What is a blacksmith?
A blacksmith is a professional who works with metals, such as iron, shaping them into useful or decorative shapes. Blacksmithing is a highly skilled trade, and although there aren't as many of them, they still command respect and high prices for their services.
Why are they called blacksmiths?
The “black” refers to the metals blacksmiths work with. These metals develop a layer of dark or black oxides as they are worked. “Smith” is a derivative of “smite,” to hit.
Why is a smithy so dark?
A blacksmith's shop, known as a "smithy" is kept dark in order for the metalworker to judge the temperature of the metal they are working by its color. Metals go through several stages as they heat, and it is important to find the ideal temperature for working to create a strong, solid piece of metalwork. Smithies also tend to be very noisy, from the hammering, and hot, from the forge.
What is a blacksmith forge?
A forge is a type of hearth used for heating metals, or the workplace ("smithy") where the hearth is located. The forge is used by the blacksmith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature where it becomes easier to shape, or to the point where work hardening no longer occurs. The metal (known as the "workpiece") is transported to and from the forge using tongs, which are also used to hold the workpiece on the smithy's anvil while the blacksmith works it with a hammer.
Many types of forges
There are many "DIY" forge construction options, and any will work, as long as the forge is able to create and withstand heat of up to 1,800 degrees.
Diagram of the most commonly used forge
A forge typically uses bituminous coal, industrial coke or charcoal as the fuel to heat metal. The designs of these forges have varied over time, but whether the fuel is coal, coke or charcoal the basic design has remained the same.
A forge of this type is essentially a hearth or fireplace designed to allow a fire to be controlled such that metal introduced to the fire may be brought to a malleable state or to bring about other metallurgical effects (hardening, annealing, and tempering as examples). The forge fire in this type of forge is controlled in three ways: amount of air, volume of fuel, and shape of the fuel/fire.
Over thousands of years of forging, these devices have evolved in one form or another as the essential features of this type of forge:
- Tuyere — a pipe through which air can be forced into the fire
- Bellows or blower — a means for forcing air into the tuyere
- Hearth — a place where the burning fuel can be contained over or against the tuyere opening.
During operation, fuel is placed in or on the hearth and ignited. A source of moving air, such as a fan or bellows, introduces additional air into the fire through the tuyere. With additional air, the fire consumes more fuel and burns hotter.
What kind of tools does a blacksmith use
Tongs, vices, clamps, pritchels, hardies
AND the very important anvil and hammer
The tools a blacksmith uses are as individual as the blacksmith. So much depends on the metal shape desired and the metal being worked.
Blacksmith produced metalwork
Here is an example of a beautiful, hand-forged door knocker. Each piece a blacksmith produces will be unique.