Hey folks! Like the name implies, I am a semi-pro blacksmith (I have a day job but do this on my off hours) and recently, I wanted to know what I could do to help these men and women, even in a small way, to help them cope with PTSD. I, after talking to a friend who suffers from PTSD, came up with the name "Forge Ahead". It's not a charity, it's not a program per se, it's more of an idea. The idea is to help these men and women by giving them a skill they may not have had before. One thing that is vitally important for these people is to get out and socialize. And learning new things in a safe environment is a great way to do that. And really, what's more manly than heating up metal and wailing on it with a hammer? All I'm asking my fellow Smiths is to offer one class, free of charge, to Military members, serving or retired, who are dealing with PTSD. They can offer more if they like (and that would be wonderful) but try it at one.

Now, as for a Proof pic here it is; Imgur

That's me holding my favorite hammer and the logo a friend of mine came up with for the program. It has a Canadian Maple leaf on it for now, but soon there will be a Star for those teachers and organizations in the USA that want to provide the service. She can even put a Union Jack there or the Stars of the Aussie flag.

Here is a close up of the display board if any of you are interested; Imgur

And the logo; Imgur

I'll try and answer questions as best I can, as often as I can. If you know of anyone who teaches Blacksmithing (or any craft for that matter) let them know, put the bug in their ear, and let it go from there.

Here is the link to the Facebook page where people can upload photos and stories about the classes and how they went. People can and, I hope, will post photos of the items they make. https://www.facebook.com/groups/495149097200606/

Comments: 177 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

Rorsaur49 karma


TheBlacksmith6434 karma

My skill level- my teacher, puts me at the Journeyman or better. I'm not quite at the Master level yet, but close. I'm designing my 'masterpiece' (yes, that's where the word comes from) and once it's done, he will evaluate it, and give me a thumbs up or down.

Iron daggars? Must be a video game reference...

I have and do make knives, arrowheads, spearheads and even a warhammer. It's not my favorite thing, but it's fun to make things like that for an afternoon.

Rorsaur9 karma


TheBlacksmith6413 karma

Thank you, so do I. There is no real criteria anymore for Blacksmiths, anyone with a 50 dollar anvil, a bbq or a torch and a ball pein hammer can call themselves a "master blacksmith". But some of us still try and be honest about our skill level.

wintercast2 karma

i have many twisted iron items in my house such as a candle holder, spoon, fork, and a hook i use on my grill. I purchased them from a state park that had a working black smith on site.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

That's a great job if you can get it. I put in for a Blacksmith's job years ago working for the Federal government. I didn't get it because the fellow who did was right around the corner, and they would have had to pay my moving expenses. Sigh, always a bridesmaid...

Stolenusername2 karma

War Hammer seriously? Do you sale your work? or this this more of a hobby? I see it says you are semi-professional so I guess you must sale some.

I'd love to buy a hand crafter war hammer.

Also, do you do intricate work? Like designs in metal or anything? Or is it mostly simple objects.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

I have done intricate work, but it's not really my style. If someone wants decorative I can do it, but it get's expensive.

seyon572 karma

I have to ask out of curiosity: what are you making/designing for your "masterpiece"? Is it something completely new that you are designing yourself, or is it just a well known, but tough-to-create, piece of metalwork?

Probably a dumb question, but oh well.

TheBlacksmith646 karma

Not a dumb question at all. I'm working on two columns that will have a gate between them. Purely decorative, but it will encompass several different design elements that while separate, have to work together stylistically. I'm about halfway through the design phase. Next step is to make the plans full size and get to cutting some steel.

Andy541636 karma

As a soldier. Thank you.

TheBlacksmith6430 karma

I'm a retired soldier myself, so, you're welcome and thank you too.

Accent1223 karma

This is awesome. Thanks for doing not only the AMA but what you do for the soldiers.

What project are you most proud of, blacksmithing-wise?

TheBlacksmith6438 karma

Myself? I'd have to say it was this one; Imgur

I made it for my wife last mothers day. It's my own design and I think it turned out quite well.

