Any TEOTWAWKI situation will demand more of you than anything you have ever faced. Once the environment is stable again, the remaining human survivors will be charged with rebuilding society from scratch. It is likely that most of your worldly possessions have been used, damaged or have lost their value during the crisis.
In a SHTF context, the skills you bring to the table will be your most valuable asset. The most important skills will be related to sustaining life, such as medical skills or farming. Next in line will be the skills to rebuild society. Not too long ago it used to be that people learned and earned a living doing more primitive jobs, such as masonry, woodworking or blacksmithing. In a post-collapse context, any of these “primitive” skills will greatly increase your survival odds, as well as improve your bartering position. Do yourself a favor and learn how to work with metal, at least at a basic level.
Basic Metalworking Materials
The basic gear you will require includes a hammer, a forge, an anvil and a vice. The most important element is the forge. You will use all of them in the process of melting and shaping pieces of metal. Learning how to weld would complete the set of skills allowing you to cut or stick pieces of metal. Welding involves a different set of gear and skills; however it completes your metalworking proficiency.
Since industrial forges are not suitable, you can easily make one yourself. You could use brake drums, sheet metal or a stainless steel sink to contain it. You can then fuel it with propane, make it run on coal or charcoal and maintain air supply using a bellows or a hairdryer.
The anvil is very important too. You can find traditional blacksmithing anvils at flea markets or online. If finding one is inconvenient, you could always use a large and heavy piece of steel instead. When working metal, make sure your anvil is at your waist level. Hammer work is the most physically intense part of the trade and you want to pay attention when you set it up. Having the anvil at the appropriate height will lessen your work and help you avoid injuries.
The hammer isn’t too important, just about any will do. Go for a medium-weight ball peen hammer weighting about 3 pounds. Same goes for the vice, just about any will be fine. It’s really up to you, if you want to work with smaller or large pieces of metal. Controlling the hammer when you hit is the most important part and that’s where you can tell the difference between a beginner and an expert. The best way to learn is by practicing. It does entail a pretty steep learning curve and you’ll enjoy it more as you get used to it.
Sourcing the metal might also be an issue. Make sure you recycle and keep a minimum supply of scrap metal. Be on a look out for any cheap or inexpensive source of metal. Apart from finding the metal, you might also have some issues in depositing it. Scrap metal won’t be as high as food, water and medicine on your priority list. Avoid galvanized metal as much as possible, it can be deadly. Working with galvanized metal might lead to serious health issues, such as Zinc poisoning, if you breathe its fumes.
There are several different blacksmithing techniques, but the main idea is to heat the metal in the forge and then form it using the hammer and the anvil. You’ll know you’re getting better when you’ll get the shape you want with less and less hammer hits.
Welding is a skill that goes very well with blacksmithing. It can be done using flammable gas or an electrical arc welder. The difference is that the gas will burn so you can weld melt metal at high temperatures, while the electrical arc will achieve the same high temperatures from electricity.
If you have a reliable supply of gasoline or other suitable fuel, you can consider getting a generator to power an arc welder. You could then invest in a stick welder or flux-core wire feed welder, which would make it easier for you to learn. A flux-core wire feed welder while being easier to use, will be more expensive and since it contains more pivoting parts, will require higher maintenance.
You will also need welding rods when using the arc welder. They’re not very expensive and readily available in commerce. Learning to use the proper welding rod depending on metal composition and thickness and adjusting the power will be the most challenging part.
The best way you can learn blacksmithing or welding is from an experienced tradesman. He will be able to teach you as you progress and offer you immediate feedback. Luckily the skills you are learning offer immediate feedback too.
A lot of it being physical, you know straight away if you are doing it right or not, just by looking at the result. Once you get your gear and working materials, look for someone to teach you. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and start with a small project.
Start your blacksmithing career with a blade, a razor or a hook. Start your welding career with simple projects, like tools, a fence or some reusable figures. You will eventually be able to use these skills in bartering with others and also to build and repair tools and machines for your own use. Considering that purchasing of manufactured goods in any TEOTWAWKI scenario would be impossible, knowing how to make things will greatly increase your value as an individual and the value you bring to your community.
Would you like to learn metalworking? Have you got anyone nearby that could show you how welding or blacksmithing work? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.