Blacksmithing is the craft of forging metals into different shapes and styles to make various hardware resources like tools. Apart from the industrial level of its application, blacksmithing is a popular hobby for those who enjoy the transformative power of handcrafted practices. Iron and best steel for blacksmithing get heated in a forge until they take on a red-hot appearance, ready to be hammered into a new shape. Once the metal attains sufficient malleability, it can be bent and reformed to develop the intended look. Hobbyists who found their affinity for the art since childhood often began as curious young apprentices to the blacksmith members of their family. Watching them work in dedicated workshops outside their home, with the forge and tools breathing a new life to the metals with best steel for blacksmithing, it is tempting to just pick up a hammer and give it a try – under the watchful guidance of adults!
If you enjoy metal DIY projects and use various tools every now and then to tear something down or make instant repairs, then blacksmithing is within your skills radar. Blacksmithing can be considered an expensive hobby for first-time users, as the forge and anvil consume most of the budget. The silver lining – or rather, red-hot lining – is that your initial investment goes a long way, especially when you warm up to this multi-faceted craft using best steel for blacksmithing.
Reasons why blacksmithing is a great hobby
DIY home repairs
People who already have a lot of hands-on experience with drills, hammers, wrenches, and tongs will find their existing skillset to be a good starting point. Blacksmithing with best steel for blacksmithing allows you to fix damaged and dented tools that you might need every day, and so this saves you a trip to the repair shop. It also helps you fix things to become as good as new, instead of buying a new set. Moreover, as you get better at this valuable craft, you will be able to hammer out your own tool creations on the anvil.
Handmade metal gifts
Blacksmiths can create their own metal souvenirs and jewelry for hand-me-downs using best steel for blacksmithing as well as special gifts for holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. A DIY handmade metal present is a very thoughtful gesture and makes an exceptional gift for your loved ones. Different blacksmithing tools open up a variety of unique possibilities to add your signature touches. This also creates remarkable scope for fans of medieval stories in books as well as movie adaptations. By designing your favorite steel swords, shields, and crowns, you can craft the perfect gift for your friends.
Despite the initial expenses, best steel blacksmithing is quite economical in the long run. It allows you to expand your hobby to include handcrafted objects for everyday use. These include kitchen utensils, cooking pots, furniture elements, metal rings, jewelry, décor pieces, etc. Your budget should take quality and durability into consideration, as high-end equipment always lasts longer. This also means that you can forge metals into more collections and save trips to the store with efficient metalworking projects.
Basic steps for steel blacksmithing
The fundamental stages of blacksmithing apply to various metal types, and here is a summarized insight into the process, using steel as an example. Steel is the best metal for blacksmithing projects, as it can be forged much better than other metals. It is comparatively more accessible and delivers better malleability as well as resistance to corrosion.
Drawing out the steel
Blacksmiths work with steel variations in the form of alloys, stainless steel, carbon steel, nickel steel, etc. There are different ways of drawing out the steel to make it longer. By heating the steel in the forge and using your hammer and anvil, the heated metal begins to lengthen under pressure. Another way to draw out steel is to use a fuller instrument that is purpose-built for spreading metals. The end result of drawing out steel is that it becomes thinner and longer than before. That is why it is important to use best steel for blacksmithing.
Upsetting for steel thickness
Unlike drawing out metals, upsetting is a process that makes the steel thicker by shortening and widening its dimensions. When blacksmiths beat the steel through upsetting, it becomes shorter and wider by targeting the hot and cold parts in strategic places. With distributed hammering along the steel, the red-hot end begins to thicken, and you can control the consistency by making the necessary repetitions.
Blacksmiths use different types of hammers for different purposes on best steel for blacksmithing, and if you struggle with hammering versatility, it will be a good idea to refine your skills first. Cross peen, straight peen, rounding, French, and Swedish pattern styles are some essential hammers used in blacksmithing projects. They allow blacksmiths to execute lengthening, curving, chasing, flanging, bending, punching, riveting, tempering, and welding techniques. These techniques hammer the steel into different shapes with metal hardening properties. The steel parts can be riveted together with punched holes, and welded components can be used for crafting bigger pieces.
The blacksmithing trade requires strict adherence to safety rules, whether the context is an industrial application or self-made workshops, so they need to use best steel for blacksmithing. With red-hot steel and metals as well hot sparks from each stage, blacksmiths are exposed to accidents such as burns and heat damages to the eyes. Safety goggles, gloves, safety boots, protective clothing, and earplugs are crucial blacksmithing gear. The workspace needs adequate ventilation and fire prevention measures to minimize the risks of such emergencies. Therefore, fire extinguishers and fire exits need frontline attention while setting up your space, with first-aid kits ready to use when needed.
