Blacksmith
Overview
 
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron
Wrought iron
thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

 or steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 by forging
Forging
Forging is a manufacturing process involving the shaping of metal using localized compressive forces. Forging is often classified according to the temperature at which it is performed: '"cold," "warm," or "hot" forging. Forged parts can range in weight from less than a kilogram to 580 metric tons...

 the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, and weapons.

Despite common usage, the person who shoes horses is a farrier
Farrier
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves...

, rather than a blacksmith.
Encyclopedia
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron
Wrought iron
thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

 or steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 by forging
Forging
Forging is a manufacturing process involving the shaping of metal using localized compressive forces. Forging is often classified according to the temperature at which it is performed: '"cold," "warm," or "hot" forging. Forged parts can range in weight from less than a kilogram to 580 metric tons...

 the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils, and weapons.

Despite common usage, the person who shoes horses is a farrier
Farrier
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves...

, rather than a blacksmith. Many farriers have carried out both trades, but most modern or engineering smiths do not.

Origin of the term

The term "blacksmith" comes from the activity of "forging" iron or the "Black" metal - so named due to the color of the metal after being heated (a key part of the blacksmithing process). Other types of craftsmanship are based on this word, for example the term "gunsmith". In the modern process of making guns the preferred method is by milling the metal rather than forging it, this indicates that the term "gunsmith" derives from the word "blacksmith".

Smithing process

Blacksmiths work with iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, the 'black' metal, and steel
Steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 its derivative. The black color comes from fire scale, a layer of oxides that forms on the surface of the metal during heating. The word "smith" derives from an old Teutonic word, smeithan, (to forge) not "smite" (to hit) which is a common mistake. Thus, a blacksmith is a person who forges black metal.

Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or steel until the metal becomes soft enough to be shaped with hand tools, such as a hammer, anvil
Anvil
An anvil is a basic tool, a block with a hard surface on which another object is struck. The inertia of the anvil allows the energy of the striking tool to be transferred to the work piece. In most cases the anvil is used as a forging tool...

 and chisel
Chisel
A chisel is a tool with a characteristically shaped cutting edge of blade on its end, for carving or cutting a hard material such as wood, stone, or metal. The handle and blade of some types of chisel are made of metal or wood with a sharp edge in it.In use, the chisel is forced into the material...

. Heating is accomplished by the use of a forge
Forge
A forge is a hearth used for forging. The term "forge" can also refer to the workplace of a smith or a blacksmith, although the term smithy is then more commonly used.The basic smithy contains a forge, also known as a hearth, for heating metals...

 fueled by propane, natural gas, coal, charcoal, or coke
Coke (fuel)
Coke is the solid carbonaceous material derived from destructive distillation of low-ash, low-sulfur bituminous coal. Cokes from coal are grey, hard, and porous. While coke can be formed naturally, the commonly used form is man-made.- History :...

.

Modern blacksmiths may also employ an oxyacetylene
Oxy-fuel welding and cutting
Oxy-fuel welding and oxy-fuel cutting are processes that use fuel gases and oxygen to weld and cut metals, respectively. French engineers Edmond Fouché and Charles Picard became the first to develop oxygen-acetylene welding in 1903...

 or similar blowtorch for more localized heating. Induction heating
Induction heating
Induction heating is the process of heating an electrically conducting object by electromagnetic induction, where eddy currents are generated within the metal and resistance leads to Joule heating of the metal...

 methods are gaining popularity among modern blacksmiths.

Color is important for indicating the temperature and workability of the metal: As iron is heated to increasing temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white; then it melts. The ideal heat for most forging is the bright yellow-orange color appropriately known as a "forging heat". Because they must be able to see the glowing color of the metal, some blacksmiths work in dim, low-light conditions. Most work in well-lit conditions. The key is to have consistent lighting which is not too bright. Direct sunlight obscures the colors.

The techniques of smithing may be roughly divided into forging (sometimes called "sculpting"), welding, heat treating, and finishing.

Forging

Forging
Forging
Forging is a manufacturing process involving the shaping of metal using localized compressive forces. Forging is often classified according to the temperature at which it is performed: '"cold," "warm," or "hot" forging. Forged parts can range in weight from less than a kilogram to 580 metric tons...

 is the process in which metal is shaped by hammering. Forging is different from machining in that material is not removed by it; rather the iron is hammered into shape. Even punching and cutting operations (except when trimming waste) by smiths will usually re-arrange metal around the hole, rather than drilling it out as swarf.

There are Seven basic operations or techniques employed in forging: drawing down, shrinking (a type of upseting), bending, upsetting, Swageing, punching and Forge welding.

These operations generally employ hammer and anvil
Anvil
An anvil is a basic tool, a block with a hard surface on which another object is struck. The inertia of the anvil allows the energy of the striking tool to be transferred to the work piece. In most cases the anvil is used as a forging tool...

 at a minimum, but smiths will also make use of other tools and techniques to accommodate odd-sized or repetitive jobs.

Drawing

Drawing lengthens the metal by reducing one or both of the other two dimensions. As the depth is reduced, the width narrowed, or both the piece is lengthened or "drawn out".