Accent1213 karma

Whoa, that's awesome looking. How long did that take you?

TheBlacksmith6418 karma

From design to completion, I estimated about 30 hours. It always get's compliments when people come over.

Death74 karma

I'm 201 cm tall. Remind me not to go into your house.

TheBlacksmith646 karma

LOL, not to worry, it's up above the loveseat in a corner. You'd have to be VERY unlucky to hit it.

ruddias20 karma

Not trying to be rude, but why soldiers with PTSD? Does blacksmithing therapeutically help people suffering from PTSD? Couldn't the loud noises be a trigger?

TheBlacksmith6449 karma

You know, I thought of that too. Apparently not. The sound is completely different. As for why soldiers (and others, let's fact it, police, firefighters, EMS members get it too) with PTSD, it's my way of giving them something to think about. As one student put it; Some way to turn off that movie in my head. Many of them find concentrating on something helps a great deal. And you MUST concentrate with a yellow-hot piece of steel in your hand.

Kartavious8 karma

I can vouch for that. The single subject concentration is called "centering" and is therapeutic. This would be very good for that.

TheBlacksmith643 karma

Exactly my thinking.

Transformis16 karma

I'd recommend contacting the Warrior Transition Command. The US Army has Warrior Transition Battalions which are responsible for the care and transition (to civilian or back into military service) of injured and ill soldiers.

Specifically, each battalion should have a point of contact who organizes MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation) events for their soldiers. I am currently in one of these battalions and we have a calendar of events every month with stuff like this on it. I'm at JBLM, Washington, so many of our MWR events involve outdoors type stuff. Fishing trips, a weekly fly-tying session, therapeutic horseback riding, etc. Your idea would fit right in.

And from a soldier with PTSD, thanks for doing this. It helps so much to have something on your calendar to look forward to.

TheBlacksmith6412 karma

That's an awesome idea! I'll have to check to see if the Canadian forces has something like this in their program. And hey, no problem at all, it's the least I can do.

crohakon11 karma

No questions, but I think what your doing is great. Keep it up.

TheBlacksmith6411 karma

Thank you I'm trying and spreading the word. It's not much, but it's what I can do, and what I can afford to do.

mancub8 karma

How long has Forge Ahead been active? Do you have a goal in mind for the idea?

Thank you for doing what you're doing. :)

TheBlacksmith6414 karma

I've been Blacksmithing for 30 years and I've had 4 different shops in that time. None so large and well laid out as this one however. I have, if you note in the proof photo, two forges. A third one is going in this spring (if the snow ever leaves us) so I can go from 4 to 6 students if I want to (I usually have one per station but two per station is doable and helps with teamwork as well as being more social)

It's been official for only a little while now, but the idea formed last year when one of my students turned out to be a veteran of not only Afganistan, but of Bosnia too. He said that this really helped him out. Over lunch (we always provide Chili or a stew and homemade bread and brownies [my wife is an awsome cook]) there is a lot of talk between bites and the stories just start to flow when they feel safe and in an encouraging environment. So, I got to thinking, "why not get a class together of folks dealing with similar issues" and I mulled it over all winter. And, here it is.

ColinDavies8 karma

I wish you the best of luck with this. As soon as I'm set up to teach, I'll see about getting onboard.

TheBlacksmith646 karma

Good to hear. Feel free to download the logo and use it in your photos. And don't forget to upload a photo or two to the Facebook group. I left it open for that reason.

Heartless0004 karma

Can you start a Youtube channel so people can learn how to Blacksmith? I would definitely subscribe.

TheBlacksmith649 karma

Way ahead of you. My first video is being edited, I hope it won't be too long before it's up. In the meantime, there are plenty of others.

nickmoschitti4 karma

Have you ever made something that backfired horribly?

