Getting started as a beginner blacksmith doesn’t need to be all that hard. While there are tons of good books, courses, and products out there designed to help people new to the hobby, the truth is that it doesn’t actually take all that much to get started blacksmithing.
At the same time, it doesn’t even need to cost you that much either. Often times, people will pay out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on fancy blacksmithing equipment that just isn’t necessary. While it might be worth it if you are a professional, beginner blacksmiths can make some extraordinarily beautiful things with just relatively simple equipment.
Here’s a complete list of all the essential tools that you’ll need to get started, as well as how much they cost.
The bare essentials
If you’re on a tight budget and only want the absolute essentials, these are the things that you need. You won’t be able to do anything particularly advanced or complicated, but most of the simple beginner blacksmithing projects out there you will be able to do without too much difficulty.
Eventually, you should look to expand your blacksmithing toolset to include some of the other things on this list. Until then, however, these four things are the essential core of any blacksmiths tool kit.
It should be pretty obvious that the first thing you’re going to need is a hammer. The good news is that hammers are pretty cheap as far as high-quality blacksmithing hammers go. You can expect to buy a solid hammer for around $30 to $40 on a website like Amazon. You can also find blacksmithing hammer sets that sell for around $60 on the cheaper end, with more expensive sets coming close to $100.
The biggest issue you might have is deciding exactly what kind of hammer you want to go with. There are tons of different types out there to choose from. The most common of which is the cross peen hammer, which is generally what most people recommend to beginner blacksmiths looking to get started. Other variants include straight peen hammers, as well as the rounding hammer, which has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to prominent blacksmithing YouTubers out there.
Hammers like the Estwing Big Blue Smelting Hammer with a hardwood handle are generally a good recommendation for new blacksmiths. The wooden handle gives a nice traditional feel that modern hammers just don’t have anymore, and its $35 price tag is pretty reasonable.
While there are plenty of more exotic hammer types out there, like the Swedish hammer or the rounding hammer, new blacksmiths don’t need to get too worried about all these different variants. Just a basic, high-quality hammer will do you fine.
Next up on the list is having a basic anvil to work on. Just as with blacksmithing hammers, there is a surprising number of different anvil types out there to choose from.
Beginner blacksmiths should keep a few things in mind when looking to buy their first anvil. For one, you need to consider the size and weight of your anvil. Ask yourself, what do you plan to be making in the future? Do you just want to focus on knifemaking? Or do you want to generalize and play around with all sorts of things? Just the size of your anvil accordingly.
For complete beginners, smaller anvils tend to make more sense. Besides weighing less, which makes it easier to transport around, they also take up less space in your blacksmithing area.
You should also consider what kind of material you anvil will be made out of. Cast iron anvils, which are less common these days, used to be the norm many years ago. However, they tend to be inferior to more modern anvils made out of steel. Iron has a lot of rebound when you strike it, instead of solid steel anvils. Don’t bother with strange exotic anvils, like bronze anvils, unless you really know what you’re doing.
While there are some amazing anvils out there, for complete beginners looking to get started, I’d recommend trying out a mini anvil. These are quite small and aren’t suitable for much larger projects (like if you’re trying to forge a large sword) but are suitable enough for most projects. They are also significantly cheaper, with many selling for around $50 or less.
A good example is the portable cast iron mini anvil made by Hyuduo. These are super affordable and can save you hundreds of dollars until you decide you need a larger, more professional anvil down the road.
The next major expenditure for most blacksmiths is their forge. Believe it or not, it’s possible to make your own do-it-yourself forges for almost nothing if you know what you’re doing. I’ve written about the subject here, but there are plenty of YouTube videos out there that can help you do the same.
Once again, it helps to know what the different types of forges are and what’s best for beginners. There are three main types of forges, gas, coal, or wood-fueled.
The most common type that you’ll find online is the gas-powered forge, which is what I would recommend for the vast majority of beginner blacksmiths. Coal-powered forges tend to be easier to use, produce less of a mess, and have a much easier time at maintaining a steady, consistent forge temperature. They also tend to be significantly cheaper than most of the coal forges on the market.