As an example of drawing, a smith making a chisel might flatten a square bar of steel, lengthening the metal, reducing its depth but keeping its width consistent.

Drawing does not have to be uniform. A taper can result as in making a wedge or the woodworking chisel blade. If tapered in two dimensions a point results.

Drawing can be accomplished with a variety of tools and methods. Two typical methods using only hammer and anvil would be: hammering on the anvil horn, and hammering on the anvil face using the cross peen of a hammer.

Another method for drawing is to use a tool called a fuller
Fuller (metalworking)
In metalworking, a fuller is a tool used to form metal when hot. The fuller has a rounded, either cylindrical or parabolic, nose, and may either have a handle or a shank . The shank of the lower fuller allows the fuller to be inserted into the hardy hole of the anvil...

, or the peen of the hammer to hasten the drawing out of a thick piece of metal. The technique is called fullering from the tool. Fullering consists of hammering a series of indentations (with corresponding ridges) perpendicular to the long section of the piece being drawn. The resulting effect will be to look somewhat like waves along the top of the piece. Then the hammer is turned over to use the flat face and the tops of the ridges are hammered down level with the bottoms of the indentations. This forces the metal to grow in length (and width if left unchecked) much faster than just hammering with the flat face of the hammer.

Shrinking

Shrinking, while similar to upsetting, is essentially the opposite process as drawing. As the edge of a flat piece is curved—as in the making of a bowl shape—the edge will become wavy as the material bunches up in a shorter radius. At this point the wavy portion is heated and the waves are gently pounded flat to conform to the desired shape. If you were to compare the edge of the new shape to the original piece, you would discover that the material is thicker than before. This change in thickness is due to the excess material that formed the waves being pushed into a uniform edge that has a smaller radius than before.

Bending

Heating iron to a "forging heat" allows bending as if it were a soft, ductile metal, like copper or silver.

Bending can be done with the hammer over the horn or edge of the anvil or by inserting a bending fork into the Hardy Hole (the square hole in the top of the anvil) and placing the work piece between the tines of the fork and bending the material to the desired angle. Bends can be dressed and tightened or widened by hammering them over the appropriately shaped part of the anvil.

Some metals are "hot short", meaning that they lose their tensile strength when heated. They become like Plasticine
Plasticine
Plasticine, a brand of modelling clay, is a putty-like modelling material made from calcium salts, petroleum jelly and aliphatic acids. The name is a registered trademark of Flair Leisure Products plc...

: although they may still be manipulated by squeezing, an attempt to stretch them, even by bending or twisting, is likely to have them crack and break apart. This is a problem for some blade-making steels, which must be worked carefully to avoid hidden cracks developing that will cause failure in the future. Although rarely hand-worked, titanium
Titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

 is notably hot short. Even such common smithing processes as decoratively twisting a bar are impossible with it.

Upsetting

Upsetting is the process of making metal thicker in one dimension through shortening in the other. One form is by heating the end of a rod and then hammering on it as one would drive a nail: the rod gets shorter, and the hot part widens. An alternative to hammering on the hot end would be to place the hot end on the anvil and hammer on the cold end.

Punching

Punching may be done to create a decorative pattern, or to make a hole. For example, in preparation for making a hammerhead, a smith would punch a hole in a heavy bar or rod for the hammer handle. Punching is not limited to depressions and holes. It also includes cutting, or slitting and drifting: these are done with a chisel.

Combining processes

The five basic forging processes are often combined to produce and refine the shapes necessary for finished products. For example to fashion a cross-peen hammer head, a smith would start with a bar roughly the diameter of the hammer face, the handle hole would be punched and drifted (widened by inserting or passing a larger tool through it), the head would be cut (punched, but with a wedge), the peen would be drawn to a wedge, and the face would be dressed by upsetting.

In the example of making a chisel, as it is lengthened by drawing it would also tend to spread in width, so a smith would frequently turn the chisel-to-be on its side and hammer it back down—upsetting it—to check the spread and keep the metal at the correct width for the project.

As another example, if a smith needed to put a 90-degree bend in a bar and wanted a sharp corner on the outside of the bend, the smith would begin by hammering an unsupported end to make the curved bend. Then, to "fatten up" the outside radius of the bend, one or both arms of the bend would need to be pushed back into the bend to fill the outer radius of the curve. So the smith would hammer the ends of the stock down into the bend, 'upsetting' it at the point of the bend. The smith would then dress the bend by drawing the sides of the bend to keep it the correct thickness. The hammering would continue—upsetting and then drawing—until the curve had been properly shaped. In the primary operation was the bend, but the drawing and upsetting are done to refine the shape.

Welding

Welding
Welding
Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

 is the joining of metal of the same or similar kind of metal

A modern blacksmith has a range of options and tools to accomplish this. The basic types of welding commonly employed in a modern workshop include traditional forge welding
Forge welding
Forge welding is a solid-state welding process that joins two pieces of metal by heating them to a high temperature and then hammering them together. The process is one of the simplest methods of joining metals and has been used since ancient times. Forge welding is versatile, being able to join a...

 as well as modern methods, including oxyacetylene and arc welding
Arc welding
Arc welding is a type of welding that uses a welding power supply to create an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt the metals at the welding point. They can use either direct or alternating current, and consumable or non-consumable electrodes...

