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Information for Blacksmiths

Travel Possibilities:

Blacksmithing events are held world wide and are a great way to expand one's knowledge of the craft. Occasionally tours are organized or there are events in nearby countries. In recent years travel document requirements have tightened and everyone should plan ahead in case the opportunity presents itself.

These are good reasons to get a passport now if you don't have one. It used to be you could travel anywhere in North and Central America with a government issued ID like a driver's license. A travel visa was issued at the airport or border if it was required. Since 9/11 this is no longer true. Now you need a government issued passport to go anywhere outside your country (legally), and especially to get back in.

Getting a U.S. Passport:

It can take three to six weeks (officially eight if they are busy) to get a US passport after you get YOUR end together (which can take several weeks). You need a certified copy of your birth certificate, photo ID and or proof of US citizenship and 2 copies of a passport photo. You can download and print the PDF format form from the US State department OR pick up copies from your local main post office. You can apply at most larger post offices and other government offices. The Department of State web site has a searchable list of local passport offices. Some offer on-site photo services. Application fees are currently $85 (2007). Photos are extra.

I DO NOT recommend that you go to one of these offices and try to fill out the form there. The form includes questions like your parents birth dates and places of birth, same for spouses or ex-spouses. Some of this information you may need to look up. Doing it at the Post Office can take several hours. I had to fill in the forms twice to get it right doing it at home with no pressure. Be sure to print page 1 of the instructions (the "date I applied" page) and carry it with you. The passport agents want to see this page and that you have recorded when you applied.

DO NOT sign the form until you are asked (see instructions).

Many folks do not have a certified copy of their birth certificate handy. To get one of these you need to contact the records department of your state of birth. There is usually a small fee ($2-$5) that you will have to mail in. Most of these places are pretty fast in responding but if you are in a hurry it could take a couple weeks. This could make the process of obtaining a passport take as much as 10 weeks! Your certified birth certificate is attached to the passport application and will be returned with your passport.

When traveling it is recommended to keep your passport in a safe place and carry a photocopy of the ID page. If you lose your passport you will need the passport number to get one reissued. NEW passport CARDS will have and electronic chip in them so that they can be read with an electronic chip reader. These cards can now be purchased in lieu of or along with the booklet type passport. Note that the booklet type is needed for most international travel and will only be recognized for ground border crossings. However, it may also be a handy second or backup for other international travel.

US Passports are good for 10 years and easy to renew. Like other things it is easier to do before it expires.

Do it now. Apply for that passport. It may be too late when the opportunity (or need) to travel comes up (see notes above).

   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/04 10:49:27 EDT
Note; I'd suggest keeping the passport in a "neck safe" on you at all times and keep the photocopy in a safe place.

In a foreign country your passport is your link to the United States Government; you may be asked to show it almost anywhere. If you are involved in an accident or other legal issues you better have it on you!

Also due to the rise in terrorism there is an increasing market for stolen passports --- don't carry it in a pocket.

Note in the case with your laptop is *not* a good place --- as one of my coworkers found out the hard way as *both* went missing.

Passports are good for quite a while so if you think you might need one in the next handful of years --- get it now and keep it in your safety deposit box!

Now to wrangle myself into the meeting in Salzberg in Oct...

   Thomas P - Thursday, 07/29/04 12:13:16 EDT

Yes, by all means get yours now. If you're coming from the mainland, you shouldn't need it to get here to St. Croix, USVI for the CSI Hammer-In and Beach Extravaganza this winter, but that could change with the political climate. Why take a chance on missing out on forging on the beach in a tropical paradise, just because you didn't have a passport or weren't a member of CSI?

   vicopper - Thursday, 07/29/04 14:58:56 EDT
Passports: As Vic pointed out you do not need one to Visit the American Virgin Islands but they are very small specs in the sea and it is not unlikely that a diverted plane might land in another country or another country's territory. . Good idea to have your passport. Otherwise you can end up like the guy in "The Terminal" (a good movie) who can never leave the airport. If you have a passport you could take advantage of your diversion and stay in a nice hotel or play tourist until the next flight out.

   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/04 15:32:04 EDT
More Travel: One travel guide I read recommended that you keep your passport locked in the hotel safe and carry the photocopy. Made sense but I suspect it depends on what kind of trouble you get into. Today, the new passport card may be a good ID to carry when you leave your booklet at the hotel.

I carried my passport in the front pocket of my Carharts. Everything was fine until I took them off due to the heat and tossed them in the back of the car . . and THEN we rolled the car. I had to scramble BACK into the upside down vehicle to retrieve the Carharts WITH my passport.

International Driver's Licence

You can also get an "International Driver's Licence" or IDL. These are an odd bit of documentation because they are defined by the United Nations but there is no official issuing authority. AAA (The American Automobile Association) used to pretend that they were the issuing authority but they were not. They were just the only folks issuing them for a long time. The fact is you can issue your own! However, there IS a UN Travel Authority group that some issuers are members of and they use a nice official looking rubber stamp on the license.

The IDL consists of a booklet (like a passport) with translations in different languages of the line descriptions on the license form (last name, first name, address, city. . ). In the back is your "license" which includes besides name and address, your photo, state drivers license number, AND passport number. This is handy in that it gives you a copy of your passport number. The IDL is NOT a stand alone license and is supposed to be accompanied by your official license.

I shopped around and found an outfit called IDL International ( that issued a 5 year license for only double what everyone else wanted for a 1 year license. You need to send them a photocopy of your driver's license and a passport ID photo. So while getting your passport photos made you may want to ask for one extra.