The only downside to gas-powered forges is that they tend to be on the smaller side. Again, that’s not really such a big deal unless you’re planning to work on something that’s quite large. For the average person, however, gas-powered forges are large enough.
On the other side of the spectrum, coal forges are the opposite. They are messier to use at first, require more expertise, and are harder to maintain at a specific temperature. There are some trade-offs, however. First of all, coal forges can reach a higher temperature than gas-powered forges, which is crucial if you plan to weld something like iron, which requires a higher forge temperature than what most gas-forges can produce.
My favorite forge is the Hell’s Forge Propane Burner. A simple to use, propane-powered forge that’s pretty light as far as forges go, blacksmiths can find this model in two varieties. There’s the larger, duel-burner variant, as well as the smaller, single-burner type. The single burner is the one I recommend for most beginner blacksmiths, which will set you back less than $200.
While its definitely true that you’re going to spend a fair bit of money on a forge, there’s no reason to spend a small fortune. Some coal forges sell for as much as $1,000, which I think to be a complete waste of money.
Having a pair of tongs is essential for any blacksmith. These are used to hold and pull up hot pieces of metal that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to hold yourself. While having just one tong will do for a beginner, you’re going to want to buy at least a couple of different kinds as your skills as a blacksmith grow.
Different sized tongs will be needed to hold different sizes of metal. A good idea would be to get yourself a tong set, which you can find on places like Amazon or your local hardware store.
Nice to have’s
While having a hammer, blacksmith, anvil, and tongs will let you do a lot; you’re quickly going to be set back if you want to try anything that’s more complex.
While some of the machinery listed below will cost you a bit, they are essential if you want to further improve your blacksmithing skills. Many of the best money-making projects for blacksmiths will require some of these things below. If you’re ever thinking about trying to make an income from your hobby, you’re going to want to add these items to your workspace eventually.
A vice is a super useful tool for any blacksmith who wants to work on a hot piece of metal but doesn’t want to put it against the anvil. Sometimes you want to hot your stock at a particular angle (make it stand upright, for example), that’s just impossible to do without a vice.
There are a couple of different types of vices out there to choose from. The one that you want to look for is a post vise, which is designed specifically for blacksmiths. The other type is called a machinist vice, which isn’t meant to tolerate repeated hammer strikes.
My favorite vice is the IRWIN multi-purpose Bench variant. It costs around $120, so you’re definitely going to fork out a bit of cash, but its really something that any serious blacksmith can’t do without.
6. Belt grinders
One of the most important secondary purchases that any blacksmith should make is for a solid belt grinder. Being able to sharpen a piece of metal is essential for knife making, but it’s also useful for cleaning a piece of metal that has impurities on it.
Of course, there are more old school ways of sharpening a piece of metal. Using a grindstone or a whetstone, for instance, is what people used to do hundreds of years ago. However, with modern technology, blacksmiths are able to enjoy newer, faster, and more effective methods of sharpening their steel.
Belt grinders can go for a pretty pricey sum. As a complicated piece of machinery, it’s not surprising that many go for hundreds of dollars per unit. However, I’ve discovered one belt grinder from for around $110. Technically it’s a mini belt grinder, but it gets the job done. It also lets you save hundreds of dollars that you would otherwise spend on a full-priced, conventional belt grinder.
If you’re ever thinking about drilling some holes in your metal, whether to make space for screws, rivets, or something else altogether, you are going to need to get a reamer. These rotary tools that can cut away at a piece of metal in the same way that a drill can grind through a piece of wood.
You can find pictures of old school reamers that people used to use. These involved manually turning the reamer by the handle over and over in order to drill into the metal. As you would expect, this was a tiring process that took a very long time. Imagine manually turning a screw instead of using an electric drill to do the work for you. That’s exactly why reamers are used today with modern drills today.
You can find a few different reamers online. Just like buying a set of screws or nuggets, you’re going to want to have a set of differently sized reamers. My favorite is an industrial set produced by Accusize, which goes for around $150. This includes four differently sized reamers, and you can choose more specific sizes if you have custom needs. You can also just buy an individual reamer for around $30 if that’s what you prefer.
