In Praise of the Welder

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It took me probably twelve years of blacksmithing before I learned to weld. This might sound familiar to some of you–since whenever somebody asks me what they need to do to start smithing, usually I recommend a collection of tools that can be found/made for under a hundred bucks, if you know where to look. This is just a jumping-off point, though, and for someone who wants to increase their forging capability I really, really recommend learning to weld. Except for maybe the most stringent of traditional smiths, the welder will see a significant amount of use in the shop.

I say this because even if you’re a purist and never arc weld on your wrought iron, you’ll want to weld behind the scenes. If anybody reading this has ever seriously considered making knives, you’ll know the most important tool to have is a (probably 2×72″) belt grinder. Sure, you can drop bank on a KMG, or get a cheaper Pheer grinder from eBay, or a Grizzly, or you can pick up the no-weld plans or the grinder-in-a-box or do one of a bunch of other things. I did the research a while back if you can’t tell. But with a capable welder, building the frame for your grinder is uncannily easy, and the welding itself can be knocked out in about half an hour. It’s also much simpler and I believe much stronger than the no-weld grinder, if you’ve seen those plans.IMG_0156

Once you’re done with your grinder, or whatever, you might start looking around and seeing opportunities for tooling improvements in your shop–after all, now a guillotine tool is just a few pieces of 1/2″ plate and a few minutes of welding. Maybe instead of wiring together that damascus billet, you just run a couple beads and weld on a rod. Maybe (and this is a touchy subject, but here goes) you can buy that junkyard anvil now without worrying about how you’re going to fix the enormous dead spot on the face. More on that later. The more you forge, the more you realize two things: 1) that much of the work isn’t going to be on the actual piece, it’s going to be on the tooling for the piece, and 2) if you have a piece of tooling, you’ll be more willing to do harder projects later if that tooling makes the process more predictable/enjoyable/fast.

That is to say nothing about the total necessity of welding in modern blacksmithing-fabricating, if that’s more your speed, but if it is you probably already have a welder and use it daily. And if you wanted my honest recommendation I love the little welder I bought. Just look in the image above if you want the brand and model. It’s one of the better value models out there, with plenty of guts on the 240v circuit. I don’t know TIG, yet, but I can always expand in that direction if  I choose to invest the time to learn.

In conclusion, I never thought this until I actually had the welder, but I’d consider it among the basic tools necessary to a starting blacksmith. My usual recommendation is this, in this order: forge, anvil, hammer, tongs, vise–in that order. Once you have those, you can start learning to forge. But without a welder it will be either very difficult or very expensive to continue expanding your capabilities beyonIMG_0154d this point. Once you have the basics of forging down, and when you really want to get some wind under your wings, take a class. It’s not the most obvious step, but it’s definitely the most horizon-expanding.

Housekeeping

It’s been a while. I feel like I should say that first–for the people who are here for the first time, and for the few who have commented before. This is the first time I’ve been logged in since my last post, and that’s too long to keep a blog on the back burner…I’ve been busy but that’s no excuse! Today marks the beginning of a new stage of Gray Banner’s life, and my own. I’ll be posting more regularly, and answering comments as often as I can. To those who’ve gone unanswered for some months: I apologize.

An update on the forge: it’s up and it’s running.

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I also have a few projects going: first, restoring a long-neglected anvil, to upgrade my little jumpy one. Second, building a small foundry for casting bronze. The latter will be vital for making bronze fittings for knives (and hopefully swords), as well as a lot of other cool stuff. Posts to come.

And an update for folks awaiting the Mehrunes’ Razor: I am working on it. The foundry will be an enormous step, and I hope to start on orders soon after. I am currently working on molds for the fittings–they will take some time, because I want them to be perfect.

Dirty Lawn

Back in mid-April when the ground thawed I started digging a hole in my yard. Since then I’ve been working, and now I have something:

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Behind those piles of construction waste is my new workshop. Okay, I’ll admit it, this took me longer than I thought it would. Turns out building a structure from scratch is hard. Or not really hard, but not easy, and pretty taxing mentally (see that pile of rocks? Yeah, that isn’t even all of them). Now, though, the exterior is done, and electrical is just about plumbed in–all that remains are the inside walls, ceiling, chimney, lights, receptacles, and workbenches. After that maybe my posts will be a little more on-point concerning, ahem, the actual purpose of Gray Banner Forge, which is forging.

(right after a long nap)

When the Man Comes Around

Sometimes you need a change–and when this happens, sometimes it’s best to change everything.

You may have come here from my old website, garrinknifeworks.com. You may have come from my Youtube channel, or somewhere else–whatever way, welcome. I’m  In the last several years, I’ve moved from place to place: Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and several places in Maine. Garrin Knifeworks followed me wherever I went; like me, it was a nomad, and could pick up and move with a minute’s notice. But things change, often for the better, and now I’ve found a place to rest.

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With a permanent home comes a larger, permanent workshop, and this gives me more versatility in my work. The old name no longer fits, because while knives are still my meat and potatoes, I will soon be capable of much more. Who doesn’t like a little spice on their steak?

While I am not yet able to take new orders, I will soon. If you would like to know when this time comes, email me and I’ll make sure you find out as soon as I open my doors. Otherwise, you can follow my past and present work (both in steel, and in my everyday life) through this blog, or several social media platforms. See the RAISE THE GRAY BANNER tab.

Till then, fair waters and following winds.