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close this bookBasic Techiques of Blacksmithing: A Manual for Trainers (Peace Corps, 1982, 102 p.)
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This manual is a guide for trainers who are helping Peace Corps Volunteers to acquire basic blacksmithing skills. The training is designed to give Volunteers a knowledge of metals and metalworking that will help them support rural communities in their efforts to produce tools for agriculture and cottage industry.

An equally important goal of Basic Techniques of Blacksmithing is to equip training participants with the skills and knowledge which will help them foster the community development process. Community development is a process that begins when people take an active role in their own education. It is a creative process, challenging members of a group to use their combined talents, resources and ingenuity to identify needs and find appropriate, sustainable ways to meet them. Trainers can contribute to this process by helping others learn from, support and build upon existing blacksmithing technologies. They can help by making training a model of the activity which constitutes community development.

Throughout the training, workshop participants are encouraged to take a full and active role in their own education, and to make decisions that will affect them and the people with whom they work and live. They are urged to cooperate with others, and to identify and use the talents and resources available within the group; they practice skill; that help motivate people, instill within them a sense of self-confidence, and involve them in the process of their own education. The emphasis placed on developing and reinforcing these skills reflects Peace Corps' belief that technical expertise is valuable only when it is applied in balance with other qualities.

This approach to training is based on the principles of non-formal education, and is designed to strike a balance between structured learning and independent discovery. By using the sessions, resources and methods suggested in this program, trainers will provide Volunteers with a working knowledge of blacksmithing, as well as skills for developing that knowledge in a meaningful way.

The program offers training in the development of skills and techniques related to basic blacksmithing, including an attempt to familiarize Peace Corps Volunteers with the capabilities of existing local forges in the production of appropriate agricultural tools. The tool designs and skills are selected to be as consistent as possible with the realities of rural areas in developing countries.

The program is divided into twenty sessions which occur over a six-day period. Each session consists of a series of activities designed to meet specific training objectives. The objectives of each session are interrelated with fundamental themes which illustrate the connection and interdependence between technology and other aspects of community development. The program themes are:

* Development and Transfer of Technical Competence
* Principles and Techniques of Non-Formal Education and Adult Learning
* Methods and Approaches to Problem-Solving
* Development Issues
* Cross-Cultural Perspectives
* The Process of Assessment and Evaluation

The manual is designed to be responsive to a variety of training situations. Modification and adaptation of the materials is encouraged. However, it is essential to the effectiveness of the training to maintain the integrated nature of the sessions by providing an adequate balance of emphasis among the various themes. This will enable participants to build upon and apply new knowledge in a way that is ordered and meaningful within the context of community development.

The following guidelines have been developed as an aid in transforming this manual into an effective, dynamic training program:

Planning and Preparation

There are many steps that need to occur before the training actually begins. These include defining the scope and approach of the training, identifying staff requirements, locating and establishing a site, and gathering necessary resources and materials.

* Defining the scope and approach of the training:

Sessions are designed to accomodate a maximum of twelve participants. If there are more than twelve, some modification of the design of activities will have to occur. The participants should be individuals whose current work in agriculture, rural or community development, or vocational education could be enhanced by a knowledge of basic blacksmithing techniques.

Since blacksmithing involves mastering and becoming comfortable with a core of basic concepts and techniques through repeated practice and honing of skills, this manual is designed to provide participants with exposure to and practice in those basic concepts. The first technical session is designed to provide an overview of the major concepts involved and lay the groundwork for the remainder of the program. Each succeeding session requires the use of skills practiced in prior sessions and introduces one to three new techniques. In this manner, it is intended that participants will complete the program with sufficient skills to enable them to understand and maximize the capabilities of local forges in the production of simple agricultural tools; to set up their own small forge facility; and to continue practicing their blacksmithing skills by adapting and modifying them to suit the needs of the communities in which they are working.

* Identifying staff and trainers:

The specific number of staff should depend on the particular training situation. As a minimal requirement, there should be at least one primary technical trainer and one training coordinator for each twelve participants. The primary technical trainer should be an experienced, capable blacksmith with experience working in developing countries. He/she should have skill in making many types of hand tools using available scrap steel and should be comfortable with the principles of non-formal education, adult learning and integrated training. The training coordinator should have a working knowledge of blacksmithing and experience delivering integrated, participatory training programs. He/she should take the primary role in logistical coordination, facilitation, and helping participants assess their progress and evaluate the program.