TheBlacksmith6411 karma

Not so much backfired, as was a horrible looking thing at the end. I tried to do a two tiered candleabra where the pieces that held the two hoops were both for stability and for a candleholder. The whole thing was just off from the get go but I couldn't stop trying to fix it (instead of tossing the whole thing in the scrap bin and starting over) Someone bought it from me for a song, I was happy to see it go to be honest. And they seemed happy with it so it turned out ok in the end.

inputninja4 karma

How does one break into blacksmithing?

TheBlacksmith646 karma

The same way you break into any art or craft; according to your enthusiasm and budget. Blacksmithing is not cheap to start though you can lessen the blow to your pocketbook by reading, learning and being shrewd about your purchases. I've found Anvils at farm auctions for $20.00 that were in perfect shape and seen anvils so badly mangled that I'd only use them for a boat anchor go for upwards of $400.00 Just be careful about what you buy.

Cbaird19934 karma

Where do you have classes set up? And how would one go about signing up for a class? My step-dad suffers from PTSD and I think this could be great for him. He has been thinking about getting into a trade and this could be a good place to start. I really appreciate What you're doing here. There's a lot of people who don't understand how badly PTSD can affect your life

TheBlacksmith645 karma

I'm in Manitoba Canada. I've sent the info to ABANA http://www.abana.org/ And they may have teachers willing to help you out. Good luck.

Cbaird19931 karma

Thanks! But we are just a couple of provinces over in Alberta Is there anyone out this way we might be able to get some info from?

TheBlacksmith642 karma

Hey there neighbor! Try these guys; http://www.wcbg.ca/ I sent them an email recently, haven't heard back from them yet. I know they're busy so I'm not worried.

iwillPWNyou3 karma

I'm interested in learning the craft myself, how is it starting out financially?

As for the actually smithing, is it superbly difficult to learn?

TheBlacksmith645 karma

It's not difficult to learn, but like any craft, it takes a long time to master. I've been at it for 30 years and only now consider myself "skilled" but by no means a Master of the craft. Financially, it's not the cheapest craft to get into. The anvil alone can set you back hundreds of dollars. Forges are available from farm auctions or sometimes you find them on Craigslist and Kijiji.

halohelmet3 karma

Can you make me a suit of armor?

TheBlacksmith6412 karma

I spent about 8 years making armour. The answer is; yes I can, but I won't. I now make armor pieces mainly for private collections and museums.

dick-burglar3 karma

Hey man that's awesome, especially for the vets. How interested are they (or any other person) in learning it? I would imagine its kind of a hard thing to teach.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

It's not that hard to teach ,at least, not for me. I invited two teachers that I know to come take my class free of charge so that they could evaluate me. They both said that my teaching style was good and that my "enthusiasm for the craft" really made things interesting. It was really good to hear that, especially from professionals.

DissapointedBird1 karma

Have you thought about asking those two teachers to help you with the program?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

They've both offered to help however they can.

i_crave_more_cowbell3 karma

What's the most interesting thing you've seen a soldier make?

TheBlacksmith645 karma

In my classes, it's pretty much the basics. We start with Hammer wedges (those metal things you drive into a hammer head to keep the handle in) and then we make "the thing" which is just a 1/2" piece of round stock that we forge half of it square, and then point each end. Round end gets pointed square, square end gets pointed round. It looks weird but it's great to show transition from one cross-section to another and back again. Then we make S hooks and finally, a steak flipper. If there is time, we try to make a few nails. The class is only 8 hours long and we stop for an hour lunch.

gutterandstars3 karma

Why do you think veterans are getting screwed over?

TheBlacksmith645 karma

I don't know that they're getting "screwed over" and I'm interested in hearing how you came to that conclusion.

I simply wanted to do something, in my own way, to help with their recovery. It won't be for everyone, but I'm willing to try and help.

l33tb3rt3 karma

Kudos on doing this. Two questions:

1) How in the hell do you manage to know the correct temperature of metal before working on it? I go to some of the reenactment days at a local historical spot, and there is no thermometer in sight. They pull it out, look at it, then decide from there. Is it slight color differences? Some droop in the metal?