.

In forge welding the pieces to be welded are heated to what is generally referred to as "welding heat". For mild steel most smiths judge this temperature by color: the metal will glow an intense yellow or white. At this temperature the steel is near molten .

Any foreign material in the weld, such as the oxides or "scale" that typically form in the fire, can weaken it and potentially cause it to fail. Thus the mating surfaces to be joined must be kept clean. To this end a smith will make sure the fire is a reducing fire: a fire where at the heart there is a great deal of heat and very little oxygen. The smith will also carefully shape the mating faces so that as they are brought together foreign material is squeezed out as the metal is joined. To clean the faces, protect them from oxidation, and provide a medium to carry foreign material out of the weld the smith will sometimes use flux—typically powdered borax, silica sand, or both.

The smith will first clean the parts to be joined with a wire brush, then put them in the fire to heat. With a mix of drawing and upsetting the faces will be shaped so that when finally brought together the center of the weld will connect first and the connection spread outward under the hammer blows, pushing the flux and foreign material out.

The dressed metal goes back in the fire, is brought near to welding heat, removed from the fire, brushed, flux is sometimes applied, and it is returned to the fire. The smith now watches carefully to avoid overheating the metal. There is some challenge to this, because in order to see the color of the metal it must be removed from the fire, and this exposes the metal to air, which can cause it to oxidize rapidly. So the smith might probe into the fire with a bit of steel wire, prodding lightly at the mating faces. When the end of the wire sticks on to the metal is at the right temperature (a small weld has formed where the wire touches the mating face so it sticks on to the metal).
(note flux is not always applied, in the UK it is not so common to use)
Now the smith moves with rapid purpose. The metal is taken from the fire and quickly brought to the anvil, the mating faces are brought together, the hammer lightly applying a few taps to bring the mating faces into complete contact and squeeze out the flux, and finally returned to the fire again.

The weld was begun with the taps, but often the joint is weak and incomplete, so the smith will again heat the joint to welding temperature and work the weld with light blows to "set" the weld and finally to dress it to the shape.

Finishing

Depending on the intended use of the piece a blacksmith may finish it in a number of ways:
  • A simple jig (a tool) that the smith might only use a few times in the shop may get the minimum of finishing: a rap on the anvil to break off scale and a brushing with a wire brush.
  • Files can be employed to bring a piece to final shape, remove burrs and sharp edges, and smooth the surface.
  • Heat treatment and case-hardening to achieve the desired hardness.
  • The wire brush either as a hand tool or power tool can further smooth, brighten and polish surface.
  • Grinding stones, abrasive paper, and emery wheels can further shape, smooth and polish the surface.


There are a range of treatments and finishes to inhibit oxidation of the metal and enhance or change the appearance of the piece. An experienced smith selects the finish based on the metal and intended use of the item. Finishes include but are not limited to: paint, varnish, bluing
Bluing (steel)
Bluing is a passivation process in which steel is partially protected against rust, and is named after the blue-black appearance of the resulting protective finish. True gun bluing is an electrochemical conversion coating resulting from an oxidizing chemical reaction with iron on the surface...

, browning
Bluing (steel)
Bluing is a passivation process in which steel is partially protected against rust, and is named after the blue-black appearance of the resulting protective finish. True gun bluing is an electrochemical conversion coating resulting from an oxidizing chemical reaction with iron on the surface...

, oil, and wax.

Blacksmith's striker

A blacksmith's striker is an assistant (frequently an apprentice), whose job it is to swing a large sledge hammer in heavy forging operations, as directed by the blacksmith. In practice, the blacksmith will hold the hot iron at the anvil (with tongs) in one hand, and indicate where the iron is to be struck by tapping it with a small hammer held in the other hand: the striker then delivers a heavy blow with the sledge hammer where indicated. During the 20th century and into the 21st century, this role has been increasingly obviated and automated through the use of trip hammer
Trip hammer
A trip hammer, also known as a helve hammer, is a massive powered hammer used in:* agriculture to facilitate the labor of pounding, decorticating and polishing of grain;...

s or reciprocating power hammers.

The blacksmith's materials

When iron ore
Ore
An ore is a type of rock that contains minerals with important elements including metals. The ores are extracted through mining; these are then refined to extract the valuable element....

 is smelted
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

 into usable metal, a certain amount of carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 is usually alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

ed with the iron. (Charcoal is almost pure carbon.) The amount of carbon significantly affects the properties of the metal. If the carbon content is over 2%, the metal is called cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

, because it has a relatively low melting point and is easily cast. It is quite brittle, however, and is therefore not used for blacksmithing. If the carbon content is between 0.25% and 2%, the resulting metal is tool steel
Tool steel
Tool steel refers to a variety of carbon and alloy steels that are particularly well-suited to be made into tools. Their suitability comes from their distinctive hardness, resistance to abrasion, their ability to hold a cutting edge, and/or their resistance to deformation at elevated temperatures...

