How To Efficiently Draw Out Steel Like A Blacksmith

Drawing out steel is the act of lengthening and thinning a piece of steel stock. The technique for it is simple once you know it, but drawing out steel the wrong way is a frustrating experience. 

Learn how to do it the right way below.

First heat your stock to a nice bright orange/yellow heat.

Then, to draw out your steel correctly, you will want to hammer indents perpendicular to the direction you want to lengthen your steel. Then once you have done that, you flatten out the ridges or you rotate your stock.

It’s really that simple.

You can create these perpendicular dents in a number of ways. The easiest way is to place your stock at a 30-45 degree angle on the edge of the anvil, then strike your hammer at the same angle.Then rotate your stock 90 degrees and strike it again. Rotating 90 degrees after every blow allows you to keep the general shape of your stock better as you draw out your steel.Constant rotation will also help minimize heat loss in your stock, thus increasing your work time. If you are forging a taper, you will want to move your stock slightly so the edge of the anvil moves down the taper after each blow. Using this edge of the anvil method, you can draw it out slower by hitting your hammer flat, or you can draw it out even  faster (by creating a double fuller effect) by using the peen or the edge of your hammer face in addition to the edge of the anvil – just be warned this requires more skill to make it look nice.

I like this method best as it doesn’t require any special tools other than your forge and anvil. You don’t even have to have a proper blacksmith hammer for this method.

You can also use the horn instead of your anvil edge as the bottom die. This works better with very large anvils, as small anvils tend to jump around when you bang on the horn. Using the horn as the bottom die tends to move metal slower, but it is easier to clean up in my opinion.

Another technique for drawing out metal is to use a rounding hammer. Rounding hammers make it very effortless to have a small contact area when drawing metal, this allows you to move steel very quickly with little effort.

Another method for drawing out steel is to place your bar FLAT over the edge of the anvil. Then you will do what is called a half faced blow. A half faced blow is when half your hammer face hits (the stock) over the edge of your anvil, and half hits above the anvil. This creates a shoulder like effect with the piece of stock that remains on the anvil getting flatter and longer.

Finally, you can use a fuller for drawing out steel. There are many different types of fullers, and I won’t go into them in this article. But the general concept is the same.

All those options aside – I go back to the first option. I like using the side of the anvil as I find it’s faster. Try all these techniques, it takes experience to improve your intuition on how to move metal! A big part of getting better as a smith is to get a lot of reps in and to try a lot of different techniques.

Why do we draw out steel in this way? Well imagine if you placed the steel rod flat on the anvil, now imagine you struck it with the full face of the hammer…what happens? The steel flattens in ALL directions. Yes you lengthened it somewhat, but you also squished the steel off to the side. This is inefficient. You will have to constantly flip your stock on it’s side and squish back all the stock that went in the wrong direction.

In addition to this 360 degree squishing, you will also have an enormous contact area when using a flat hammer face on a flat piece of stock on a flat anvil. It’s hard to move metal efficiently with a large contact area as all the force gets dispersed. In short: smaller contact area = quicker movement of metal.

That’s it, now all there is left to do is practice! So get in your shop and practice!