Blacksmithing and the world of Etsy
While people often pursue blacksmithing as a hobby without worrying about taking things to the commercial level, this timeless craft has reserved its own spotlight on Etsy. The marketplace hub for handmade creations will be incomplete without some spectacular metalworking projects. Using Etsy to give their craftsmanship a global platform, hobbyists get a chance to launch their trade with best steel for blacksmithing, and home businesses find a bigger customer-base to thrive and grow with.
Etsy is also a great virtual gallery for showcasing your collections. Some of the outstanding handmade steel items include steel roses and lilies, ammonite fossil coasters, wedding bands, pendants, brooches, bowls, and customized stamps. There are also fixtures such as steel wall hooks, brackets, rivets, and even boardgame dice! Forged stainless-steel bracelets have handcrafted patterns and geometric designs with intricate details. Décor items include steel baubles and various ornamental creations to form impactful centerpieces. Fans of Harry Potter, there is a forged steel Deathly Hallows symbol in limited stock!
Best steel for blacksmithing
Choosing the best material for your blacksmithing projects is a key prerequisite, as it directly impacts the end results of your creations. Steel and its varied forms make the top tier of the blacksmithing hierarchy, and it is a versatile material for all kinds of objects. These range from household items and décor aspects to construction tools and creative souvenirs. Here are some of the best steel for blacksmithing that are used by blacksmiths, and we have explored their applications in detail.
A go-to choice
Carbon steel forms the most widely used category of best steel for blacksmithing. It has around 2% of alloying elements and typically contains copper, manganese, and silicon constituents. There are three general variations to choose from. Low carbon steels have 0.30% carbon and are used in fixtures, railings, flat metal sheets, and beams. Medium carbon steels have around 0.31% and 0.60% carbon for stronger steel gear products like hammers. High carbon steels contain more than 0.61% carbon content, making them the most suitable choice for knives and swords.
The carbon content determines the temperature required to manipulate and shape carbon steel items. Forging temperatures range around 2200°F and 2300°F. A higher carbon content typically lowers the maximum temperature, and the varying heat levels cause the steel to change its color. It is important to forge original carbon steel to avoid working with impure recycled steel that may contain traces of zinc and lead, as these release toxic fumes under high temperatures.
Pros and cons
Carbon steels are readily available and a more accessible choice for blacksmithing projects. They have a wide range of applications from ornamental items and utensils to everyday tools. Since carbon steel is relatively cheap, the metal is economically feasible and super conducive to a variety of shapes.
On the downside, greater carbon contents increase the brittleness of this steel, making it more difficult to give it a shape. The lack of malleability with hardened carbon steels causes the metal to break easily, since it cannot be deformed due to its brittle nature. Carbon steels also tend to corrode much faster than other steel types.
Improved combined properties
Alloyed steels are made of elements like manganese, chromium, nickel, and tungsten. The combined power of these individual constituents creates a more reinforced type of best steel for blacksmithing. The resulting alloyed steel is more ductile and can be formed into different shapes, with superior hardening and resistance as a blacksmithing metal.
Contribution from each element
Alloy steels need to undergo heat treatments to amplify the effect of their added properties. The alloying elements that make up alloyed steel contribute to its chemical makeup in different ways. For example, manganese works on the strength and shock resistance aspects, whereas chromium influences the overall steel hardness and toughness. Nickel makes the steel more resistant to corrosion and oxidation levels, and tungsten affects the grain structure of steel.
Pros and cons
Alloy steel is a great choice for streamlined heat and mechanical treatments. Its advantages come from the alloying elements used to create it. Therefore, higher ductility, better resistance, and improved durability make alloy steels crucial for aerospace applications, construction, electric devices, and power industries.
For blacksmith contexts, alloy steel is more expensive than carbon steel and has the side effect of becoming brittle under higher stress.
No rust, no stain
Stainless steel forms the high-end of this metallic spectrum in terms of superior resistance to corrosion. It contains a minimum of 10% of the alloying element, chromium, which forms a chromium oxide layer on the stainless steel when exposed to the atmosphere. This protective layer recycles itself on the steel’s surface, thereby eliminating any chance of rusting and staining and creating best steel for blacksmithing. The smooth and shiny finishing allows blacksmiths to craft utensils and jewelry that stand out in their lustrous appeal.
