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Blacksmithing and your SHTF Career

Avatar for James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: July 1, 2019
Blacksmithing and your SHTF Career

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Have you ever thought about your own personal currency in a collapse situation? While the keeping and managing of many things or the growing and storing of foods adds value to your household, have you ever considered your personal currency?

My thoughts always return to Venezuela. The collection of eyebrow-raising headlines and videos that came out of Venezuela proved our fears of an economic collapse, in the modern age, to be very valid. Perhaps nothing stirred me more than the headlines about professional women being left with no options but to sell their bodies to feed their children.

The Miami Herald wrote an astounding article that profiled Venezuelan women who were teachers and doctors but traveled to Columbia to work as prostitutes to put food on the table after the collapse. It really got me thinking about personal currency and the idea behind a post SHTF career.

The Post SHTF Career

Many of us do jobs that exist primarily in the electronic world. We don’t necessarily make anything, but our work is still very valuable by today’s standards. I am a writer and it’s a dream job, I thank you and Backdoors Survival for making that a reality. If we see some sort of long-term disaster or serious grid-down collapse, those of us who use computers to earn money are going to have a real problem.

Trade and barter are words that should be familiar to you. These terms are used to describe a means of an economy that could exist outside of, or in tandem with, cash. In some communities, they do exist and are practiced on a daily basis.

This could be the primary currency of a collapse or serious long-term disaster in America. The idea behind a post SHTF career is to have skills and possibly materials that can be used to quickly inject your value into this new trade and barter economy.

One of the best examples is knitting or crochet. If you can produce some form of textile than you instantly have a trade and barter option. Of course, to make this sustainable you need some sort of yarn storage and backup of supplies for creating those items to barter with.

I sought to ask myself:

“What types of skills and repeatable tasks carry value in a fallen world?”

Stockpiling is one part of your plan but it’s not a career unless you were to set up some sort of supply chain. This is possible but it’s not my forte.

That was when I came across a video of a guy making metal tongs from rebar. The connection between hot metal, hammers and my future were forged at that moment. After more research, I found a talk by Dave Canterbury extolling the virtues of what he called “rudimentary blacksmithing” and the idea that we are surrounded by metal and people will need it shaped or fixed in a collapse.

To me, it was a no brainer. It was time to start down the path towards my own SHTF career.

The Dirt-Cheap Blacksmithing Starter Kit

Like most people, I didn’t have money to just dump into a new hobby that could become an SHTF career. Still, I knew that my career as a freelance writer could go away the moment the lights went out. So, then what. There had to be a transition for someone in my line of work.

The next step was to learn about the basics of the craft and see what was possible. I have had a great relationship with fire and heat all my life. I was a troubled pyro through my youth and a line cook and chef in my late teens and early twenties. I had been burnt at every degree and didn’t hold any fear towards the fire of a forge.

Still, I was racked with anguish when I started to price anvils. Perhaps the center of any blacksmithing setup is the anvil. This large piece of metal is not only used as a flat surface to beat metal on, but its horn, holes, and edges are all used to shape hot metal, also.

I couldn’t find a decent anvil for under $350. That was a problem.

Another big problem was the forge. Forges were closer to $500 each! There was a DIY blacksmithing world out there, but it was too far over my head. I didn’t have the tools needed to make a forge from a brake drum. So, while it was a money saver for some, it was not an answer for me.

Blacksmithing and your SHTF Career

Strange Gifts

For Father’s Day 2018 I asked my wife for, probably, the strangest gift in our 15 years together. That’s saying a lot. I directed her towards eBay and showed her a collection of sellers who were auctioning off pieces of railroad track. The pieces were about a foot and a half long and well cared for.

This $60 purchase became my anvil.

The following Christmas I found a very small propane forge that is used for knife making. It was priced just under $200. The internals hull is light with ceramic fiber and there is firestone to lay your metal on.

While it’s not the coke burning forge I had dreamed of, it makes that metal glow just the same.

Another $100 or so dollars on some hammers and other accouterment and suddenly for less than $400 I was off to the races!

It turns out bending metal into useful shapes is fun and its also cheap after the initial purchases. Finding or purchasing metal to work is very easy and cheap. I am not practicing on 1095 high carbon steel, instead, I do a lot with rebar which comes in 4 ft lengths for $2.

Other Considerations for a Post SHTF Career

Pounding hot steel is hardly the only answer to an SHTF career. There will be so many needs in a long-term disaster. I highlighted some ideas below that could be in high demand.

Grow Food

Farmers or urban farmers are always going to have currency in a situation where our normal supply chains are disrupted. If you have a particularly green thumb, you might want to consider growing food and using that as your post SHTF career.

Raise Chickens for meat and eggs

If you have experience with chickens, you could simply expand your flock in times of disaster. This might require getting a couple of roosters, or maybe you already have some. Chickens for eggs or meat can be another agriculture venture that pays off during an SHTF scenario.

