Blacksmithing - The recession proof profession?

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Blog entry by TheBossQ posted 02-13-2011 08:07 PM 2437 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

How dumb am I? Allow me to regale you in my little tale …

Harbor Freight recently had a sale on all their clamps, so I started foraging every magazine and newspaper ad we had looking for the 20% off coupons. I managed to scrounge around a dozen or so and I had several more that were expired. And I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything at Harbor Freight without a coupon, so that tells you how plentiful these things are.

My local Harbor Freight is less than two miles from my house and they are ALL ABOUT that coupon policy. One per person, per day. Spread over a few trips, some with my wife’s help (so clever), I picked up an assortment of about a dozen clamps. Bar clamps, pipe clamps and two toggle clamps. They were priced in the range of three to seven dollars each after the coupon. I figure I spent around fifty dollars total, though I wasn’t really keeping track.

After buying my table saw on Craigslist, and going through it to clean and tune it, I decided I would change the arbor bearings. They are just a bit noisy and I might as well get it out of the way. I picked up an arbor press on Craigslist for twenty bucks.

Yesterday, while perusing the saw’s diagrams and pondering the steps of arbor carriage reassembly, the arbor press popped into mind and so did my recent clamp fiesta. Ummm … why the hell am I not looking for clamps on Craigslist?

I punch in a search on “clamps” … eh, too broad. So the first name that comes to mind is Bessey. Ok, let’s try “Bessey”.

DAMMIT!!! %#*$%^&#*!!!

The first friggin’ post to pop up and some retiring cabinet maker’s son is selling nearly 100 made in Germany Bessey bar clamps. For three dollars each.


However, he is a far drive away. About forty miles from where I work, and I work about forty miles from where I live. Good thing the VW Jetta gets 35mpg, because I am going.

I get there yesterday, and there are STACKS of Bessey clamps. I grabbed all the largest I could find. 18” and 16”, I think. Fourteen in all. For forty two dollars. Killer deal. But wait … there’s more. Probably because of his location, he hasn’t had much interest. He’s a really nice guy and he starts throwing in free clamps. Two more of the big bar clamps, 12” I think. Three smaller Bessey bar clamps, one old Brink and Cotton bar clamp and two old Record Marples bar clamps that say Sheffield England on them.

Twenty two clamps for forty two dollars and six dollars in gas. I’ll be going back for more if he still has them.

The two Marples clamps are bent. One is bent, twisted and beyond use. Wonder how it happened, because these clamps are beastly chunks of metal. Maybe a blacksmith can fix them?

Craigslist to the rescue? Not really.

I did find an Arizona Blacksmith association website on a Google search. The three smiths I reached weren’t interested in fixing the clamps. One said he doesn’t do that type of work and another said he was much too busy for that small a job. The third simply said, “Sixty Dollars”.

Do you know how many clamps I can get for sixty dollars??? Twenty clamps buddy! I’ll hammer on these things myself. I couldn’t possibly make them any worse.

Maybe I’ll try reaching a couple more during the week. I’m not sure what it would cost to fix them, or if it is even worth pursuing, but is Blacksmithing the recession proof profession?

11 comments so far

View cutmantom's profile


408 posts in 4532 days

#1 posted 02-13-2011 08:44 PM

do a search for a welding shop, they should be able to put a torch to it hammer it straight

View poopiekat's profile


5175 posts in 5232 days

#2 posted 02-13-2011 09:12 PM

Conversely, behold the imaginary”” where a veteran blacksmith writes about finding some very cheep antique furniture on CL, and one of the pieces he comes home with has some damaged boards and joints. but the items he bought were all $5 apiece. The blacksmith jock goes to woodworker “the BossQ” for a quote on the repairs and fabrications…. What will ‘theBossQ’s’ $$estimate be? And why?

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View TheBossQ's profile


115 posts in 4190 days

#3 posted 02-13-2011 09:24 PM

Thanks for the tip, cutmantom!

View TheBossQ's profile


115 posts in 4190 days

#4 posted 02-13-2011 09:48 PM

”The blacksmith jock goes to woodworker “the BossQ” for a quote on the repairs and fabrications…What will ‘theBossQ’s’ $$estimate be? And why?”

Well, if I were even qualified to make such repairs (and I am not), and I genuinely wanted the work I would reply with more than a two word answer. I got the sense that he didn’t want the work, which is fine.

If sixty dollars is really what it would take and I were the blacksmith, I would reply with something along the lines of, “I don’t really think this is worth your money, or my time, but if you are really interested in fixing the clamps, I charge a minimum of (x) hours and that would cost you (x) dollars.”

The line about 20 clamps for 60 dollars was just lighthearted humor and more of a back reference to my earlier dumb purchases at HF.

View keithmm's profile


4 posts in 4176 days

#5 posted 02-13-2011 11:03 PM

Just a side note about 3 years a go found a level along road bent beond all repair but when I touch it have to come up with some idea..put on woden back plate with moto TRUELY I AM ONLY A 1/2 BUBLE OUT. But as soon as a carpender friend of mine saw..ran off with..OH WELL.

-- Keithmm,Flordia,http;/[email protected]

View StumpyNubs's profile


7854 posts in 4298 days

#6 posted 02-13-2011 11:36 PM

Are you drinking kiethmm? What the heck are you saying?

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4983 days

#7 posted 02-14-2011 12:48 AM

Keithmm, I get it, that’s funny. Jim, Keith found a bent level on the side of the road. It was so damaged all you could do is put a sign on it that “Truely I am only a 1/2 bubble out”. Hey Keith I wait for my levels to be a full bubble off before I chunk them.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View TheBossQ's profile


115 posts in 4190 days

#8 posted 02-14-2011 12:50 AM

He found a level on the side of the road. It was bent beyond all repair, but he figured he could find a way to make it useful. So he put some sort of wooden back plate on it to serve as a new reference surface and the measuring bubble is only about a 1/2 bubble out. His carpenter friend stole it from him.

A poor friend indeed. Who needs enemies …

View TheBossQ's profile


115 posts in 4190 days

#9 posted 02-14-2011 12:52 AM


I get it now.

I was lost in translation.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24953 posts in 5173 days

#10 posted 02-14-2011 07:26 AM

TheBossQ, if yio uwant to ship them to me and back to you, I’ll figure out a way to un-twist them :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View BigTiny's profile


1721 posts in 4385 days

#11 posted 02-15-2011 12:48 PM

Blacksmiths are just like us wood workers. Everyone thinks they should work for peanuts. :)

Knowing a bit about smithing, the 60 buck estimate sounds about right for three clamps to be heated in the forge, straightened out at the anvil and re-heat treated.

Here’s an option: cut the ends off and use them to make a couple of jigs.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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