Stainless steel categories
Stainless steel has a forging temperature of around 1700°F to 2100°F. Different elements define the four general categories of stainless steel that have a vast array of applications, and a skilled blacksmith will be able to play to that advantage. There are magnetic stainless steels with high chromium compositions. Nickel stainless steels have better toughness that makes them ideal for food and medical industry equipment. Molybdenum stainless steels are magnetic and highly ductile, which makes them best-suited for crafting handmade blades. A combination of high chromium and high molybdenum contents results in supremely tough stainless steel for industrial-grade equipment.
Pros and cons
Stainless steel blacksmithing creates a whole assortment of kitchen utensils and appliance parts, thanks to its corrosion-resistant properties. There is better scope for DIY repairs on the anvil. Stainless steel has higher ductility for more manageable shaping and reforming.
However, not all hammering techniques work with stainless steel, as it can be challenging to weld stainless steel parts for blacksmithing creations. Also, the chromium-molybdenum duplex group of stainless steel does not work well for hand forging processes.
Domestic and commercial tools
Tool steels have the specific application of creating different types of tools. These steels have a higher resistance to heat and abrasion, since they need to work efficiently to cut and shape other objects. Carbon and alloy steels are usually combined into this type of steel for better durability and ergonomics. There are several different categories of tool steel with separate forging temperature ranges, market availabilities, chemical properties, and element combinations. With more techniques and forging freedoms in their arsenal, hobbyists and experts can craft more steel items. Some examples are cutlery, fixtures, machine parts, woodworking blades, chisels, springs, and drill bits.
Pros and cons
Tool steel is quite tough and resistant to wear and tear from frequent use. It is an ideal choice for crafting handmade items that can be used flexibly in both domestic and commercial contexts. Tool steel retains its hardness at higher temperatures and extends to industrial uses as a result of this improved resistance.
Hand forging certain types of tool steel requires working with very high temperatures. Retail stores do not sell all kinds of tool steel, and so you might need to search with warehouses to find the specific tool steel for your project.
Steel is a highly recycled metal and scrap steels provide a convenient alternative to buying new best steel for blacksmithing for your workshop. Recycled steel is a more sustainable option, but you do need to be able to confirm its origins so that you do not end up with toxic fumes from zinc and lead. There are several options you might stumble upon during your scavenger hunt, including drums, cables, lawnmower blades, and car parts.
Pros and cons
Sustainability is always a fruitful benefit, and using recycled steel efficiently minimizes the carbon footprint. An interesting fact is that the recycling stages do not cause the steel properties to diminish with each level. So, not only do you get to use a free metal, but you also benefit from its resilient properties that stay as good as new.
A major drawback of scavenging for your mix of steel is that the origins cannot be verified, and the individual alloying elements are often difficult to manage. Consequently, the final results are affected by what goes into the forge, as the overall quality, durability, resistance, and finishing aspects cannot be guaranteed.
Where to find the best steel for blacksmithing
Metal supply shops, retail hardware stores, and warehouses provide competitive options for best steel for blacksmithing, and you can always get your steel bars shipped in from online stores. Welding shops and fabricators are also potential sources if they are willing to agree on mutual deals. Here are two examples of online steel bars to add to your virtual cart before they make it to your forge.
1095 Steel barstock for forging and Knife Making 3/16″ x 1-1/2″ x 12″ Knife Blade Steel USA Made
This steel bar stock has a matte exterior finish and is a spring steel 1095, stainless-steel material. It is an ideal choice for blacksmiths to forge the steel into different shapes to make knives. The steel material has a high carbon content and better resistance to abrasion. The optimum forging temperature for this bar is 2100 degrees Fahrenheit, and it can be hardened to standard levels. The 1095 steel is the go-to buying choice for hobbyists, as it makes the best knife blades.
W2 Steel Flat Barstock | 12×1.5×5/16 | Knife Making
This high-carbon steel has a vanadium composition, suitable for knife-making projects. The steel can be forged, hammered, and transformed until the desired shape is achieved. In sword-smithing contexts, the hamons effect can be created through the hardening process, and this steel bar helps you reach that level of detail.
To have nerves of steel
Professional blacksmiths know how to work at metallurgist levels of competence and experience. Unless you are an expert blacksmith or an apprentice to one, it always helps to stick with known choices to avoid unforeseen failures and accidents. As a beginner, you will need to work with someone who knows what they are doing before you can forge steel on your own. Metalworking can be a very rewarding experience, and by receiving some strong hands-on training, you might even launch your own Etsy collection in the near future!