once you build up a bit of a reputation, don’t be surprised if business quickly explodes.
If you do want to take this kind of approach (which I recommend blacksmiths do), focus first on making a couple of dozen wedding rings just as practice. Make sure you absolutely master what you’re doing. Once you’ve got it down, offer to give some for free in exchange for a review, or even just sell them for 95% off in order to build a reputation.
2. Hooks and hangars
This is one that is pretty simple to make and that many blacksmiths would recommend. Hooks are one of the top projects that any beginner blacksmith could make if they want to improve their skills. After a while, however, you’re going to get pretty darn good at making hooks, and you’ll likely have quite a few lying around.
Selling some of your hooks online is a surprising good way to make some money for yourself. While they aren’t going to sell for that much, maybe $10 per hook, there’s enough steady demand out there that you can make a solid side income from selling your excess practice projects.
There’s not really much that needs to be mentioned here. I’d recommend using solid iron for your hooks and hangars instead of steel, as iron tends to be a little bit cheaper. Iron also tends to look quite nice on hooks.
Coat hangers aren’t that much more complex than your regular hook. Considering that people tend to buy multiple coat hangars at a time, a good strategy would be to sell sets of iron coat hangars at a discount.
3. Bowls, pots, and pans
There are quite a few blacksmiths that make a killing selling cooking sets online. A simple stainless-steel bowl can sell for around $40, while a custom-made steel pot or pan can sell for significantly more.
Here’s a simple bowl that sells for around $70 USD. As you can see, it’s not that complex; the only hard part for a beginner might be inscribing those words onto your metal, but there many people selling just basic bowls without any text for similar sums of money.
Something like this wouldn’t take a blacksmith more than an hour (maybe two at most). It ends up working out to a pretty good hourly rate, nor are these types of projects that complex for beginner blacksmiths.
The only thing you should consider is that people could end up using your pots, pans, and bowls to eat out of. As such, make sure the metal you are using as your stock is high quality. Don’t use any old scrap lying around for these types of projects. Certain metals, like galvanized rebar, can leech zinc when heated up, which could prove potentially toxic to people that use products made from them.
4. Dinner bell triangles
This one might be a little random, but you’d be surprised at just how much demand there is for a simple dinner bell triangle. You’ll find plenty of different blacksmiths selling a simple triangle for anywhere from $50 to as much as $100 per product!
The best thing about triangles is that they are super simple for a beginner blacksmith to make. Easily the easiest project on this list, blacksmiths can make a triangle in around a couple of hours (depending on how much detail you want to put in on it). If you can find a supplier who can ship you metal exactly in the shape you want it to be, all you need to do is just heat up your metal and bend it two times, and you have a triangle!
It might sound super simple, but there are people making a killing selling triangles on websites like Etsy. There’s no reason why you won’t be able to as well.
What I DON’T recommend for beginners
You might be surprised that I didn’t include a number of different projects on this list. Whether that be knives, axes, swords, or even basic blacksmithing tools to sell to other smiths, there are plenty of other projects that can make you a lot of money.
However, they tend to have a pretty high skill requirement to pull off successfully. Take knifemaking, for example. There’s a ton of people making custom knives on websites like Etsy, and the competition is very high. The problem is that making custom, high-quality knives that sell for lots of money requires a lot of skills as a blacksmith. It’s not something that a beginner blacksmith that just learn in a couple of days and pull off successfully. You’ll likely need a few years of experience in order to really have the skill to make these kinds of high-quality products.
A similar thing can be said for making swords or axes. Make sure you have the necessary skill before you try making something like this in order to sell online. If you don’t think you can be among the top 10-20% of blacksmiths selling swords, axes, and knives online, then I wouldn’t even bother with trying. Focus on something that’s easier with a little bit less competition.
Blacksmithing tools for other blacksmiths is also something I see a lot on these types of websites. However, I think there’s a lot more money to be made selling consumer goods that are custom made and unique, like wedding rings, rather than trying to sell to other blacksmiths on Etsy. For one, blacksmiths can make their own hammers and tongs, so demand isn’t likely to be that high. Secondly, they don’t really sell for that much. A set of tongs could cost around $30. Given the amount of work you would put into making a single set, that’s not really that great of a profit margin for the time you’re putting in.
How realistic is it to make money as a beginner?
Pretty darn realistic, at least more so than most people would imagine. All you need to do is become great at making a few things that people want, and you could easily find yourself making a tidy side income.
It’s also worth mentioning that e-commerce is only going to continue becoming more prevalent in the future. As of right now in August 2020 with everything that’s happened with so far this year, online retailers have seen their traffic multiply. Amazon and Etsy have both had tremendous success so far, and its likely not going to change anytime soon.
Now’s the best time in history to get started with selling your blacksmithing products online. In as little as a year, you could easily end up replacing your job and working from home doing what you love.