How to Shape Mild Steel

Updated April 17, 2017

Shaping steel is a centuries-old art and skill which utilises the application of heat to metals and then forms them by applying force. Forges are commonly used devices that focus heat energy to heat steel to its point of malleability. Once this temperature is reached, the metal becomes red hot, and is then easily formed by hitting and moulding it into the desired form. Mild steel has less than 0.5 per cent carbon content and is relatively soft, quick to corrode, easy to shape and should not be used for structural support.

Light or start your forge and allow it to reach operating temperature. There are many different forge designs available, using gas, propane, coal, coke, charcoal or wood as fuel, but all of them do the same job: heat.

Place your steel into the forge and allow it to get hot enough to develop a red to yellow hue.

Remove the steel from the forge using your tongs and hold it in place on top of your anvil.

Strike the steel with a hammer held in your other hand to shape it into the desired form. Try using the different surfaces of the anvil which have been designed over the years to allow you to shape steel into a variety of different shapes and angles.

Replace the steel into the forge whenever the red hue diminishes to a grey or black colour. Steel is only malleable when red hot in colour. If the steel is any darker than a red, you will just be wasting your energy trying to shape it.

Cool the steel when the final shape is attained by either submersing it in water (if you wish it to become hardened steel), or allowing it to cool naturally if you wish a slightly softer final steel product.


Blacksmithing is an art which can takes years to master; practice makes perfect.


Always wear appropriate eye, face, body, hand and foot protection when working with hot steel.

Things You'll Need

  • Forge
  • Anvil
  • Hammer (sledge)
  • Tongs
  • Bucket of water
  • Steel
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About the Author

Brandy Alexander began writing professionally in 1993. She has years of experience as a professional of the English language employed with the "Cape Times" and "The Mercury." Alexander holds a master's degree in English literature from Stellenbosch University in South Africa.