Process Wood

If we experience a long term off-grid disaster, heating and cooking fuel will take center stage. Wood will become the primary means of warming homes and cooking food. Of course, not everyone is outfitted to fell trees and split wood.

Delivering firewood is a means of money making in today’s world! Imagine the demand for firewood in a world where central heat doesn’t exist.


This is one that might seem obscure, but cleaning services and waste management are going to be in need. If we become filthy and our streets full of garbage, diseases will come for us all. If you are a person who stockpiles cleaning and hygiene products, you might consider cleaning homes and dealing with waste.

It’s not glamorous but it will likely get you everything you need and some grateful allies.

Herbal Medicine

In a serious SHTF scenario, the world of medical care will all but dissolve. There will be doctors in some communities, but medications will dry up fast.

A new appreciation for the old ways of healing will take hold. Herbal medicine will be at the forefront of dealing with injury and illness. Having knowledge, herbs and processing means will allow you to create natural medicine. This is a very valuable SHTF career and will give you big influence in your community.

Refurbishing Damaged or Abandoned homes, tools, items

After any disaster things need to be repaired. So, it would stand to reason that tradesman or people with the ability to repair any number of things are going to shine, post-collapse. If we don’t have insurance companies to cut checks or repair companies to cash them, people going to have to figure something else out.

This might be right up your alley and a great career for the post SHTF world.

Pricing your SHTF Services

In 2016 I was faced with a serious decision. It was a career change or a $1000 monthly bill to send my kids off to daycare or people’s homes who I hardly knew. This coupled with the fact that I wouldn’t see my kids but for a couple of hours a day, meant I had to make something happen.

Thankfully I was dabbling in freelance writing already. I had a handful of clients, but I had no idea what I should be charging them. In order to turn that into a career, I had to quickly figure out how much money I wanted to make and charge accordingly. Of course, I had to be careful not to scare those clients away, either.

I started with my desired base salary and walked backward. Factoring how many hours a week I planned on working and how many weeks a year, then I divided those billable hours by the desired salary to get an hourly rate.

EXAMPLE: $50,000/2000 billable hours or 40 hours a week for 50 weeks. This gives you a wage of $25 per hour.

If you take part in some sort of post-collapse economy, you should also know what you are after. No point in going to the barter or trade table and just guessing or hoping they have what you need. If you are trading service for service or bartering for items, it will be important to understand the value of what you do.

Creating a list of skills, I don’t have any items I might want has always seemed appealing for this type of situation. Sort of a barter cheat sheet that would remind me that I was low on trash bags or maybe I could use some lumber for a project.

Having your own personal “list of demands” will assure you get what is owed for the skills, goods or services rendered. While most who step out into the fray of post-collapse “business” will hold a strong monopoly, it will still be important to be decent and fair.


We could never know what the landscape of our community might look like following a serious, long term disaster. It’s possible that everyone gets knocked on their butts and has no means to consider making things better.

However, I have to imagine that somewhere along the twisting and dark road that follows an SHTF scenario, people are going to need things. I hope this article has inspired you to consider those needs and take action to attempt to meet those needs.

Not only will an SHTF career and “economy” help you but it will inspire others to use their skills and resources. For any economy to exist there must be some form of civility and isn’t that what we are all after? If things fall apart, we want to get them back in order, somehow.

Of course, there are always other options. We could wait for aid from the international community. We could stay siloed and just worry about our preps and our family, for as long as that works. Maybe, we could become our own nightmarish version of Venezuela. Think about it.

Author’s Bio

James Walton is the host of the I AM Liberty Show ( a podcast about 21st-century freedom. He is a freelance writer in the prepping and survival niche and likes to keep a healthy balance between prepping and enjoying life.

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4 Responses to “Blacksmithing and your SHTF Career”

  1. While true the cost of a good anvil will be $200 or more, it is a good investment. I made my forge from concrete blocks, a steel pipe with 1/4″ holes drilled in it, and an old leaf blower.
    I connected the leaf blower to the pipe using a short piece of dryer vent tubing and duct tape.
    I burn coal when I have it or use home made wood charcoal.
    Seems to work fine for me.

  2. What are you going to use for fuel when your propane runs out? Or do you have a 500 or 1000 gal tank? If you had a coal/coke burning forge, you could possibly make charcoal from hard woods to fuel it.

  3. This is a wonderful site. Being 75 and having some physical issues it was good to read about learning about and growing herbs. This can be done in containers and on small patios. This is what I have. And we have a fireplace in this apartment. Very Blessed.

  4. I have a wood cookstove and the ability and supplies to bake bread. I also have been sewing for 55+ years and have stockpiled finished quilts and 100’s of yards of fabrics. I have canners and many cases of ball jars and the knowledge to use them. All of these skills I should be able to barter. My husband can build anything and is very mechanically inclined. We both work the vegetable garden.

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