How many things do you guys work on at once?

I used to do 2 or 3 things at once with a relatively low flame.  Lately though, I've put in a stereo in the shop.  Now, I tend to hammer to a beat, and notice myself wearing out pretty quickly.  I'm thinking I should just cut back to 1 item at a time.  It's just that I hate standing there, waiting for something to heat up.

I guess, though, as I get better, I'm paying more attention to details.  How hot it is when I pull it, which hammer I'm gonna use, which tongs I'm gonna use (and if they need to be cooled), etc.,.  I would feel a lot less rushed and bumbling around if I cut back to one thing at a time.

How do you guys work?
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Hank Rearden
This is a question to contemplate.
My first thought goes to what is so predominant in today's society. That is to Peg everything on attention deficit disorder. Which if analyzed; I would be diagnosed with and would suffer from since I've got 3 irons in the fire at any given time. However that said I think we'd have to look back to what a blacksmith was doing 100 years ago.

Does anybody have a ledger that we can analyze? I might know of one. With The Ledger we can get an idea of what he made and when he made it and maybe peace together how he organized his work.
For me, blacksmithing consists of a half hour to take the tools out another 20 minutes or so to get the fire going. I already have an idea of what it is I'm going to do with each session.

Example the Williams Grove demonstration last weekend. I grabbed some old steel spring I was uncoiling to make fire steals, some punches and other small hand tools I also had some Automotive Springs off of some struts. I was going to make drifts and punches. I also took 3, 1 inch square stock to start making legs for my post by vise table. I was also going to demonstrate for spectators and when it came time to do something I didn't know what to start with. Burned the first steel in the fire and burned the next piece I put in. Started hammering without any direction or idea of what it was I was doing. Zero organization. Frustrated and someone who knows what they're doing didn't have a clue on what I was getting ready to do.

I took a deep breath I talked to a few folks and in the back of my mind I thought of what I had to do to get going and I started. I think the nature of a blacksmith is to have multiple things going and a skill set that allows Smithy to organize a logical order of the progression of the projects in a productive fashion.

I think the difficulty today is applying today's standards of production and expectations to a craft that had a different standard 100 years ago. The least the way many of us do blacksmithing today.

I think many irons in the fire are a sign of an organized and active mind of yesterday in a disorganized environment of today.

I'm using talk-to-text I'll need to come back and edit this for grammar and Clarity and just a little while
code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
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Normally it's one thing at a time for me.  Coal will ruin a piece in seconds, usually when your back is turned.  I've tried to keep a couple going in my gas forge, but I can't let them touch or the two become one.  lol.  And ruins my work.  Now, I can have one in the forge and one or two at other stages but experience has taught me to concentration on the job at hand and not bite off to much.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Skarzs the Cave Troll
There is that saying that goes: "Don't have too many irons in the fire", so it must have been a dilemma smiths had for a long time.
And as to what Hank said about the attention span nowadays, it probably has something more to do with our society always being in such a rush that we like to "multi-task!" (Which doesn't really work, by the way. We just switch focus back and forth.) So that sense of urgency and the overall encouragement of multitasking dowadays leads us to want to have several things going at once.

I myself don't usually have more than one thing in the fire at a time unless I am making a pair that I am trying to keep the same or when I want to work on a smaller project while waiting for a larger piece of steel to heat up.
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8 tent stakes at a time in the gas forge, 4 trammels in a gas forge, 2 flint strikers in a coal forge. It depends how long it takes for the part to heat up while I'm working the other. When I started blacksmithing as a business I found I could keep each item being made on the same step to keep my confusion down.
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theengel wrote:

I used to do 2 or 3 things at once with a relatively low flame.  Lately though, I've put in a stereo in the shop.  Now, I tend to hammer to a beat, and notice myself wearing out pretty quickly.

You answered your own question. The first thing to GIT RID of is the stereo. Then, maybe, you can hear yourself think and be able to perform your job without wearing out so quickly.
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To the OP,,, you are doing fine as a new guy.

You made a list of things you are working on. When these become second nature, another list will magically appear. The proper number of irons in the fire will happen when needed. [wink]

As for the rest, you listed a few different situations. All put varying importance on "how many/too many irons.

So ask first what's your purpose.

A demo only generally requires one iron in the fire. Your purpose is to entertain, and watching a production run of say 20 "S" hooks is not very entertaining. [wink]

Are you home working on a sample piece or working on an idea? Usually one or perhaps two depending because you are in "learning" mode and need to really pay attention to details such as what is step one and "is this really step two or step five!!!???

But what of those 20 "S" hooks? A production, or better said,,, limited production run.

One at a time? Not on your life, you would go broke.
Generally it depends on the size of your iron and size of your fire.

"So"hooks out of quarter square? 6-8? Sounds good as long as they get an even heat, heat between, and covered with coke top and bottom.

1" square? At least 3 and sometimes up to 5. Any less and the heat up time will kill you, so get them hot.

How do you keep from burning them?

I use a coal forge with a champion 400 blower. The great thing is it will keep turning when I release the handle, but at a descending heat. So when you go to the anvil, it's literally impossible to burn your iron, and the decreasing g blast will maintain your heat

Coal forge with electric blower? A mechanical air gate is good . Shut it down, not off, when going to the anvil.

Gas? I don't use gas, but familiar with it. "It will burn". It will scale,,. You need to learn your forge for each differing types of steel you are using.

Also, I'm left handed so I organize my many irons so that the one on the left is hottest, or been in the longest. New irons go in on the right. Not finished with one? It goes back in on the right.

As was stated above,, always do the same function on the whole run.

There is more, but this ought to get you thinking.

Hope that helps

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As a newbie, I would think you would be able to adjust the flame to heat at a rate you are comfortable to work at (?) !

When I worked a commercial Shop, BIG Oil-Fired Furnace Forges, two Hammer men on an 800 pound board hammer, and we had upward of twenty sticks of 1" steel and do a round robbin; one using the Hammer, one Trimming Slag.  It was one job, all the same parts, might be different than the OP was asking !

Going back to my original thought, can't you adjust your fire, solid or gas, to keep things hot enough to work one piece, then the next, etc., etc., be the items the same or different ?

Im I simplifying this to much ?

WHEN... my gas-forge is up and running, I am hoping to heat a few pieces of 1/4 rod at once and then bang and bend one piece, put it back in the fire, grab another, is this just wishful thinking !

Do It Right The First Time !
Location: SoCal, USA
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Scambler, with coal it's real hard to mellow things out since a coal fire isn't consistent.  As it burns things are always changing so one needs to tend it constantly.  This is the fire you don't want to many "irons" in for sure.  Gas is a lot safer and if the forge burners give a good neutral flame one can work more than one piece.  I did that one time making cable knives.  If I let them touch, they welded together.  lol.  Best to work one thing at a time.  In between heats gives you time to tend your fire, get ready for the next round of hammering or catch your breath and get a drink.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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I always found a number of sticks... sticking together, was a good indicator the fire was too hot ! (for our work anyway) !
Do It Right The First Time !
Location: SoCal, USA
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