It would also be beneficial to have an assistant technical trainer that is a native of the country in which the training is being held. The assistant should be an experienced local blacksmith who has had some prior experience working in cross-cultural situations.

* Locating and establishing a site:

The training program should be located in or near an area that has some ongoing metal work activity, and in a place where a supply of scrap steel is available. It should be in a center of commerce where materials can be purchased and transported easily. It is best to choose a site that includes adequate space to set up six or seven working forges. The training should be held in or near an area where local blacksmiths are working. The rental of space in an existing blacksmith shop, vocational school or outbuilding would be ideal.

* Gathering necessary resources and materials:

In order for participants to have the opportunity to practice basic blacksmithing skills, it will be necessary to set up a minimum of six (preferably seven) complete forge stations. Ideally, this will require approximately:

7 forges and bellows or blowers
5 anvils and stands or stumps
1 swage block (or equivalent)
3 mounted vices
3 grinders (motorized, electrical if possible)
7 (1,500 gr.) 3-lb. cross-or straight-peen hammers
7 (2,000 gr.) 4-lb. cross-or straight-peen hammers
7 10-lb. cross-or straight-peen hammers
7 pairs large vice grips
7 pairs flat tongs
7 prs. round or V-nose tongs (1/2" - 5/8")
7 prs. pick-up tongs (3/8")
7 hot cuts
7 cold cuts
3 hack saws with 6 extra blades (18 teeth per inch)
7 5-gal. quench buckets
3 quench buckets + lids (filled with recycled motor oil)
7 pieces of abrasive stone (e.g., carborundum)

For the most part, the exact amount of materials necessary will vary with each training situation. Be certain that there are enough materials available before the program begins. It is estimated that there should be on hand approximately:

- 7 files
- fuel to supply forges for five days
- 4 hand-held wire brushes
- supply of flux and brass scrap steel
- variety of leaf springs
- assorted coil springs
- 60' of ½". round bar or rebar
- 40' of 3/8" round bar or rebar
- 50' of 5/8" round bar or rebar
- a collection of miscellaneous
- several axles
- bricks

It can be expected that many of the tools and much of the equipment needed for this program will be difficult to obtain in the country where the training is being held. In order to ensure that sufficient resources be available, it is recommended that the trainers bring some of the equipment with them and that they arrive at least two weeks before the training is scheduled to begin. They should make every effort to acquire locally available items, using as guides the materials and equipment lists included here. If some of the suggested items are not available or are not appropriate for use by local blacksmiths, ingenuity should be used to find comparable substitutes.

Although they are not essential to the implementation of the program, a copy of one or both of the following books should be distributed to each participant as texts:

The Modern Blacksmith, by Alexander Weygers
Edge of the Anvil: A Resource Book for the Blacksmith, by Jack Andrews

Conducting the Training

Included here is a list of some considerations that are essential to remember in carrying out the program.

* The training program is designed to provide the basic skills necessary to support local blacksmiths:

Blacksmithing is a centuries-old craft, technology and livelihood. As farming and rural industries develop, the role of the blacksmith in community life takes on its significance. Families need hoes, axes, and machetes. The carpenter, mason and leathermaker all demand specialized tools. Farmers with draft animals ask for prows, cultivators, and hardware for their yokes and harnesses. For the blacksmith in developing countries, the production of these tools and implements involves many complex difficulties, including standardization of equipment, uncontrolled marketing, scarcity of spare parts, shortages of raw materials, and the unavailability of technical information and educational opportunities for refining skills. This program has been designed to provide participants with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to help local blacksmiths work to overcome these difficulties.

* Blacksmithing is a skill which requires much practice to develop:

Although it is explicitly brought out in several sessions, the trainer should continually stress that it is virtually impossible to emerge from a six-day training program as an expert blacksmith.

Blacksmithing is a craft which requires years of hard work, practice, and dedication to develop. Participants should realize that in many cultures, the exclusiveness of the craft has created a mysterious aura of awe and supersition around the metal-working trades.

* Safety precautions cannot be over-stressed:

In a blacksmith shop, the opportunity for serious injury is limitless. Extreme care should be taken throughout the program to stress the importance of taking necessary safety precautions. A good general rule is that all metal should be considered too hot to touch until proven otherwise. Potential hazards can be compounded in an environment in which many inexperienced individuals are working in close proximity.

