Someone you know has gotten into blacksmithing and you're looking for an appropriate gift! Never fear! I can get you pointed in the right direction.
(I've included links for your convenience--some of them give me a tiny kick-back that helps support the school. Please feel free to comparison shop and give me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org if you find a better product or better deal!)
- Safety glasses Even if your blacksmith has a favorite pair already, safety glasses get misplaced and scratched. It's useful to have a fresh pair (or 12) on hand for visitors and helpers!
- LED safety glasses Okay, these are just too danged cool. Sometimes my shop is a bit dark and it's nice to have a little extra light pointed right where I'm looking! (See picture to left.)
- Disposable earplugs This virtually endless supply of earplugs will protect your blacksmith's hearing for a long time. Great for visitors and helpers!
- Custom molded earplugs All the cool kids are doing it. Disposable earplugs are great, but if your blacksmith is in their shop every day, they're going to go through a lot of earplugs. I haven't tried these out myself yet, but they're on my list!
- Bluetooth earmuff -- Keep the shop noise down and listen to your music. I haven't found one that I like yet. Keep me posted if you recommend one!
- Face shield Do you like your blacksmith's face the way it is now? Awesome! Help your blacksmith keep their face in top-notch condition and keep plastic surgery bills down!
- Kevlar sleeves Does your blacksmith often have tiny burn marks on their forearms? Missing arm hair? These kevlar sleeves are amazing. I also wear them when welding.
- Kevlar gloves Did you know that most smiths (who wear gloves) only wear a glove on their non-hammer hand? I haven't found a lot of great options for folks with smaller hands, but check out these and let me know how they work.
- Instant ice packs Burns are inevitable. The best way to keep a minor burn from getting worse is to cool it off right away. If there's no freezer in your smith's workshop, instant ice packs are the way to go.
- Blisters, in my experience, require two types of care: care while you're still working and care after you clean up. Try out the 2nd skin with medical tape over it for in the shop. Try out blister bandaids once you've laid down your hammer for the day.
- First aid kits are really smart things to have in the shop, and if your blacksmith doesn't have one yet, it's sure to come in handy. Upgrade to this one if you have extra funds lying around. Super useful to have tweezers for metal splinters, a mirror, and some extra burn cream packets.
- Fire extinguishers are pretty much no-brainers for blacksmithing shops. If your blacksmith already has a fire extinguisher, check to see when it was last maintained. Your local fire department may be able to refill them for $15-20, or they may be able to direct to someone who can.
- There are many ways to put out a fire. Fire blankets are super helpful. These automatic dry chemical extinguishers seem like a great idea. And there are lots of really neat videos showing these fire extinguisher balls in use.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors Are a really really really good idea.
Your blacksmith is just starting to set up their own shop and you want to help them get there. The most important tools for smithing (forge, forge stand, fuel, anvil, anvil stand, post vice, post vice stand, hammer) are actually the most challenging items to list in a gift guide because so much depends on their shop setup and their personal preferences. PLUS, WOWEE, these are EXPENSIVE TOOLS. Let your blacksmith buy these tools. Unless you're really nice. And then, please feel free to buy one for me too.
- Forge -- Don't buy your blacksmith a forge. It's just going to cause all sorts of problems. Is your blacksmith going to forge with coal? With propane? With electricity? Each answer is fraught with additional questions, like, "how will you vent to the outside?" and "where will you store the coal?" Trust me. Let your blacksmith figure this out.
- Anvil -- Don't buy your blacksmith an anvil. But if you must, please consider buying a quality anvil. I covet: Jymm Hoffman's anvils, and Nimba anvils. Yes, new anvils are expensive. Yes, anvils are heavy. Yes, I really like the German-style anvils. Yes, I will accept gifts of anvils on behalf of the school.
- Post vice/vise -- Don't buy your bla-- actually. What the heck. Go ahead. Buy a post vice. But check to make sure that it has the spring and the plate to mount it. These bits tend to get lost.
- Hammer -- There are so many hammer designs out there... I currently use a Hofi-style hammer. Your smith will probably try out a lot of different hammers before finding a favorite. Check out Patrick Quinn's hammers, or his hammer-making class. Or check locally for a hammer-making class.
- Stands -- Buy your blacksmith a welder and they'll be able to craft their own custom stands in 2-104 weeks. There are a lot of welders available used, but I am currently drooling over this one.
- Tongs are absolutely critical to forging. Perhaps your blacksmith already has some tongs! BUY MORE!!!! Check out here and here and here and here. A note here about tongs: blacksmiths can make their own tongs! But I don't know of a single blacksmith who would turn down a professionally-made set of tongs. You could keep a blacksmith happy for years by buying a different size pair of tongs for every major gifting occasion. My boyfriend recently surprised me a bouquet of tongs. He's a keeper. I'm just saying. :)
Marking and Measuring
- Soap stone Smiths use this to mark their metal in preparation for bending, cutting, drilling, etc. Soap stone looks and acts a lot like chalk, but remains on the material after being in the fire.
- Silver pencil Alternative to soapstone. Less visible than soap stone on cold metal, but MORE visible on hot metal. I use both.
- Metal rulers If your smith has been borrowing your wood or plastic ruler, chances are pretty good that you're not going to get it back without a little char on it. I've linked to a set of metal rulers of different sizes. If you happen to come across a metal FOLDING ruler at a yard sale or something, snap it up--if your blacksmith doesn't want it, I know some who would!
- Measuring tape Your blacksmith probably already has a measuring tape already. But maybe a keychain version would be helpful?
- Speed square This nifty thing helps your blacksmith make things square. Quickly. Very useful.
- Rivets There are a lot of ways to join multiple pieces of metal together. Rivets are among the fastest and most versatile. Get the STEEL (not stainless steel) rivets, and if it's in your budget, get a variety of sizes. Watch out for McMaster-Carr--they'll deliver your order so fast you'll think it's magic.
- Hand files It's incredibly useful to have a wide variety of hand files around. I know this, which is why all of the files that my boyfriend buys for his projects ultimately end up in my possession. Tiny files are great for tiny spaces. Round files are great for rounding things. Rectangular files are great for making things squareish. Rasps are great for getting rid of a lot of material quickly, precision files are great for detail work. Look, I don't want to beat you over the head with this: hand files make great gifts. Get a variety. Arrange them in a bouquet. Your blacksmith will love it.
- Steel wool Yeah, this sounds like a weird thing, but it's one of the ways we clean up metal to finish it. The stuff you buy in the grocery store is fine too, so long as it doesn't have soap embedded in it.
Cutting & drilling
- Drill bits I tend to buy drill bit sets from my local box hardware store, BUT, I happened to take a look at the "about drill bits" section on the McMaster-Carr site and WOW, there's a lot of great information there!
- Chop saw I have an older version of this saw. Don't forget to get some replacement blades.
- Vice grips So so helpful if your blacksmith has only one pair of hands. This links to McMaster-Carr's page on vice grips, which sports a dizzying array of sizes and shapes of grips. Most of which would be a great addition to a shop. When in doubt, select from the Vice-Grip Plier Clamps, or the Vice-Grip Locking Pliers first.
Forge & fire
I will update this post with feedback from real, live blacksmiths!... Check back for updates soon!