Capital District Blacksmiths' Association
Having Fun, Meeting People & Promoting the Art of Blacksmithing

What I've learned so far: Rob Gallerani

A summary of what I have learned and created since I joined the CDBA


I wanted to post some form of update for the work I've been doing. I sadly had to miss last month's class. Luckily Steve Gurzler helped me make some new tongs the month before (thanks Steve!). Also, the welding is something I'm eager to learn more about, hopefully there will be demos again.

I know this is usually for event updates, but I figured it might be nice to see some of the fruits of the group's efforts.

I have always had an interest in the blacksmith craft. Now older, with a home and kids, I figured I had no excuse to not get into it. In high school and college I made a few bucks on the side making chain mail, and I even did a few short lessons with some armor smiths making plate armor. However, it was cold steel and I really wanted the anvil and forge. I have also recently gotten into straight razors, and had seen people forging them online and the amount of forging seemed quite minimal so it might be a good way to start.

When I started looking, I started at schools, but nothing casual, and more importantly, local. I did however find an online news article from All Over Albany

I figured I would look up the group, and sure enough, you guys were still having sessions. I found this site, and signed right up. My first session was in August 2014 and I went with no equipment, no training, and no idea what to expect. I knew at some point I would need an anvil and fire.

My first meeting was a demonstration by Travis Edgington on how to make axes. I was pretty blown away at the quality of the work, with minimal tools. He basically made an axe with fire, anvil, hammer, borax, a spoon, and a file. I was also very impressed with the spread of attendees. Within the first 5 minutes of the meeting, I had already met Mike Catalado who hooked me up with a sweet anvil. Free of charge, so long as I made something good within a year. I just had to pay for the stand.

 photo 20140901_130511_zpsfe1e0c4c.jpgMike also asked me what kind of forge I had, and my answer was "nothing yet!" I could see the worry he had over giving an anvil to some newcomer with not even a forge to his name. He was kind enough to let me know about something called a brake-drum forge. So the next weekend I made a few calls around and found a scrap yard who would sell me an old Ford super-duty brake drum, they seemed confused that I only wanted 1, so if anyone needs a brake-drum, there's a scrap yard way up Hoosick that has just 1. So, with my brake drum I hit up Home Depot for some plumbing supplies, and a trunk full of cinder blocks. I also bought a cheap hair dryer for my bellows. It was about $60 total, plus a few bags of lump charcoal.

The first thing I realized I needed now was some tongs.  photo 20140901_114659_zpsc25c01f1.jpg

This was probably the worst thing I have ever made, but they did work. During all this I also managed to make it into Albany steel, which is less than a mile from my office, so I now find myself running out during lunch to look at their scrap room.

 photo 20140907_163657_zpsd4dd7e23.jpg This is the first razor I made before I melted it. When I went to harden the steel, I had gotten it too thin, and I melted it. Turns out a hair dryer and some fire can get reallllly hot. However, the second came out OK. photo 20140919_194522_zps63545cca.jpg

The scales of this one are made from some oak I had around the house from a mantle I had made over the fireplace. However, when I took it to the next CDBA meeting, I learned a lot about finishing. I realized how bad of a job I had done with the sanding and filing step. So the next razor was going to be much better. It was for my brother. It had Buffalo horn scales and a bone wedge. I was really pleased with this one, and was worried because I wanted to do something a bit crazier for my father.

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I was very pleased that his came out even better. His had a high carbon blade, but I copper plated it, and made the scales with purple heart. It came out really cool. I got the idea during Mike McCarthy's finishing lesson. Maybe I'll do a class on electroplating. It was the first time I had ever tried it. After all these razors, I really wanted to get back to more forging, and less grinding. So I made an attempt at the wine glass holder. The first one I made was so bad I didn't even take pictures, but the second one came out pretty good. I gave it to my stepmother, and had to have her take a picture of it, as I had forgotten. Clearly her camera is a bit older. photo mms_picture_2_zps87936459.jpgThe glasses hang a little far out, but it works. Great lesson Pete!

The only thing I actually made for myself was a wreath holder. However, I still have tons of techniques I want to learn, and I have lots of practice ahead of me. I hope to try and build a small shed in the back yard and make a real forge. Maybe even start using coal. photo 20141202_080519_zps376de152.jpg

Thanks for taking the time to read this if you did, I just wanted to post some pictures because I have given all of these things away for the holidays, but I couldn't have done any of it without this group. Hope to see you all in January.

-Rob Gallerani

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