Punches are very similar to reamers. While a reamer is mainly a drilling tool to enlarge an already existing hole, punches are meant to create the initial hole or opening in the metal, to begin with.
As the name would suggest, a punch literally “punches” its way through the metal at high speed, breaking open a hole. Unlike a reamer, which generally is used with a drill or other high powered piece of equipment, punches can be used without anything complex. Just use it with a hammer against a hot piece of metal, and you’ll be able to punch straight through it.
The good news is that punches aren’t really that expensive at all. A full set can cost you around $30 to $40, and that includes several different sizes. If you think you’re ever going to make something that will require to be screwed into something, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t buy a set of punches.
Don’t forget about your safety equipment!
While not equipment per se, it’s important not to forget to have your own safety gear as well. While blacksmithing doesn’t need to be dangerous, it’s possible to end up seriously hurting yourself by accident, whether you realize it’s possible or not.
Here are some of the most important things you will want to have safety-wise before you get started with your hobby.
Having a basic apron of sorts is pretty simple, but it’s also important. Rogue sparks can fly and hit your shirt, and depending on the material; you could burn or even set your clothes on fire!
Having a fireproof, leather apron will make sure that you stay clean and safe while you’re hammering away. Dedicated blacksmithing aprons have pockets to all sorts of blacksmithing related gear, like extra hammers, tongs, etc. However, even a basic apron will do just fine.
While it’s possible to smith without having eye protection, I would strongly encourage you not to do that. Again, a rogue spark or a piece of metal can go flying into your eye, causing severe injury to an extremely sensitive organ.
Goggles can be extraordinarily cheap as well, going for just a few dollars in some places. There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t have some sort of eye protection if you’re smithing at a forge. One pair that I’ve found to be really good and really cheap is the RAM-PRO flip-up front welding goggles. This pair comes in at only $8 but includes a flip-up filter that darkens your vision and protects your eyes from the brightness of the forge.
While some blacksmiths like to use a full-on forging mask, I found that to be pretty over the top, especially for a beginner blacksmith. Just buy something that will protect your eyes, and you will be good to go.
Just like with an apron, you’re going to want to have at least some hand protection. I honestly think a good pair of gloves is more important than an apron, specifically because your hands are so much closer to the forge and are much more likely to get burned by a rogue spark.
Fireproof gloves are easy to find, and a solid pair of blacksmithing gloves doesn’t need to cost that much. A pair of Rapicca leather forge welding gloves sell for a modest $17 for a pair. Others come in closer to $30 per pair, but they are all relatively the same. A good pair of gloves will protect your hands up to around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you are not literally putting your hands into your forge, then you’re going to be safe.
The last thing one should mention while on the topic of safety is for your eyes. While a beginner blacksmith might doubt that hearing loss would be a big issue for blacksmiths, it’s a surprisingly common phenomenon among people who don’t use hearing protection.
The constant ringing of a hammer striking against a piece of metal can cause damage over a long period of time. While occasionally working at the anvil once in a while won’t cause much of an issue, hearing loss can be a real problem for frequent blacksmiths that work hours at a time at the forge and anvil.
Again, earbuds cost almost nothing. You can find a package of a couple of dozen going for around $10 or less at your local hardware store.
Total costs: $840
All in all, if you bought everything on this list, it would cost you around $840 or so. While that’s still a pretty hefty price to pay overall, it’s actually quite cheap in comparison to what most professional blacksmiths end up forking out for high-end equipment.
The good news is that this is more than enough to cover whatever your blacksmithing needs will be as a beginner. These are also a one-time investment, as blacksmithing equipment tends to last for a fairly long time. Your forge and anvil, among other things, are going to last you a very long time.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to get everything on this list at once. Depending on what kind of projects you’ll be doing, you might not need a belt grinder or a set of reamers and punches. However, sooner or later, you’re going to want to have acquired everything on this list, as it will cover almost any type of blacksmithing job you will ever do in your life.
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