* Working in teams has multiple objectives:

During the program, participants will work in teams at forge stations. This enables them to help one another with many of the practices which require strenuous activity and/or more than one pair of hands. It insures that each participant will have ample opportunity to practice each of the basic techniques demonstrated. And, it provides a forum for practicing the kinds of communication skills necessary to transfer skills to others.

* Most basic Blacksmithing skills can only be acquired through careful observation followed by supervised practice:

In each of the sessions which call for a demonstration of a particular technique, every effort should be made to ensure that participants thoroughly understand the concepts and procedures involved. Write essential procedures on newsprint whenever necessary. Make demonstrations as clear as possible by explaining each procedure carefully and repeating whenever necessary. Following demonstrations, ask participants to review the procedures and to clarify any doubts or confusions which may exist.

* Flexibility, endurance, and patience are key requirements for blacksmithing:

The participants should be advised of the likelihood of spending long, strenuous hours tending their forges and practicing their skills. Blacksmithing does not lend itself well to structured, specified blocks of time. The times suggested to complete each session are approximations. Participants may complete some activities early while running overtime on others.

* The experimental learning cycle is an essential part of training:

It is important that people have the opportunity to learn, examine, generalize about and apply new knowledge. Try to follow the experiential learning loop as often as possible, and encourage the participants to be aware of the process.

* Scheduled breaks between sessions are essential:

Although 10 to 15 minutes is suggested, more time may be needed, depending on the training circumstances.

Using the Manual

One of the keys to the success of the training program lies in thoroughly understanding and effectively using the manual. Included below are some guidelines and explanations designed to help in using the manual.

* The Program Calendar indicates the overall design of the program and recommended sequence of sessions. Use it as a reference in developing a specific schedule which meets the needs of the particular training situation.

* Sessions follow a consistent format. (See the "Sample Session Format" on Page vii for a detailed description,) Be certain to read sessions thoroughly. There are often several purposes to each session; for example, the activities may be designed to meet a technical objective, and at the same time, provide participants with practice in group problem-solving or communication skills. It is important to understand the multi-tiered design of each session before presenting it.

* Attachments follow each session and are usually intended for distribution to the participants. Each attachment is letter-coded as to the session with which it is associated. It is important to make copies of attachments in advance so that they can be distributed during the session.

* The Bibliography includes the reference material, texts, and suggested resources used in developing this program. It can be copied and distributed to participants as the basis for further research in blacksmithing.


Session 4, Day 1 (Each session is numbered sequentially and coded by day.)

FORGE INTRODUCTION (Title indicates subject area being presented.)

Total Time: (Total Time gives approximate time needed to carry cut the session.)
4 hours

Objectives: (Objectives tell what is expected of participants and what the session should accomplish.)

* To identify and define the basic components of a forge
* To practice using basic blacksmithing tools
* To light, maintain and shut down a forge fire
* To make a forge poker/rake and eye
* To discuss forging practices of local blacksmiths

Resources: (Resources include all attachments and other suggested references.)

* Attachment 4-A, "Color/Heat Chart"
* Attachment 4-8, "Traditional and Rural Forges"
* Andrews, pages 17-21 and 42-46
* Weygers, pages 20-23 and 94-96

Materials: (Materials refers to suggested supplies and tools needed for the session. For some sessions, special tools are listed to provide focus and emphasis.)

Approximately 30-36 feet of ½ inch mild steel round bar. newsprint, and felt-tip pens

Trainer Notes

Preparation for this session will involve writing on newsprint an outline of the procedures involved in making a forge poker/rake (see Step 6).

Procedures: (Procedures consist of steps to be followed in order to meet objectives. Each step is given an approximate time.)

Step 1. (5 minutes)
Distribute Attachment 4-A, "Color/Heat Chart" and Attachment 4-B, "Traditional and Rural Forges. and briefly explain the session objectives and procedures.

Trainer Notes

Explain that the Attachments will be discussed in more detail later in the session.

Step 2. (10 minutes)
Post and briefly define the list of tools and forge components that will be used in making a forge poker/rake.

Trainer Notes

* Post the following list on newsprint in two columns as indicated below:
(Trainer Notes

* Appear throughout the session and serve to clarify and explain a procedure, provide information and suggest options.)