, which can be heat treated as discussed above. When the carbon content is below 0.25%, the metal is either "wrought iron
Wrought iron
thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

" or "mild steel." The terms are never interchangeable. In preindustrial times, the material of choice for blacksmiths was wrought iron. This iron had a very low carbon content, and also included up to 5% of glassy iron silicate slag
Slag
Slag is a partially vitreous by-product of smelting ore to separate the metal fraction from the unwanted fraction. It can usually be considered to be a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and metal atoms in the elemental form...

 in the form of numerous very fine stringers. This slag content made the iron very tough, gave it considerable resistance to rusting, and allowed it to be more easily "forge welded," a process in which the blacksmith permanently joins two pieces of iron, or a piece of iron and a piece of steel, by heating them nearly to a white heat and hammering them together. Forge welding is more difficult to do with modern mild steel. The fibrous nature of wrought iron required knowledge and skill to properly form any tool which would be subject to stress. Modern steel is produced using either the blast furnace
Blast furnace
A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

 or arc furnaces. Wrought iron was produced by a labor-intensive process called "puddling," so this material is now a difficult-to-find specialty product. Modern blacksmiths generally substitute mild steel for making objects traditionally of wrought iron. Electrolytic-process pure iron is sometimes used.

Many blacksmiths also incorporate materials such as bronze, copper, or brass in artistic products. Aluminum and titanium may also be forged by the blacksmith's process. Each material responds differently under the hammer and must be separately studied by the blacksmith.

Terminology

  • Iron
    Iron
    Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

     is a naturally occurring metallic element. It is almost never found in its native form (pure iron) in nature. It is usually found as an oxide
    Oxide
    An oxide is a chemical compound that contains at least one oxygen atom in its chemical formula. Metal oxides typically contain an anion of oxygen in the oxidation state of −2....

     or sulfide
    Sulfide
    A sulfide is an anion of sulfur in its lowest oxidation state of 2-. Sulfide is also a slightly archaic term for thioethers, a common type of organosulfur compound that are well known for their bad odors.- Properties :...

    , with many other impurity elements mixed in.
  • Wrought iron
    Wrought iron
    thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

     is the purest form of iron generally encountered or produced in quantity. It may contain as little as 0.04% Carbon
    Carbon
    Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

     (by weight). From its traditional method of manufacture, wrought iron has a fibrous internal texture. Quality wrought-iron blacksmithing takes the direction of these fibers into account during forging, since the strength of the material is stronger in line with the grain, than across the grain. Most of the remaining impurities from the initial smelting become concentrated in silicate slag
    Slag
    Slag is a partially vitreous by-product of smelting ore to separate the metal fraction from the unwanted fraction. It can usually be considered to be a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. However, slags can contain metal sulfides and metal atoms in the elemental form...

     trapped between the iron fibers. This slag produces a lucky side effect during forge-welding. When the silicate melts, it makes wrought-iron self-fluxing. The slag becomes a liquid glass that covers the exposed surfaces of the wrought-iron, preventing oxidation which would otherwise interfere with the successful welding process.
  • Steel
    Steel
    Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

     is a mixture of Iron and between 0.3% to 1.7% Carbon by weight. The presence of carbon allows steel to assume one of several different crystalline configurations. Macroscopically, this is seen as the ability to "turn the hardness of a piece of steel on and off" through various processes of heat-treatment. If the concentration of carbon is held constant, this is a reversible process. Steel with a higher carbon percentage may be brought to a higher state of maximum hardness.
  • Cast iron
    Cast iron
    Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

     is iron that contains between 2.0% to 6% Carbon by weight. There is so much carbon present, that the hardness cannot be switched off. Hence, cast iron is a brittle metal, which can break like glass. Cast iron cannot be forged without special heat treatment to convert it to malleable iron
    Malleable iron
    Malleable iron is cast as White iron, the structure being a metastable carbide in a pearlitic matrix. Through an annealing heat treatment the brittle as cast structure is transformed. Carbon agglomerates into small roughly speherical aggregates of graphite leaving a matrix of ferrite or pearlite...

    .


Steel with below 0.6% Carbon content cannot be hardened by simple heat-treatment enough to make useful hardened-steel tools. Hence, in what follows, wrought-iron, low-carbon-steel, and other soft unhardenable iron varieties will be referred to indiscriminately as just iron.

History, prehistory, religion, and mythology

Mythology

In Hindu mythology, Tvastar
Tvastar
In Vedic religion,' , is the first born creator of the universe. In Yajurveda purusha suktha and in 10 mandala of Rg veda his character and attributes are merging with the concept like Hiranyagharbha/Prajapathy or Brahma.The term also transliterated as Tvaṣṭr, nominative , is the heavenly...

 also known as Vishvakarma is the blacksmith of the devas
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

. The earliest references of Tvastar
Tvastar
In Vedic religion,' , is the first born creator of the universe. In Yajurveda purusha suktha and in 10 mandala of Rg veda his character and attributes are merging with the concept like Hiranyagharbha/Prajapathy or Brahma.The term also transliterated as Tvaṣṭr, nominative , is the heavenly...

 can be found in the Rigveda
Rigveda
The Rigveda is an ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns...

.

Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

 (Latin: Vulcan) was the blacksmith of the gods
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

 in Greek
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 and Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

 mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

. A supremely skilled artisan whose forge was a volcano, he constructed most of the weapons of the gods, as well as beautiful assistants for his smithy and a metal fishing-net of astonishing intricacy. He was the god of metalworking, fire, and craftsmen.

In Celtic mythology, the role of Smith is held by eponymous (their names do mean 'smith') characters : Goibhniu  (Irish myths of the Tuatha Dé Danann
Tuatha Dé Danann
The Tuatha Dé Danann are a race of people in Irish mythology. In the invasions tradition which begins with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, they are the fifth group to settle Ireland, conquering the island from the Fir Bolg....

 cycle) or Gofannon (Welsh myths/ the Mabinogion
Mabinogion
The Mabinogion is the title given to a collection of eleven prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and early medieval historical traditions...

  )

The Anglo-Saxon Wayland Smith, known in Old Norse as Völundr, is a heroic blacksmith in Germanic mythology. The Poetic Edda
Poetic Edda
The Poetic Edda is a collection of Old Norse poems primarily preserved in the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius. Along with Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda is the most important extant source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, and from the early 19th century...

 states that he forged beautiful gold rings with wonderful gems. He was captured by king Níðuðr, who cruelly hamstringed him and imprisoned him on an island. Völundr eventually had his revenge by killing Níðuðr's sons and forging objects to the king from their skulls, teeth and eyes. He then seduced the king's daughter and escaped laughing on wings he himself had forged.

Seppo Ilmarinen
Ilmarinen
Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology. Immortal, he is capable of creating practically anything, but is portrayed as unlucky in love...

, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala
Kalevala
The Kalevala is a 19th century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Finnish and Karelian oral folklore and mythology.It is regarded as the national epic of Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature...

, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 mythology.

Tubal-Cain
Tubal-cain
Tubal-cain is an individual mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in . He was a descendant of Cain, the son of Lamech and Zillah, and the brother of Naamah.-Name:...

 (not to be confused with Cain, brother of Abel) is mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 (the first book of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

) as the original smith.

Before the Iron Age

Gold
Gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

, silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

, and Copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 may all be found in nature in their native state
Native state
In biochemistry, the native state of a protein is its operative or functional form. While all protein molecules begin as simple unbranched chains of amino acids, once completed they assume highly specific three-dimensional shapes; that ultimate shape, known as tertiary structure, is the folded...

s, as reasonably pure metals. It is likely that these were the first metals to be worked by Humans. These metals are all quite malleable, and humans' initial development of hammering techniques was undoubtedly applied to these metals.

During the Chalcolithic era and the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

, humans in the Mideast learned how to smelt
Smelting
Smelting is a form of extractive metallurgy; its main use is to produce a metal from its ore. This includes iron extraction from iron ore, and copper extraction and other base metals from their ores...

, melt
Melting
Melting, or fusion, is a physical process that results in the phase change of a substance from a solid to a liquid. The internal energy of a substance is increased, typically by the application of heat or pressure, resulting in a rise of its temperature to the melting point, at which the rigid...

, cast, rivet
Rivet
A rivet is a permanent mechanical fastener. Before being installed a rivet consists of a smooth cylindrical shaft with a head on one end. The end opposite the head is called the buck-tail. On installation the rivet is placed in a punched or pre-drilled hole, and the tail is upset, or bucked A rivet...

, and (to a limited extent) forge
Forge
A forge is a hearth used for forging. The term "forge" can also refer to the workplace of a smith or a blacksmith, although the term smithy is then more commonly used.The basic smithy contains a forge, also known as a hearth, for heating metals...

 copper and bronze. Bronze is an alloy
Alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

 of copper and approximately 10% to 20% Tin
Tin
Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

. Bronze is superior to just copper, by being harder, being more resistant to corrosion, and by having a lower melting point (thereby requiring less fuel to melt and cast). Much of the copper used by the Mediterranean World came from the island of Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

. Most of the Tin came from the Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 region of the island of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, transported by sea-born Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

n and Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 traders.

Copper and bronze cannot be hardened by heat-treatment, they can only be hardened by work-hardening. To accomplish this, a piece of bronze is lightly hammered for a long period of time. The localized stress-cycling causes the necessary crystalline changes. The hardened bronze can then be ground to sharpen it to make edged tools.

Clocksmith
Clockmaker
A clockmaker is an artisan who makes and repairs clocks. Since almost all clocks are now factory-made, most modern clockmakers only repair clocks. Modern clockmakers may be employed by jewellers, antique shops, and places devoted strictly to repairing clocks and watches...

s as recently as the 19th century used work hardening
Work hardening
Work hardening, also known as strain hardening or cold working, is the strengthening of a metal by plastic deformation. This strengthening occurs because of dislocation movements within the crystal structure of the material. Any material with a reasonably high melting point such as metals and...

 techniques to harden the teeth of brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

 gear
Gear
A gear is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part in order to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in tandem are called a transmission and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine....

s and ratchet
Ratchet (device)
A ratchet is a device that allows continuous linear or rotary motion in only one direction while preventing motion in the opposite direction. Because most socket wrenches today use ratcheting handles, the term "ratchet" alone is often used to refer to a ratcheting wrench, and the terms "ratchet"...

s. Tapping on just the teeth produced harder teeth, with superior wear-resistance. By contrast, the rest of the gear was left in a softer and tougher state, more capable of resisting cracking.

