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One of the most important things for a beginner to understand

One of the most important things for a beginner to understand is that blacksmithing is not an ‘instant gratification’ activity. It takes time and a lot of effort to become competent, and an incredibly large amount of practice to become skilled. But don’t despair! I am living proof that someone with no practical experience working with their hands can, given enough practice, become skilled at blacksmithing.

When I first began learning, my teacher Bob Patrick was kind and encouraging and gave me a solid foundation on which to build skills. That is probably the most important thing you should seek out when you’re first starting out. Books and videos are valuable resources to a beginner, but they are not ideal teaching tools because they lack nuance (do it THIS way, not THAT way…). As a beginner, you are not able to see subtle differences between the way a teacher, say, swings a hammer or angles a tool in a video, and the way you do it. But the teacher can give you that nuanced input. One of my role models for blacksmithing, Doug Hendrickson, once wrote me, “You’ll learn more in a week with a good teacher than you will in a year with a hammer in one hand and a book in the other.” Though a video may show a little more than a book, the same thing applies to them.

So get involved with the blacksmith association in your area. Almost every place in the USA and the more heavily populated parts of Canada has these organizations. Find good teachers, and soak them shamelessly for information. You’ll find them a sharing group of people.

“There is more than one right way to live.”
~ Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael

“And if you don’t believe that, you’ll never find any of them.”
~ Walt Hull, artist-blacksmith

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