   - guru - Thursday, 07/29/04 16:38:17 EDT


Most of you have heard of the new restrictions on flying. Here are some details you need to know.
  • The metal detectors are set to detect ANY metal.
  • Nails in shoes, bra under wires, even foil gum wrappers set off the alarm.

    Even if you KNOW your Carharts are going to set off the alarms it speeds things up to empty ALL your pockets and put the contents in the x-ray tray. That includes your shoes. Almost all good shoes including many "soft" shoes like my Rockports have a metal shank.

    I always get searched (due to the clips on my clothes). But it is much easier if the guard doesn't have to ask you to carefully empty each pocket. You are more likely to get searched than not. Just when I think I have done everything right I forget SOMETHING. The security folks are friendly and courteous but the easier you make it the better.
Verboten: Anything metal with a point or an edge. Yes they DID seize nail clippers. They may pass if you break off the pointed nail file. Search your own pockets and carry-on before leaving for the airport. NOTE that these rules have changed several times in the past few years.

Passengers and airlines all over the world ignore the carry-on size rules much of the time. HOWEVER, occasionally they ARE enforced. Traveling with an oversize carry-on bag is NOT recommended.

Once you are past security you are usually considered "safe" and not screened again if you are changing planes. However, this is not true in Atlanta, GA USA.

Missed Connections: I was unlucky enough to miss a connection the last time I flew. Immediately call or go to the airline service desk in the terminal (not outside). If they know that your connecting flight was late they will have made your new connection by the time you get to the desk. At some gates they can swipe your ticket and immediately find out what is happening. Getting a new ticket is pretty painless unless there is no next flight or things are shut down due to weather.

Checked Luggage Searches

Before checking your luggage in small airports it is usually politely searched in your presence for explosives by opening it up, wiping is down with filter swabs and checking them for nitrates. In large airports this is done after checking your luggage.

Checked luggage may also be searched without your presence. This is done randomly OR when entering the country from certain places that are known not to search for explosives on THEIR end. This consists of dumping everything out on a table, rummaging through it and stuffing it back in your suit case. Due to the quantities being processed this is NOT a neat process. If you are carrying small items like tools or pocket knives in your checked luggage (or any other loose items), it may help prevent them from getting lost to seal them in a clear zip-lock plastic bag. If your luggage is searched this way they leave a printed note inside indicating that it was searched.

Flying: Almost anything (other than bombs or explosives), even handguns can be carried in your checked luggage. Carry on is a different matter.

I searched my carry-on computer bag for any tools after 9/11 and missed a thin 6" warding file. It got by 3-4 searches by airport security but was finally found in Atlanta the last time I flew. Because it didn't have a point the fellow let it go. He shouldn't have as it could have easily been broken to produce a very sharp point. I left it with friends in Costa Rica. . .

The tools that had been in my computer bag (small screwdrivers, pliers, picks, tape measure) are now in a zip-lock bag that I carry in my checked luggage.

   - guru - Tuesday, 07/20/04 11:46:01 EDT

You read Jock's message correctly. I've even flown with guns since 9-11. They have to be a hard case, unloaded and tagged as a firearm. Your knife (yes, I usually carry at least three or four) can go in your checked luggage, but not in your carry on.
   Paw Paw - Tuesday, 07/20/04 15:13:09 EDT
I have a SAK (Swiss army knife) that's basically been around the world with me in my pocket --- previous to 9/11. It now travels in my checked luggage and I'm training my family to ask me before I get to the check-in counter if it's packed --- I put it in my pocket every morning as a matter of course.

Sometimes the only reason I have checked luggage is that I have to get my pocketknife to where ever I'm going...

   - Thomas P - Tuesday, 07/20/04 15:38:46 EDT
Flying, Metal Free:
To make getting through airport security easier people are adopting metal free clothing and shoes. There are special "travel clothes" being marketed that have no metal content. They have all plastic buttons, buckles and zippers. NOTE that plastic zippers and buttons are common and you do not necessarily need to buy special branded travel clothes. You just need to look at details when you shop.

Note that the goal is to be 100% metal free. If you have ANYTHING that trips the overly sensitive metal detectors then you will be asked to remove your shoes, empty your pockets and be individually searched with a metal detection wand AND patted down. Women should be careful to avoid underwire bras with metal wires unless they do not mind being patted down by a security guard.

I get searched every time so it doesn't matter much. But if you are sensitive to these things or are a frequent traveler then being metal free should be your goal.
   - guru - Tuesday, 08/30/05

DRIVING in Foreign Countries

Research where you are going. In some countries the highways and signage is first class. However, in some places the roads are marginal and worse, there may be no or little signage. I THOUGHT I could navigate anywhere with a decent map. I found out that when there are no road signs and many unmarked intersections that you are like a rat in a maze. Combine being lost with not speaking the local language and adventure has an all new meaning. It was recommended NOT to drive at night in Costa Rica until you were familiar with the roads. It is good advise.

A GPS is handy and will work anywhere in the world. Note however that the fancy GPS with electronic maps do you no good in many places as maps are NOT available or very inaccurate. But with a GPS AND a physical map you can transfer your latitude and longitude to the map and locate your position. Also note that many cell phones with "GPS" actually use triangulation from towers OR system hosted software that may not work outside the normal network.

In some places in Mexico and Central America navigating through cities is so difficult, even on the Pan American Highway, that it is necessary to hire a local as a guide. The local authorities may advise you in this regard. If the cost seems high, consider the cost of an unexpected night on the road and possible lost time.

References and Links

2004 Jock Dempsey,

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