Bronze is sufficiently corrosion resistant, that artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 of bronze may last thousands of years, relatively unscathed. Because of this, there are frequently more examples of Bronze Age metal work in museums, than there are from the much younger Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. Buried iron artifacts may completely rust
Rust
Rust is a general term for a series of iron oxides. In colloquial usage, the term is applied to red oxides, formed by the reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture...

 away in less than 100 years. Examples of ancient iron work still extant are very much the exception to the norm.

Iron Age

Concurrent with the advent of alphabetic characters in the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

, humans became aware of the metal iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

. In earlier ages, iron's qualities, in contrast to those of bronze, were not generally understood though. Iron artifacts
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

, composed of meteoric iron, have the chemical composition containing up to 40% nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

. As this source of this iron is extremely rare and fortuitous, little development of smithing skills peculiar to iron can be assumed to have occurred. That we still possess any such artifacts of meteoric iron may be ascribed to the vagaries of climate, and the increased corrosion-resistance conferred on iron by the presence of nickel.

During the (north) Polar Exploration of the early 20th century, Inuit of northern Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 were found to be making iron knives from two particularly large nickel-iron meteors. One of these meteors was taken to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, where it was remitted to the custody of the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

.

The Hittites
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 first discovered or developed the smelting of iron ores around 1500 BC. They seem to have maintained a near monopoly on the knowledge of iron production for several hundred years, but when their empire collapsed during the Eastern Mediterranean upheavals around 1200 BC, the knowledge seems to have escaped in all directions.

In the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

 of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 (describing the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

 and Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 Greek and Trojan warriors), most of the armor and weapons (swords and spears) are stated to have been of bronze. Iron is not unknown, however, as arrowhead
Arrowhead
An arrowhead is a tip, usually sharpened, added to an arrow to make it more deadly or to fulfill some special purpose. Historically arrowheads were made of stone and of organic materials; as human civilization progressed other materials were used...

s are described as iron, and a "ball of iron" is listed as a prize awarded for winning a competition.
The events described probably occurred around 1200 BC, but Homer is thought to have composed this epic poem around 700 BC; so exactitude must remain suspect.
When historical records resume after the 1200 BC upheavals and the ensuing Greek Dark Age, iron work (and presumably blacksmiths) seem to have sprung like Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, fully-grown from the head of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

. Very few artifacts remain, due to loss from corrosion, and re-use of iron as a valuable commodity. What information exists indicates that all of the basic operations of blacksmithing were in use as soon as the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 reached a particular locality. The scarcity of records and artifacts, and the rapidity of the switch from Bronze Age to Iron Age, is a reason to use evidence of bronze smithing to infer about the early development of blacksmithing.

Despite being subject to rust, iron replaced bronze as soon as iron-wielding hordes could invade Bronze Age societies and literally slice through their obsolete bronze defenses. Iron is a stronger and tougher metal than bronze, and iron ores are found nearly everywhere. Copper and Tin deposits, by contrast, are scattered and few, and expensive to exploit.

Iron is different from most other materials (including bronze), in that it does not immediately go from a solid to a liquid at its melting point
Melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

. H2O is a solid (ice) at -1 C (31 F), and a liquid (water) at +1 C (33 F). Iron, by contrast, is definitely a solid at 800 °F (426.7 °C), but over the next 1500 °F (815.6 °C) it becomes increasingly plastic and more "taffy-like" as its temperature increases. This extreme temperature range of variable solidity is the fundamental material property upon which blacksmithing practice depends.

Another major difference between bronze and iron fabrication techniques is that bronze can be melted. The melting point of iron is much higher than that of bronze. In the western (Europe & the Mideast) tradition, the technology to make fires hot enough to melt iron did not arise until the 16th century, when smelting operations grew large enough to require overly large bellows. These produced blast-furnace temperatures high enough to melt partially refined ores, resulting in cast iron
Cast iron
Cast iron is derived from pig iron, and while it usually refers to gray iron, it also identifies a large group of ferrous alloys which solidify with a eutectic. The color of a fractured surface can be used to identify an alloy. White cast iron is named after its white surface when fractured, due...

. Thus cast iron frying pans and cookware did not become possible in Europe until 3000 years after the introduction of iron smelting.

China, in a separate developmental tradition, was producing cast iron at least 1000 years before this.

Although iron is quite abundant, good quality steel remained rare and expensive until the industrial developments of Bessemer process
Bessemer process
The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. The process is named after its inventor, Henry Bessemer, who took out a patent on the process in 1855. The process was independently discovered in 1851 by William Kelly...

 et al. in the 1850s. Close examination of blacksmith-made antique tools clearly shows where small pieces of steel were forge-welded into iron to provide the hardened steel cutting edges of tools (notably in axes, adzes, chisels, etc.). The re-use of quality steel is another reason for the lack of artifacts.

The Romans
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 (who ensured that their own weapons were made with good steel) noted (in the 4th century BC) that the Celts of the Po River Valley had iron, but not good steel. The Romans record that during battle, their Celtic opponents could only swing their swords two or three times before having to step on their swords to straighten them.

