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Every year, long-time reader Tmib_Seattle posts up his fine work with the local scout troop, where he teaches lads how to wrangle fire and form steel. I remember my own scout days very well, except they involve wood, not metal.

It’s pretty rare that young men are exposed to this kind of workmanship anymore. Just look around in the shots on the Flickr pool and you’ll see why. Had it not been for scoutmaster Tmib and his vast array of ironworking goodness, they’d be out of luck as well. But as it sits, the boys get experience with a craft that has been disappearing over the last few decades.

We are glad to see Tmib and the lads stoking some coals and bending metal in the name of learning. We’re not quite sure from the pics what they’re making, but it looks like fun.

Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]


12 Responses to Where There’s Fire, There’s Fun

  1. TMIB_Seattle says:

    Thanks for the feature. For clarification though, it’s not a local troop, it’s Hahobas Boy Scout Camp (Hahobas.org) 🙂

    I started the smithing program there in 2007 and have been trying to add a little more to the program every year. We’ve started work to build a permanent smithy building this year, and it should be ready in a few months. It’ll be largely an open-air structure, with log poles as the corner supports. It’ll be similar to the building we put up this year, except with a metal roof, a low log wall surround, and about 4 times the size.

    I’ll add some of the pictures of our construction to the pool as well.


  2. PutnamEco says:

    Looks like a lot of fun. I volunteer with a summer day camp program and find the adults have almost as much fun putting them on as the kids do in participating.
    I wonder, as well as the articles author, what projects you have the scouts make.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. TMIB_Seattle says:

    The first exercise I have them do (and what they are starting in the above picture) is making decorative S hooks out of 1/4″ square stock.

    They first thin out one end of the stock using full-face angle blows, then lay it flat on the anvil and draw out the taper. This gives a wedge shaped taper on the end of the bar.

    Next they learn to put a fine curl on the end, first by doing light taps over the anvil edge, followed by back-face blows to curl the end into a nice small spiral.

    The next step is to put the first hook of the “S” in place. They do this over the horn of the anvil. The little curl they made has to be quenched quickly before doing this, so it doesn’t get squashed as they make the large bend.

    They then cut off the square rod on the hot cutter, flip it around and do the other side the same way.

    Finally, they put it in the vise and put a decorative twist in the middle. This looks nice, but also makes it so that if they messed up and made a “C” hook, it’s easy to turn it into an “S”.

    It’s a good first project, as they end up repeating one set of steps over again as they do the second side, reinforcing the techniques. The 1/4″ square is easy to work with, and by starting the pieces longer than they need, they get to start out without messing with tongs, but then after they use the hot cutter, they have to learn how to hold and manipulate the tongs.

    This first project isn’t terribly complex, but teaches a lot of the basic skills- how to control the heat, how the metal moves, etc. More importantly though, it teaches the scout to think through what he’s going to do and to plan ahead. When the metal comes out of the forge it starts cooling very quickly, and this small 1/4″ stock doesn’t stay at a working temperature for long. If the scout is trying to figure out where his tools are, or doesn’t know what he’s going to do, his metal will cool before he can work it, and he has to put it back in the fire.

    “Think at the forge, work at the anvil.” is how I try and reinforce this idea.

    Many of the lessons we teach in blacksmithing are valuable lessons for life in general- patience, planning, knowing when to go slow and when to hustle, perseverance, etc.

    The scouts do other projects for the blacksmithing merit badge, but the first one I have them do is almost always one of these S hooks.

  4. Brau says:

    I did this when I was in grade 8. Sadly kids today are not only being denied fabrication skills but most are likely to get all freaked out … at the open burning of coal (of all things).

  5. PutnamEco says:

    Brau says:

    Sadly kids today are not only being denied fabrication skills but most are likely to get all freaked out

    Power tools as well. I have noticed some older kids afraid to even pick up a circular saw.

  6. Sokupppette says:

    “Valuable lessons for life in general” ought to include thinking about the organization you’re working with, how it affects society at large, and what values it’s teaching. Especially when the organization itself harps on “values” all the time.

    I used to teach boating. I stopped giving the BSA the time of day back in the 1980s, when the nuts who lead the organization made it clear that they wouldn’t back down from their anti gay, anti atheist position. Not to mention, of course, their longstanding anti-girl position.

    There are lots of youth organizations out there that have made it out of the 19th century. Why not take this program to someplace that deserves it, and teaches some kind of decency along with it? Or at least doesn’t actively promote an evil ideology?

