What is Blacksmithing?

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

You've seen the movies, but what really is blacksmithing in modern days.

Striking while its hot

From Pirates of the Caribbean to How to Train Your Dragon ,most people have been introduced to the art of forging metal through movies. With the exception of A Knights Tale which features a woman smithy, most movies epitomizes the metalworkers as ogre-like men with long beards and protruding bellies banging away at hot metal in dark cave-like hovels. Blacksmithing, is almost always seen in historical pieces as a trade of the past, pre-industrialized times. So what is blacksmithing and what role does it take in modern society?

Historical Blacksmithing

Before the introduction of the assembly-line, and the industrial revolution, blacksmiths forged iron into tools. Primarily, agricultural tools, weapons and transportation tools were the smithy's bread and butter. They created items such as wheels, axels, horseshoes, swords, knives, daggers, rakes, sickles, scythes and shovels. They did this by heating iron over a coal-fire forge to allow the metal to become pliable, and then would shape it through measured, and skilled hits with a hammer on an anvil.

Modern Blacksmithing

Today, true blacksmiths are increasingly rare, operating mostly in developing societies that are still heavily reliant on agriculture and pre-industrial technologies, i.e. horses and livestock. By comparison, blacksmithing in post-industrial societies tend to focus their trade on more artistic products rather than functional. Bladesmiths may be considered an exception to this generalization, but even they often have a strong focus on artistry. Blacksmithing in modern days still uses time-honored tools such as a forge, a hammer and an anvil, but the craft instead of having a focus on tool creation tends to favor art creation. One might even call modern blacksmiths metal sculptors.

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