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A Taste of Blacksmithing

"A Taste of Blacksmithing" is the name of one of the introductory classes offered by the Prospect Hill Forge in Waltham, MA. It's a nominal 3 hours (we were there for over 4 hours this past Saturday) of learning the very basics of working iron.

The goal is to make a decorative S-hook from about a foot and a half length of squared iron rod. Once past all the safety instruction, general instruction, and demo, we got to do the steps ourselves (with lots of help and encouragement from the great guys who run the place).

The steps, simplified:
(1) Heat a middle section of rod till nicely glowing. Stick it in the vise, put a double-handled wrench over the top and twist till it looks pretty.
(2) Mark off the longer section of rod from the twist to match the shorter side of the twist.
(3) Heat the end of the shorter section till even more of a glow. Hammer the end, turning the rod as needed, to draw out the metal into a fine point, reheating as needed (and trying not to burn/melt off the tip as it narrows).
(4) Heat gently, hammer gently to curve the tip into a whorl.
(5) Heat the metal below the curl (without losing the curl) till nicely glowing and put it in a bending rig to curve the end into a hook.
(6) Find the mark from (2). Heat the rod at the mark, put it over a cutting edge on the anvil, and hammer down to cut the metal nearly through, then bend and break with pliers.
(7) Repeat steps (3) through (5) with this end of the rod.

And you get something like these (click on pictures for larger versions):

Mine is second from the bottom, and you can see I had trouble with step (5) each time, not very smooth bends at the ends.

We had access to many tools:

And small but efficient forges:

And it was really great fun. Highly recommended!