On the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, Wootz steel was, and continues to be, produced in small quantities.

In southern Asia and western Africa
Blacksmiths of western Africa
Blacksmiths of Western Africa emerged around 1500 BC. Blacksmiths are feared in some West African societies for their powerful skills in metalworking, which is considered a form of magic, but universally revered by West African for their technological pioneering. While common people fear the power...

, blacksmiths form endogenous
Endogenous
Endogenous substances are those that originate from within an organism, tissue, or cell. Endogenous retroviruses are caused by ancient infections of germ cells in humans, mammals and other vertebrates...

 caste
Caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

s that sometimes speak distinct languages.

Medieval period

In the medieval period, blacksmithing was considered part of the set of seven mechanical arts
Mechanic arts
Mechanic arts is an obsolete and archaic term. In the medieval period, the Seven Mechanical Arts were intended as a complement to the Seven Liberal Arts, and consisted of weaving, blacksmithing, war, navigation, agriculture, hunting, medicine, and the ars theatrica. In the 19th century it referred...

.

Prior to the industrial revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

, a "village smithy
Forge
A forge is a hearth used for forging. The term "forge" can also refer to the workplace of a smith or a blacksmith, although the term smithy is then more commonly used.The basic smithy contains a forge, also known as a hearth, for heating metals...

" was a staple of every town. Factories and mass-production reduced the demand for blacksmith-made tools and hardware.

The original fuel for forge fires was charcoal
Charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

. Coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

 did not begin to replace charcoal until the forests of first Britain (during the AD 17th century), and then the eastern United States of America (during the 19th century) were largely depleted. Coal can be an inferior fuel for blacksmithing, because much of the world's coal is contaminated with sulfur
Sulfur
Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

. Sulfur contamination of iron and steel make them "red short", so that at red heat they become "crumbly" instead of "plastic". Coal sold and purchased for blacksmithing should be largely free of sulfur.

European blacksmiths before and through the medieval era spent a great deal of time heating and hammering iron before forging it into finished articles. Although they were unaware of the chemical basis, they were aware that the quality of the iron was thus improved. From a scientific point of view, the reducing atmosphere of the forge was both removing oxygen
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 (rust), and soaking more carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 into the iron, thereby developing increasingly higher grades of steel as the process was continued.

Industrial era

During the eighteenth century, agents for the Sheffield
Sheffield
Sheffield is a city and metropolitan borough of South Yorkshire, England. Its name derives from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. Historically a part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and with some of its southern suburbs annexed from Derbyshire, the city has grown from its largely...

 cutlery industry scoured the country-side of Britain, offering new carriage springs for old. Springs must be made of hardened steel. At this time, the processes by which steel was produced resulted in an extremely variable product: quality was in no way ensured at the initial point of sale. Those springs which had survived cracking through hard use over the rough roads of the time, were proven to be of a better quality steel. Much of the fame of Sheffield cutlery (knives, shears, etc.) was due to these extreme lengths that the companies went to, in order to ensure that high-grade steel was used in their manufactures.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, the US government included in their treaties with many Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 tribes, that the US would employ blacksmiths and strikers at Army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 forts, with the expressed purpose of providing Native Americans with iron tools and repair services.

During the early to mid-nineteenth century both European armies as well as both the U.S. Federal and Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 armies employed blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair equipment such as wagons, horse tack, and artillery equipment. These smiths primarily worked at a traveling forge
Traveling Forge
A traveling forge, when combined with a limber, comprised wagons specifically designed and constructed as blacksmith shops on wheels to carry the essential equipment necessary for blacksmiths, artisans and farriers to both shoe horses and repair wagons and artillery equipment for both U.S...

 that when combined with a limber, comprised wagons specifically designed and constructed as blacksmith shops on wheels to carry the essential equipment necessary for their work.

Lathes, patterned largely on their woodturning
Woodturning
Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe . Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it...

 counterparts, had been used by some blacksmiths since the middle-ages. During the 1790s Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay
Henry Maudslay was a British machine tool innovator, tool and die maker, and inventor. He is considered a founding father of machine tool technology.-Early life:...

 created the first screw-cutting lathe
Screw-cutting lathe
A screw-cutting lathe is a machine capable of cutting very accurate screw threads via single-point screw-cutting, which is the process of guiding the linear motion of the tool bit in a precisely known ratio to the rotating motion of the workpiece...

, a watershed event that signaled the start of blacksmiths being replaced by machinist
Machinist
A machinist is a person who uses machine tools to make or modify parts, primarily metal parts, a process known as machining. This is accomplished by using machine tools to cut away excess material much as a woodcarver cuts away excess wood to produce his work. In addition to metal, the parts may...

s in factories for the hardware needs of the populace.

Samuel Colt
Samuel Colt
Samuel Colt was an American inventor and industrialist. He was the founder of Colt's Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company , and is widely credited with popularizing the revolver. Colt's innovative contributions to the weapons industry have been described by arms historian James E...

 neither invented nor perfected interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts
Interchangeable parts are parts that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any device of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting...

