Several years ago I was accepting orders for a number of standard items which were then made and shipped. This quickly became an overwhelming amount of work often time leading to many months of lead time to get the order out and little time for me to explore my own interests as a blacksmith. A wait list seemed like a good idea. Working at a comfortable and only dealing with a few customer requests at a time. Unfortunately, that proved difficult as well. It would often times takes weeks of back and forth communications to finally be able to quote a job which the customer then chose not to follow through on. The wait list grew quickly with even more people hoping to place an order all the while my time available to work on orders was becoming less and less. So the wait list was put on hold and eventually it went away, but there are still people contacting me in hopes that they are still on that list. The simple answer is no, the list no longer exists and I am no longer taking orders. Anything I have for sale will be listed in the Etsy shop. So this is a what I feel like making when I feel like making it system. If you need it right away, you will need to look elsewhere. But if you’re willing to wait and check back often, there will be an ever changing variety of goods in very limited quantities. http://www.blackbearforge.etsy.com
Keep in mind that this is my retirement activity that helps pay the bills. Not something I want to be obligated to a 40 – 60 hour work week.
For now my main shop activity is producing YouTube videos about blacksmith for anyone interested in learning about the art and craft of blacksmithing. Videos may be seen at https://www.youtube.com/c/BlackBearForge
I know it has been years since I have used my blog page here at WordPress. But This seems like the best place to get my thoughts down concerning some upcoming changes to Black Bear Forge and the way I accept and process orders.
For years I have had a website with a simple shopping cart system that allowed people to order and pay upfront for a variety of items. Those orders would then go into the queue and hopefully be completed and shipped in a timely manner. While this works and allows the customer to secure their place in the queue, it has become a very burdensome way of doing business. It was great when I had 10 – 20 orders in the queue and lead times of about 4 weeks. But as more and more people started buying my products the list grew faster than I could keep up. At one point I had nearly 100 prepaid orders pending in the queue. Thats a lot of people with lots of expectations on receiving their order in a timely manner. When you factor in the little things that life brings your way to keep you out of the shop, things like injuries, bad weather, family vacations and so on. the wait times can not only be long, but also extremely difficult to predict accurately. Currently working a 60 plus hour work week, I anticipate lead times of about 16 weeks.
So the time has come to put the brakes on an regain control and hopefully a more sane approach to doing business and taking orders. In the next month or so i will start the process of removing the ordering option form the items listed on my web site. This is also to prepare for a completely new and revised web site. Once all of the options for ordering and prepaying for items is gone from the web site I will concentrate on the current backlog of orders. With no new orders being accepted I hope the backlog will start to clear out in a more timely manner.
Once things are back under control I plan to use a slightly different approach to making items for sale. Instead of accepting an endless number of paid in full orders I will make items for sale so that if you pay for the listed item it is available and ready to ship. To facilitate that system I am looking at simply using my Etsy shop at: http://www.blackbearforge.etsy.com This will make my life and the listing of things for sale much simpler since Etsy is designed just for this purpose.
But I know that some people will miss out on limited production runs or one of a kind items unless they just happen to look at the shop at the right time. So with that in mind I will also be starting an unpaid waiting list. I will add names to the list with no deposit. The list is not an obligation to buy nor does it guarantee I will make a given item when I get to your name on the list (so if you get on the list hoping for a sword or a driveway gate, you’re still going to be out of luck). As the time allows between stocking the Etsy shop, building stock for shows and trying to live a life outside the shop, I will slowly take a few names on the list. At that time we will discuss your project quote a price and accept a deposit with full payment due on completion.
I hope this all makes some sort of sense. I also hope that it allows me the freedom both in the shop to make what I am inspired and excited about making at any given time. But also the freedom to live life without feeling like I cannot enjoy a day off because the list keeps getting longer an longer by the day. After all we have been building our home for 10 years and I haven’t done a full weeks work in the last two years due to the overwhelming amount of work in the shop.
Thank you for everyone who has been supporting Black Bear Forge. I won’t be going anywhere, just destressing the process a bit.
I’ve been working with Montie and Jayna from PunkinMUsher Productions On a video to show some of what goes into forging a hinge. This is also a good chance to see the shop and it’s wonderful setting here in Beulah.
I started working for a private ambulance company back in 1980. Then was hired by the Aurora Fire Department in 1987. I have progressed through the ranks from probationary firefighter to paramedic and for the last 14 years have served as a suppression lieutenant on an engine company. Most my time as an officer has been at station 10. I have had the honor of working with a great crew at 10s. However after 34 years in emergency service, It is time to retire. from firefighting and emergency medicine. It is with great excitement that I pick up my hammer to begin a new career as a full-time blacksmith. I have been running the shop part-time for 20 years or more and the time feels right to make it a full-time job. So thank you to all of those I have served with as a fire fighter and thank you to all of my customers past and present who have made this transition possible. Wednesday October 8th will be the start of a new adventure. Please come visit at http://www.blackbearforge.com
Last week I attended a knife making workshop at Scott Kretschmer’s shop in Loveland. The workshop was taught by Steve Rollert from Dove Knives. This was a full day of demonstration and discussion about hand forged knives.