2) Are there plans to offer the therapy to those with PTSD, but who are not military members? Unfortunately a lot of PTSD is not acknowledged/treated because it is so frequently identified with combat.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

Just the way you describe it; via color. Correct forging is about a bright yellow heat. Clean up forging is in the red zone, and when it's a blood red, it's not hot enough to forge. Welding is almost white. You get to know by color and how the metal responds to your hammer blows. It all comes with experience.

Yes, if members of Fire, Police or EMS are interested, I'd be very happy to have them join a class.

RadOwl2 karma

I'm curious why you believe blacksmithing will help with PTSD. I think doing anything that requires long periods of concentration helps with healing trauma mainly by keeping the mind too occupied to think about it. Plus, you mentioned learning new skills and socializing, which certainly help. But is there anything specifically about blacksmithing? I imagine that pounding the hell out of metal might be therapeutic for working out aggression / anger, but I've never tried it. Personally, I scream in pillows. ;)

TheBlacksmith6412 karma

The only special thing about Blacksmithing is that I'm good at it, I teach it, and, let's face it, if there is a manlier art out there I have yet to hear of it. ;-)

RadOwl1 karma

Yeah, it's pretty manly. What did you think about Orlando Bloom playing a blacksmith in Kingdom of Heaven? Personally, I thought the transition from Elf to blacksmith was, uh, a little much.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

I never saw that one. Maybe I'll check it out.

RandomPotato2 karma

What tools are needed to become a blacksmith? Is it really as simple as 'heat up a piece of metal in a forge, then beat it into shape with a hammer and anvil, repeat'?

TheBlacksmith643 karma

At the very basic level, yes, that's pretty much it. This guy has a great video on the subject. Now, he's a bit negative, in that he gives you the worst case scenario (I don't know of anyone who can't get a good score on tools every now and then) but it gives you a good idea. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHdXhwygApg

Helios1772 karma

Have you ever forged a weapon? If so what is it? What is your favorite tool?

TheBlacksmith642 karma

I've made knives, spearheads (lots of those) from Roman all the way up to late Medieval. I even made a medieval warhammer once.

My favorite tool (aside from my anvil) would have to be a hundred year old hammer that used to belong to my grandfather (also a blacksmith, it seems to run in the family) I wouldn't be without it for love or money.

ruinevil2 karma

What's your worst burn.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

A very small one right in the crotch of my thumb and forefinger I got a few years ago. That thing just wouldn't heal and kept me up nights. I swear it had it's own, independent heartbeat!

ecsegar2 karma

A noble intent, for sure, but is blacksmithing, forgive the unintended slight, the best (I.e. contemporary) skill to teach? I can see the therapeutic value, but as a skill its not exactly in high demand outside of the horse industry, period re-enactments, and ren fairs.

TheBlacksmith6414 karma

Any item that can be hand made, with even a modicum of skill, is a treasure these days. Everything is so disposable and machine made, that the idea of building something yourself, is almost alien to most people. Even in my early days, I'd make small candleholders for people at Yule, and they are treasured even today (despite the fact that I've offered to toss out "that junk" and give them a new, nicer one).

WhiskeyFist2 karma

My friend Im looking at getting into the trade but I'm concerned about the prevalence of work for me to do. What would you suggest a blacksmith do to make a living? Thanks

TheBlacksmith644 karma

First, get skilled at it. Take your time and learn it correctly. Then find a niche market and prepare to answer some odd questions/requests. If you get quite good, make sure to take photos of your work and bring a portfolio to an Architectural firm that builds high end houses. They may not call you for months, but every once in a while, they do call, and their clients can and do pay well for handmade work.

test_alpha2 karma

When are you going to turn pro?

TheBlacksmith643 karma

I doubt I ever will. There just isn't enough work available for a Blacksmith in these parts. Unless you do welding/fabricating too that is.

atfumbel2 karma

Are you on /r/blacksmith?

If so, have you ever run into a former student there?

As an aspiring blacksmith without a teacher, what advice would you give me?

