We often see blacksmiths in films set in the ancient or medieval eras people who tirelessly pound iron to make swords, armour, arrows, and other metalwork; but the profession still exists, and they now make a wider selection of items, from hardware, and other household equipment, depending on what is being demanded. The ancient blacksmiths were often employed by feudal lords to arm and armour their soldiers and knights. Blacksmithing as an art has not changed much since then, although instead of swords and plate armour they now make metalwork that can be sold, or metal components of buildings such as nails, hinges, plinths, rebars, etc. Although most metal products today are made on factories, blacksmithing is still an active industry although mostly engaged in by artisans and hobbyists. The hobbyist metalworking online communities are beginner friendly and have plenty of resources to help newcomers get started. If you’ve ever been interested in metalwork, grab a hammer, find some anvils for sale and begin your journey into the world of metalworking.
Basics of metalworking
Forging and hammering are the two basic processes of metal working. Forging refers to heating metal and hammering is striking it with a hammer to bend it into shape. This is done repeatedly until the piece of metal is in the required shape. It is the cooled in a water bath for further work. Other techniques include drawing, bending, punching, filing and upsetting.
A quick history
Blacksmithing is a very old profession, perhaps one of the oldest. Ancient humans learned to fashion weapons and tools from metal shortly after discovering it. Blacksmiths held an important role in medieval villages as the tools they produced were necessary for all other industries. Regional rulers often charged them with arming their soldiers and during peacetime they made their living making farming equipment, equipment for animal husbandry, horse riding etc. Blacksmithing became popular in the 19th century United States of America, with the period being known as the Golden Age of American Blacksmithing. During this time a significant portion of the population were engaged in the profession. By the end of the century, with rising industrialisation, the demand for artisan metalworking fell and the profession became mechanised. Blacksmiths’ numbers dwindled and their area of focus went on to items that were difficult to mass produced due to their intricacies.
Today, modern blacksmiths keep the artisanal practice alive, and in many parts of the world, it is still practiced in village communities. The past twenty years have seen a rising interest in blacksmith products and have been reflected in an increase in the number of hobbyist metalworkers. The internet allows modern blacksmiths to take custom orders for various products which allow them to keep working despite the lack of demand from their immediate community.
There are also many communities dedicated to teaching the art, such as blacksmithing guilds, which routinely recruit students. There may be apprenticeships and classes as well as job postings for prospective metalworking students at local artisans’ colleges.