One of the main topics was a the proper heat treatment of knives. Blacksmiths have traditionaly judged heat by color and while this is pretty good it isn’t perfect. Colors appear different in different ambient light. It is also hard to tell the difference betwwen 1100 degrees and 1200 degrees accurately and that 100 degree difference can be important. Hardening at the exact right temperature makes for repeatable results. If you don’t like the results you can easily judge if it should be a bit hotter or a bit cooler. But that is only possible if you can hit the exact hardening temperature you are aiming for every time.
Enter my “new” heat treating kiln. This is an electric oven capable of very exact temperature control. You can set the exact temprature you want, leave the knife or (any other tool for that matter) to preheat and soak – hold at temperature – if needed. You can’t do that accurately with a torch or a forge. This particular kiln is actually a small ceramics kiln that was being used by a silver smith for burning out wax for lost wax casting. It is not ready to be a heat treating kiln yet. I will need to add some higher tech precision controls to make it work the way it needs to. But, since a new heat treating kiln costs close to $2,000 and this one was only $200 plus $100 or so for the controls, it will be a bargan.
Part of my long term goal is to make quality hand forged tools for woodworkers. This new equipment will help me turn out consistent, predictable high quality tools.
It was too muddy to get the car, with the kiln in it, right up to the shop. So it went up on the back of the ATV.
The kiln was tranfered to the top of my welding cart, since there was no place else to put it, then rolled in under cover.
A few weeks ago a friend was commenting on a TV show he had seen where someone took what he thought was an old style soldering iron, and used it to warm his cup of coffee. While I have never actually seen this done, I have heard of a “flip iron” being used to make a hot toddy or hot buttered rum. I felt pretty smug knowing what he was refering to.
Imagine my surprise when I recieved the following message a few days latter. “I’ve been searching for an iron tool that is used in the upper-midwest during spring bock beer festivals. The solid iron “head” of the tool is heated in a fire and then dipped red hot into a glass of beer. The result is a hot foamy head of beer.”
Here is the picture provided by the customer
Now I really should learn from the way the old timers did things. It would save me lots of grief. But not me, I have a 100 pound power hammer. So why not just make these from a single piece of 1″ round bar? Even under the hammer drawing 10″ of 1″ bar into 40″ of 1/2″ bar is a lot of work. I suspect that this took about 3 times longer than the alternate and probably more traditional approach. I am pretty sure the old timers would have used a shorter section of the 1″ bar with a short stub drawn out and the 1/2″ handle forge welded on. But, live and learn. My customer gets a great value and I got a great education.
I suppose I need to make a shorter one and try the hot toddy or hot buttered rum, but I’ll leave the warm beer for more adventurous types.
Here are the 43″ long irons ready to make hot beer, Yum 😉
Remember the cat chest lifts? Last Night Megan Fitzpatrick over at Popular Woodworking wrote a nice blog entry about the project. Less than 9 hours later I have a request to make a similar set. Looks like I may be in the cat shaped chest lift business for a while. Thanks Megan 🙂
Curently there are not any really spectacular projects going in the shop, but here is what is on the workbench or anvil if you prefer.
I am working on a set of fireplace tools for a local here in Beulah. These will be short for use in a wood stove. They will have heavy 3/4″ handles forged to a tapper of about 3/8″ at the tool end. There will be a poker, shovel and broom. The broom is hand tied from Grassy Creek Brooms.
There is a new order for some more hinges to match the ones Chris Shwarz put on his Dutch tool chest. I will also be making a spare set to list on the web site
I started working on a couple of small striking knives similar to the one mentioned by Chris
Of course lets not forget the Roubo workbench I started over a year ago that still has no legs
And then there is the log house that remains unfinished
I had never heard the term “chest lift” before. But that is what Megan Fitzpatrick from Popular Woodworking Magazine asked for. Turns out it is just the same as a chest handle. since there is generally a waiting list around here it was going to be awhile before I got the handles done. In the meantime Megan posted a blog about her new tool chest she showed some little toggles that hold the hand saws in the till, they are shaped like little cats. I commented that I could make the handles for the chest look like cats as well. Really I thought she would laugh and write it off as a joke. But she loved the idea. So I have been working on my first ever set of cat shaped tool chest handles. This has really been a fun project and I’m glad Megan liked the idea.
The design was drawn up in Correll Draw by Janet (my wife and the head of our quality control department). The paper copy is then glued to an 1/8″ piece of steel plate. I cut to the line using a Beverly shear, hacksaw and belt grinder.
Cutting the cats on the Beverly shear
Here is one of the blanks before trimming, the one on the left is ready to grind right down to the line.
I wish I had some pictures of the chasing process for the eyes, but I can’t get pictures while working very well.
I am now offeering holdfasts on the website http://www.blackbearforge.com/holdfast.htm After talking with Phil Koontz, who is very well known for his holdfasts, He gave me all of the details for his style of work. Phil is no longer making holdfasts and was glad to pass the information on to someone to continue making his style.
I plan to include free shipping and a guarantee with these holdfasts