, but his insistence (and other industrialists at this time) that his firearms be manufactured with this property, was another step towards the obsolescence of metal-working artisans and blacksmiths. (See also Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South...

).

As demand for their products declined, many more blacksmiths augmented their incomes by taking in work shoeing horses. A shoer-of-horses was historically known as a farrier
Farrier
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves...

 in English. With the introduction of automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s, the number of blacksmiths continued to decrease, many former blacksmiths becoming the initial generation of automobile mechanics. The nadir of blacksmithing in the United States was reached during the 1960s, when most of the former blacksmiths had left the trade, and few if any new people were entering the trade. By this time, most of the working blacksmiths were those performing farrier
Farrier
A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses' hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves...

 work, so the term blacksmith was effectively co-opted by the farrier trade.

During the 20th century various gases (natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, acetylene
Acetylene
Acetylene is the chemical compound with the formula C2H2. It is a hydrocarbon and the simplest alkyne. This colorless gas is widely used as a fuel and a chemical building block. It is unstable in pure form and thus is usually handled as a solution.As an alkyne, acetylene is unsaturated because...

, etc.) have also come to be used as fuels for blacksmithing. While these are fine for blacksmithing iron, special care must be taken when using them to blacksmith steel. Each time a piece of steel is heated, there is a tendency for the carbon content to leave the steel (decarburization
Decarburization
Decarburization is the process opposite to carburization, namely aimed at decreasing the content of carbon in metals . Decarburization occurs when Carbon in the metal reacts with gasses present in the atmosphere...

). This can leave a piece of steel with an effective layer of unhardenable iron on its surface. In a traditional charcoal or coal forge, the fuel is really just carbon. In a properly regulated charcoal/coal fire, the air in and immediately around the fire should be a reducing atmosphere. In this case, and at elevated temperatures, there is a tendency for vaporized carbon to soak into steel and iron, counteracting or negating the decarburizing tendency. This is similar to the process by which a case of steel is developed on a piece of iron in preparation for case hardening
Case hardening
Case hardening or surface hardening is the process of hardening the surface of a metal, often a low carbon steel, by infusing elements into the material's surface, forming a thin layer of a harder alloy...

.

A renewed interest in blacksmithing occurred as part of the trend in "do-it-yourself" and "self-sufficiency" that occurred during the 1970s. Currently there are many books, organizations and individuals working to help educate the public about blacksmithing, including local groups of smiths who have formed clubs, with some of those smiths demonstrating at historical sites and living history events. Some modern blacksmiths who produce decorative metalwork refer to themselves as artist-blacksmiths.

While developed nations saw a decline and re-awakening of interest in blacksmithing, in many developing nations blacksmiths continued doing what blacksmiths have been doing for 3500 years: making and repairing iron and steel tools and hardware for people in their local area.

World Championship Blacksmiths', Farrier Competitions

The World Championship Blacksmiths'farrier Competition is held annually, during the Calgary Stampede
Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The ten-day event, which bills itself as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world's largest rodeos, a parade, midway,...

. Every year since 1979, the world’s top blacksmiths compete in Calgary
Calgary
Calgary is a city in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It is located in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, approximately east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies...

, Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

; performing their craft in front of thousands of spectators to educate and entertain the public with their skills and abilities. The competition consists of a series of forging, horseshoeing and team events, which sees competitors earn points to qualify as one of the top 10 finalists as they compete for $35,000 in prize money. The winner is crowned The World Champion Blacksmith. The competition uses six tonnes of coke (fuel made from coal) and 1,300 linear feet of steel bar stock.

See also

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    Blacksmith Scene
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     (also, known as Blacksmith Scene #1 and Blacksmithing Scene)
  • Ironmongery
    Ironmongery
    Ironmongery originally referred both to the manufacture, and the place of sale of iron goods produced for domestic rather than industrial use. The usage of the term has expanded in recent times to include consumer goods made of aluminium, brass, or other metals, as well as plastics...

  • Makera Assada
    Makera Assada
    - Etymology of Makera Assada :Makera Assada is among the areas that form the town of Sokoto of Nigeria. The area is part of Magajin Gari Ward. Makera Assada which is part of Magajin Gari ward in the southern part of Sokoto North local government area of Sokoto state, bordered Gidan Haki in the...

  • National School of Blacksmithing
    National School of Blacksmithing
    The National School of Blacksmithing is part of Herefordshire College of Technology, a college of further education . It is located at the Centre for Rural Crafts in Holme Lacy, approximately 6 miles from the city of Hereford, Herefordshire, England.The school was founded in 1946...

     (United Kingdom)
  • St Clement's Day
    St Clement's Day
    Saint Clement's Day was traditionally, and in some places still is, celebrated on the 23 November, a welcome festival between Halloween and Christmas...

  • Silversmith
    Silversmith
    A silversmith is a craftsperson who makes objects from silver or gold. The terms 'silversmith' and 'goldsmith' are not synonyms as the techniques, training, history, and guilds are or were largely the same but the end product varies greatly as does the scale of objects created.Silversmithing is the...

  • Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
    Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
    The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The organisation was first mentioned in a court record in 1299. A Royal Charter officially granting it the status of Company was granted in 1571. The Company originally had the right to set regulations and...


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