This used to be a profession in the middle ages and as recently as a hundred years ago. Blacksmithing almost fell to the wayside because of modern manufacturing but it has made a very strong comeback in the past twenty years and you can get classes on it at many different locations around the country. People now find blacksmithing a great hobby and a great way to make a whole lot of interesting things like swords, iron work, wrought iron work and much much more. There can be a bit of an initial expense but there are a lot of ways that you can keep the expense down.
This can be a rewarding hobby but it does take practice to build some skills in order to do satisfactory work. This overview will tell you about the hobby of blacksmithing, give you a look at the materials and tools you need and give you a look at some of the projects you can make.
An overview of what Blacksmithing Is
Blacksmithing is the art of manipulating iron and steel by heating it to the point where it is malleable and soft. The heating of the metal is done in a forge and the manipulating of the heated metal is usually done by hammering it while it is resting on an anvil.
The Basic Process of what a blacksmith does
- Starting and caring for the forge: This is a big part of the blacksmiths craft. Iron and other metals need temperatures higher than a wood burning fire. The blacksmith uses some kind of material like coal or gas to get a fire that burns at a higher temperature.
- Heating the Metal - When iron is placed in a heat source like a forge it will get hot and the temperature will climb through several stages that are judged by the color of the metal. It will start out at red then move through orange, yellow and white then it will melt. For a blacksmith the proper color is a yellow/orange. This is called forging temperature.
This picture shows a piece of iron that is heated to yellow orange and ready to be hammered by the blacksmith.
- Hammering, shaping and manipulating the metal. This is where the smith spends most of his or her time and it is where the skill is built. Just about anything can be made by blacksmithing and there are a wide variety of ways to do it. The smith uses the hammers and other tools to manipulate the metal in various ways. You can probably figure out that by hammering on the forging hot metal it can be shaped. But there are also other things that can be done with the metal such as welding.
- Welding is the skill of heating two or more pieces of iron to welding heat which is in the range of yellow/white hot then hammering them together so the soft metal blends together at the desired point. You might think this is similar to glueing two things together but it isn't . The metal is melted and reformed together. In otherwords the pieces become one.
Basic Supplies and Cost of the Hobby
Basic Beginner Supplies:
- A forge
- Fuel for the forge: Often this is coal
- An anvil
- A blacksmith hammer
- Safety equipment including safety glasses, safety gloves and a leather smock
- Metal to be forged, typically iron
- A wide variety of other tools including tongs to hold hot metal and a set of tools called Hardy tools
- Hardy tools are specifically made to sit in a hole in the vise. They help in cutting, forming and shaping metal.
Expenses: There are three big expenses: The forge, the fuel for the forge and the Anvil. The forge and anvil are start up costs and the fuel is an ongoing expense.
Biggest hurdle: The biggest obstacle to blacksmithing is often the procuring of an anvil. Because they are so heavy it is often economical to try and find a local one that you can pick up (with a friend). This way you don't have to pay shipping of something that weighs anywhere between 200 and 300 pounds. Craigslist is a good place to search for local anvils.
There are options to keep the expenses down though and you can find tutorials on how to make a forge for almost no cost at all. Here is a good tutorial on how to make a forge from found parts: How to make a backyard forge
And for this kind of a home made forge you can also make your own fuel for it. You make charcoal by burning wood in a metal drum: Making Coal for your forge
Virtually every task beginning and intermediate blacksmiths must master is presented in this excellent book. Over 400 detailed drawings help increase comprehension levels. This is a reference manual that will be found lying open on the workbench more often than found on the bookshelf and is highly recommended to anyone swinging a hammer to shape hot metal. This is an excellent introduction to this glorious craft and an excellent resource for advancing your knowledge, skills, and vision for blacksmithing.
The Backyard Blacksmith shows you how -- with some patience and a working knowledge of metals, basic tools, and techniques -- blacksmithing can be easy to learn, and a rewarding hobby. Through instructions and illustrations, readers will learn to make simple tools and useful items, such as nails, hinges, and handles, and also an interesting mix of artful projects, such letter openers, door knockers and botanical ornaments.
Detailed step-by-step full color exercises teach all the universal skills and techniques used to forge iron; it's like having a master blacksmith by your side
Provides the reader with an understanding of the properties and characteristics of forging hot metal, making the craft accessible to those without previous experience
Over 20 beautiful and function projects organized by difficulty level allow new blacksmiths to progress at their own pace and master the skills they learned in earlier chapters
Looking for instructions in bladesmithing that'll put you on the cutting edge of the custom blade market? Then this definitive guide to forging world-class blades is for you. Written by a master bladesmith, this book tells you how to set up your forge, select your materials, fashion grips and hilts, grind edges and much more!
Few historical icons can match the evocative power of the medieval suit of armour, and this epic new book is a complete course in the tools and techniques of the modern armourer's art. Through more than 1,000 detailed photos and clear instruction, Brian Price presents a working handbook for aspiring and active armourers who want to develop their skills in the production of medieval armour in the style of the 14th century. The book is divided into four sections: a sweeping history of armour and its production from its medieval roots to its modern revival; a practical introduction to all the tools and supplies necessary to equip a modern workshop; a thorough review of key techniques; and a series of actual courses in constructing armoured defenses for the head, body, arm, hand and leg. Taking the reader through the construction of an authentic medieval harness from conception to completion, Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction is a vital addition to the libraries of serious craftsmen, historians, collectors and researchers.