TheBlacksmith643 karma

I am on that subreddit actually. The only advice is that you should read this publication; http://www.hct.ac.uk/Downloads/cp_blacksmith.html

Download and print it, and use it like a lesson plan. Do not skip ahead and do each exercise until you feel you can do it reasonably well in a continuous series of operations. Then move on to the next one. If you do that, you'll have a very good set of basic skills. Good luck, and use that subreddit if you have questions. The guys there are very helpful.

TheWingnutSquid2 karma

Hey, great AMA and that's an interesting and awesome thing to do for soldiers. Keep at it

I was wondering if you could craft specific designs. If I handed you some screenshots of iron daggers or the iron helmet from skyrim, would you be able to craft it?

I assume you wouldn't craft it but out of curiosity...

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Sure, fire one up. I did a "Dwarven daggar" for a friend based on the weapons in the recent Hobbit film. That was a fun project. It had to be "clunky". Usually people want their knives to be slim and delicate.

robbel2 karma

This will probably get buried, but as a Veteran and also an Art Therapy student, I applaud your efforts in helping Vets that suffer from PTSD. I myself don't suffer from the disorder, but I do have many friends who do. They are my driving force to why I am in this field and who I will particularly work with when I get my license.

Again, Thank you for YOUR service! -Myself and all of my fellow Vets.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

No problem at all. And right back at ya! It's not much, but it's what I can do, so I'll keep doing it as long as I can.

-Mjolnir-2 karma

How long did it take for that magnificent mustache to ripen?

TheBlacksmith645 karma

I've been cultivating it for a while now. And I completely forgot to wax it before the photo. Next time.

boom_wildcat2 karma

I am a non-professional blacksmith. How does one become a professional blacksmith?

TheBlacksmith6412 karma

Like any other profession; sell enough to make a living at it. That's why I refer to myself as semi-pro, I make a part time living at it.

ozzieoo1 karma

You are awesome!

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Gee, thanks blush. Could you tell my wife that? She thinks I'm a massive nerd... ;-)

tstirling131 karma

How did you get into blacksmithing?

TheBlacksmith642 karma

I started when I was 19. I thought it would be a cool way to make gifts and stuff. It turned out to be a lifelong passion. It's ironic that I started the year after my father died. He was a blacksmith too and I never knew it. He wasn't the most verbose fellow in the world. I was working as the blacksmith for a local historical winter festival (the Festival du Voyageur) when someone asked if I was "Elie's son" and I, of course, said yes. They then said "oh, well you come by it honestly" and the rest of the conversation revealed that he had been trained as a blacksmith and farrier as a boy by my grandfather (who's father trained him oddly enough). Life is a strange thing I've found. From that lesson, I've learned not to hold back from family and friends. My father came back from WWII with PTSD (though we had no term for it) quite shaken by the experience, and I think it was made worse by his time in Korea.

eonge1 karma

Can you craft valyrian steel?

TheBlacksmith648 karma

I used to be able to, but some darned Lannister scum stole my spellbook!

Blazeholden1 karma

im in the process of making a forge and an anvil, but i have nobody in the surrounding areas to teach me. are there any go to instructional videos that get buried in the BS that you know of? granted im not military or suffer from PTSD, but i am still fascinated by the craft and have been reading up on it for a long time and figured i might as well post a question here anyways to see if you ad any personal tips, tricks or known resources for learning.

oh and on a side note, have you thought about the therapeutic effects of this helping people who suffer from depression as well? i know that hobbies and hands on trades have really brought me back into a state of happiness, so maybe it would work for others?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Try here; http://www.abana.org/

I'm certain you'll be able to find someone nearby or a group that can help you. and yes, keeping busy and accomplishing something makes a HUGE difference when it comes to depression.

captainenema1 karma

Dude, no questions here, just wanted to say good onya for giving back to humanity. More people should give back a little for whatever cause is near and dear to their hearts.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

Thanks. I do what I can, with what I have, where I am.

aliceinondering1 karma

as a occupational therapy assistant who tried to get a program similar to this started when I worked for the WTB at JBLM and failed due to extreme red tape and poor department management...thank you!!

