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Welcome to BlacksmitHER Radio, spotlighting male and female blacksmiths around the world.


We’re committed to providing a host of resources to male and female blacksmiths of all ability levels through podcast interviews spotlighting your fellow blacksmiths. The podcast interviews are designed to help improve your metal working skills while providing an opportunity to connect with others who share your passion of blacksmithing!  

Nov 2, 2015

The Last Hammer’s Blow for Mark Aspery

Welcome to Blacksmither Radio, it’s Episode number 47 and today I have a very special guest to mark a change in the Hammer’s Blow editorship. If you are unfamiliar with what the Hammer’s Blow is, it’s a quarterly publication of technical blacksmith projects offered by the non-profit org ABANA.  And today I have Mark Aspery here to talk about the end of his time being editor of the Hammer’s Blow. 

What we talk about:

  • Mark talks about what it takes to put together one issue. He has asked the submitters to send him their forged example pieces for him to photograph because he already has the equipment and set-up.  Then there is a discussion around the wording or text for the article.  Mark creates a press ready pdf document in a specific software for editing and producing a magazine.
  • Within each issue, Mark likes to have at around 4 to 5 different articles published. The goal for Mark has been to include beginner, intermediate and expert level forging projects.
  • The Hammer’s Blow editor before Mark Aspery was Brian Gilbert. Brian included a useful tool section, some shop tours, Mark changed the structure a little by focusing on just the smithing.
  • One of the things Mark has learned over the past 5 years is when anyone writes anything down about a specific technique, by the time they are finished writing, they will know more about that subject than they did at the start, it’s an educational process.
  • What’s next for Mark? Two books are on the horizon: one all about locks, latches and hinges, and the second book will be a coffee table book about the ironwork in the Cathedral of Learning building on the campus of University of Pittsburg. Some of the ironwork includes pieces from Samuel Yellin.
  • This winter Mark will have surgery on both of his hands, one at a time, due to a condition called “Viking Hand” (scarring of tissue).
  • We talk about the upcoming ABANA conference in Salt Lake, Utah, July 13 – 16, 2016. The benefits of going to the conference include the social interaction, the demonstrations, the hands-on teaching tents, the tailgate sales and the competitions.
  • The teaching tents will be split into two Each with about ten forging stations, with a mix of coal and propane forges. There will be six half-day teaching sessions and will be staffed by Darryl Nelson, John McClellan, Gerald Boggs, Gerald Franklin and Mark Aspery.
  • Mark is pulling together some lunch time slots in the teaching tent for beginning demonstrators to “cut their teeth” and have a turn at teaching.
  • Each competition will be divided into three levels: Novice – beginning or novice smith, Intermediate/Amateur smith and Open/Professional or strong
  • Chain Making competition on Wednesday - How many links can you forge weld together to make a chain in a 20 minutes? Hints from Mark:
    • Forge welds don’t have to be pretty, if it’s stuck, then it’s good
    • Make a single link, and then make another single link and make the third “middle” link to chain them together.
    • Then repeat that again - so you have two lengths of three links, then make another single link to connect two lengths together.
    • The novice level will probably make 4 to 5 links, the intermediate level will make 6 to links and the open should make around 8 links.
    • Try using the pritchel hole to make the “u” shape and in your shop (ahead of time) figure out how much of the round stock to put down the hole.
  • Thursday’s Competition – Animal Heads with Darryl Nelson who will demonstrate a bear head just before the competition starts.
    • Novice level – Create a two-dimensional animal head, tooling and 1 ¼ x ¼ flat bar provided
    • Intermediate level – Create a three-dimensional animal head from 1-inch square stock, tooling provided. Open mouth optional.
    • Open level – Create a three-dimensional animal head from 1 ½” square stock. Provide your own
  • Friday's Competition – Tong making with John McClellan
    • Novice level – Create simple twist Jaw tongs from 3/8” by 3/4” flat bar. Tongs should be able to hold ¼” flat bar.  Tooling and material provided punched rivet hole and factory rivet.
    • Intermediate level – Create scrolling tongs forged from 1” by 3/8” flat bar. Punched rivet hole and factory rivet.
    • Open level – Create flat or open jaw tongs to hold ¼” flat bar. ¾” stock will be provided with a ½’” round bar for forge welding on reins, extra points for this! Punched rivet hole, factory rivet or handmade rivet from 3/8” bar.
    • Mark’s tip on bringing punches for punching the rivet hole is to bring two punches. Buff the working ends so they are shiny, then drop the punch into a 3/8 inch hole to produce a ring of color on your punch.  This will be the indicator of when your punched hole reaches the 3/8’s dimension.
    • Another tip is to dress the outside top part of the reigns first with your hammer, so when you dress the inside part of the reign, the outside is then being flattened by the face of the anvil.
    • Advice on making your own rivet for the tongs, bring a ½” nut to place under the tongs while forging the top of the rivet head. The length of the rivet should be ½” above the boss, ¾” for the width of the boss and another ½” below the boss.

I’m going to start scoping and I have a plan to scope from the conference and competitions!  So What is scoping?  It’s called Periscope and it’s a free app for your mobile device (Android or iOS devices) that allows me to broadcast a live stream from anywhere and interact with the people watching you through our mobile devices – and it’s for free! I will be live streaming from blacksmithing events and from some of my podcast interviews.   It’s super easy to use too!  I’ll have instructions on how to get the app and set up a free account on the blacksmither website, in the blog section, I’ll also include it in my email newsletters too, so be sure you are signed up to receive my weekly emails.  You can sign up by clicking the subscribe box on the About page of  Once you start to follow me or my handle @blacksmithervic the Periscope app will notify you when I will start a live broadcast.  And if you miss the live broadcast, don’t worry, the replays are available on Periscope for 24 hours after the broadcast goes live.  If you watch any of my live scopes in the future, know that you can interact with me through a comments field and with others that are watching.