On this page I hope to give the newcomer to the Live Forging Competitions a few pointers to a successful competition piece. These observations and wrinkles are purely subjective and personal, but I believe they are sound and relevant to the Static classes as well as the Live Forging classes. Understanding the Scorecard will help you too.
Here’s some tips on how to do better:
- Keep it simple!
- Always have a plan, even if it’s sketchy one and stick to it.
- Choose materials that work & take heat quickly.
- Choose designs that need little or no special tooling.
- Design your piece in such a way that you can ‘cut down’ a design if things go wrong or you start running out of time.
- Practice (if you can) well before the competition, last minute/partial practice can be stressful & counterproductive.
- Unless stated in the schedule, special tools can be made prior to & used in the competition to help you achieve a desired result. However too many tool processes can limit last minute inspired variation or a ‘cut down’ design.
- Manage your time i.e. Don’t waste time on fine detail at the beginning, when it can be better spent getting the piece generally together.
- Work methodically but fast to begin with, it’s always reassuring to to be ahead of time and nothing worse than to be behind.
- Try to use varied traditional forged techniques, balanced with contemporary innovation to earn extra points.
- Technical prowess needs to be tempered with a solid design with good ergonomics & aesthetics
- Don’t underestimate the importance of presenting a ‘finished’ saleable item.
- Finish, applying a finish needs to be factored into your competition time as will the drying curing time of that finish. Remember no finish is better than a poorly planned or applied paint/lacquer/wax.
- Try to understand the competition; design/make to win, avoid flights of fancy, ‘left field’ distraction and abstraction.
- Work within your capability; often a simple, well made, finished piece will succeed where a technical but poorly conceived one fails.
- Don’t rely on having a vice available, not all competitions offer them.
- Anvils vary in height & condition, most Hardie holes are the ‘wrong’ size for your tools, so try to work a way round it.
- Strikers are often allowed, but arrange one yourself for competition and supply them a sledge. They will only be allowed to strike, nothing else.
- Assemble a familiar, bare bones toolkit for yourself; there’s nothing worse than forgetting basic tools.
- Lessons learned… I promise you will learn more about forging & blacksmithing in 90 minutes of Live forging competition than in 6 months of stress free mucking about on your home fire.
- Live competitions are rewarding even if you don’t get placed! Knowing that you have achieved a difficult goal under less than perfect conditions is very satisfying. On the other hand setting unachievable targets for yourself is pointless as well as demoralizing…. So, Keep it simple!!!
Its good to take time to watch other competitors, to chat and socialize; there is so much at these events to share, appreciate and learn. Competition Smith’s are free with their knowledge and know how so take advantage of their experience. There are always opportunities to watch very experienced and skilled Smiths under pressure and see how they approach problems and solve them.
The fundamental thing to remember with the competitions is to have fun….. If your day away from your Forge becomes a chore or an experience you never want to repeat… its a great shame for you and the folk who run the Competition. So, be prepared, understand what’s expected, familiarize yourself with the site and competition, give yourself plenty of time (before , during and after)… and keep things simple!