    Too political a view? “The kids shouldn’t have to think about that”? Would you still say that if it were a KKK program? Because the Boy Scouts’ official position is right about on that level, as much as some people would like to hide from that.

  7. BigEdJr says:

    Hey Sokupppette , take your trash talking elsewhere.

    This guy is doing a great service to these kids and it bugs the crap out of me that you come on here and rip him and the great Scouting organization.

    I’m sorry you feel the way you do, but as long as you’re calling names you are not going to get my respect for any thoughts you have. Um, the KKK taught/teaches people to hate and kill people based on the color of their skin or what language they speak. To compare the BSA to that is pretty offensive. So take your ugly HATE speech elsewhere.

    Yes, I am supporter of the BSA organization and will be for all of my life.

    God bless the BSA and all those that help it out!

  8. PutnamEco says:

    Sokupppette says:
    There are lots of youth organizations out there that have made it out of the 19th century. Why not take this program to someplace that deserves it, and teaches some kind of decency along with it? Or at least doesn’t actively promote an evil ideology?

    I see the Boy Scouts doing a lot of good in the world, and find them to be fairly tolerant of differing beliefs.

    We hate most in others what we dislike in ourselves.-Laurell K. Hamilton

  9. Sokupppette says:

    If you tell the Boy Scouts that you are an agnostic or atheist, they will expel you (unless your local leaders manage to shut you up about it). It is the BSA’s stated position that atheists/agnostics are incapable of “the best type of citizenship”.


    How is that “fairly tolerant of differing beliefs”? Any beliefs you want, as long as they’re theist? I’m relatively intolerant of religion, and I wouldn’t go so far as to keep somebody out of a youth group for having one. That’s over the line.

    If you tell the Boy Scouts that you are homosexual (practicing or not, not that it should matter), they will exclude you from all leadership positions. Their stated reason is that you are not “morally straight” and not “clean in word and deed”. No idea what twisted logic they use to avoid throwing out the actual kids. I think they used to do that, actually.


    By the best scientific evidence, sexual orientation is not even a matter of “belief” or “choice” (not that it would matter even if it were a matter of pure whim, since it has nothing to do with any sane view of morality and it definitely has no effect on anybody else in the group).

    The BSA can do all the good they want, and that still won’t absolve the organization of its clear, direct, repeated, considered public statements that some people are morally inferior and unclean and not to be dealt with.

  10. TMIB_Seattle says:

    If you can find an organization where I can have this kind of impact at this level let me know. Regardless of what the national organization espouses, I know what kinds of values *I’m* teaching, and they are the ones *I* learned through scouting. Some folks call it “tolerance”, but that implies that you are tolerating something wrong. I call it “common courtesy”.

    I disagree vehemently with the national policy on gays in scouting, and prefer the approach that used to be taught when I was a scout. That’s the “who cares?” approach.

    Discussion of sex and similar topics are not something we should be discussing in scouts- boys who want that kind of information should be guided to seek it from other sources, such as their parents, counselors, etc. I don’t mean we should be taking a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach, just that a leader’s sexual preference should never come up or be an issue, whether they are gay or straight. It’s irrelevant to the scouting program.

    That said, anytime a scout uses “that’s so gay” or similar phrases in a deragatory manner, I am quick to correct them.

    It is unfortunate that so many folks immediately dismiss scouting because of these poor decisions made at a national level. While I very much agree with you that these policies are very bad and should be changed, I’m not willing to completely walk away from an organization that allows me to have the ability to help young men like this. I’m not saying scouting should be absolved of these choices- but if we completely dismiss the organization, then what have we gained? A few specific religions will continue to take over scouting and change the way things are done, and no one can stop them.

    Scouting wasn’t always this way, and it is my hope that it will evolve for the better and correct these mistakes in time. Walking away from the organization now just means I won’t have the ability to make an impact where it is needed most- in guiding these young men into being better people. I don’t teach an evil ideology and I do teach decency, regardless of what the national policy is regarding gay scout leaders.

    • dm says:

      As a former member of a Seattle local troop I applaud your efforts. It is amazing what efforts from an adult can mean to a young man who (like myself) may not have exposure to male role models at that age.

      Keep up the good work and leave all the whinging to the folks who only read the news and don’t bother to get involved.

    • jeff_williams says:

      Well said. Eagle Scout myself and despite national leadership views (only heard about it from those outside scouting), I’ve never seen anything but acceptance of everyone at the local/council level. Scouting does so much good that I can’t wait to get into it again with my own kids someday.

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