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Well that's the beauty of this, it's all volunteers and there is no central office or any sort of committe. It's just an idea, and it seems to be catching on.

aliceinondering1 karma

It's basically the premise of OT, purposeful, meaningful activity to give a sense of accomplishment, confidence and balance. The Army just got in their own way.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

That's really sad to hear. I've sent the information to ABANA which is a north american wide organization of Blacksmiths and they seem very excited about it. Hopefully, it will catch on.

disturber_of_the_pea1 karma

Great idea! I wish you the best of luck. I am working on my interior design thesis which is to create a space for veterans with PTSD. I wish I would've heard about your program earlier. That could've been a nice addition.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

That a very cool concept! Once you are done, would you be so kind as to send me a link or some way to read it? It sounds very interesting. I wish you luck in it.

_Jaiden1 karma

Because the next thing a soldier with PTSD want's to hear is banging on metal.

TheBlacksmith642 karma

Actually, the sound is very specific and didn't trigger the first one I taught. Besides, they'll know the environment, and know they are safe.

LettersOnAScreen1 karma

You're an awesome guy with an awesome mustache. The world needs more people like you.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

You are right, we need more guys with awesome mustaches! ;-)

nionvox1 karma

Any interest in armour smithing?

TheBlacksmith643 karma

Read higher, I did that for 8 years while I was still active in the SCA and was even offered a position as head armoursmith at a ren faire in the US. I turned it down of course, back then I was so poor I couldn't afford the travel expenses.

R2Doucebag1 karma

Can you make me a metal mask?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

I could.

R2Doucebag1 karma

How much would it cost?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Normally my 8 hour basic class costs $125.00 but for the 'Forge Ahead' program, I don't charge them anything.

Redskull6731 karma

Where did you serve?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

I spent 10 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. Most of that time was here in Canada but I did get the opportunity to travel to Germany for 4 months and spent some time in some fun places here in Canada too (winter survival in northern Manitoba was fun at -70C) I do consider myself one of the lucky ones, I never heard a shot fired in anger, and none of my comrades came home in a box or bag. I call that a win.

ipooponyourface1 karma


TheBlacksmith641 karma

Not strange at all. Start here; http://www.abana.org/ Abana has an extensive list of people who teach. If you're in the USA I'm certain there is someone nearby.

twooaktrees1 karma

I wish I could take you up on that offer. Seems like it would be cool.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Check the ABANA website in the near future, the idea is catching on!

EvilTech51501 karma

Awesome idea, get some people with pent up anger/whatever when you need some extra manpower for doing welds, or some other monotonous thing. :D

Just as a goofy aside, my favorite backyard blacksmith URL. http://www.backyardmetalcasting.com/oilburners.html

Not as nifty as electric blower fed propane forge, but I think it has better overall BTU value.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Thanks for the kudos and thanks for the link. I bought a book on waste oil burners from Lindsays years ago and I though they were a neat thing, but supremely dangerous. I guess they're not so bad after all...

LostVoodoo1 karma

I've been wanted to learn the trade since I graduated college earlier this year, I live in North Carolina where do I start?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Start here; http://www.abana.org/ I am CERTAIN that there is someone near you that can take you as an apprentice, or even just give you some basic lessons. Good luck!

Redskull6731 karma

ever created a gun?

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Just a copy of a crude medieval gun. It's mounted on a pole and you use a length of "slowmatch" to set it off. Not the kind of thing you'd use to hold up a liquor mart, that's for sure.

floofenheim1 karma

I might have missed it, but where do you get the metal for all this? That seems like it would be the hardest part to me.

TheBlacksmith641 karma

Oh heck no! Steel is relatively cheap. I buy it from a friend who owns a welding shop. He charges me cost plus my share of the shipping. I have quite the inventory right now but I'm waiting for some special high carbon steel to do some damascus blades.

TexasCowPunch-14 karma

Have you heard of marjuana? Give it to them to smoke. It will cure them.

TheBlacksmith643 karma

It's illegal here. But thanks for the suggestion... I guess...