Blacksmithing has been practiced by metalworkers for well over a thousand years. Blacksmiths were the tool makers for many of the other crafts, and also performed such tasks as shoeing horses, manufacturing hardware, utensils, blades, gates, railings, grills, arms, and armor. In the twentieth century, blacksmithing as a trade declined and farriery, or the art of shoeing horses, became a separate trade. In the latter half of the twentieth century, blacksmithing enjoyed a resurgence as an art medium. Metal artists use the techniques of the blacksmith to form the metal into traditional and contemporary designs used for decorative and functional art works. In the earlier days of blacksmithing, a relatively soft but easily forged material called wrought iron was used to make most of the products. Steel, which also contained carbon to make it stronger, was difficult to make and was used sparingly on the edges of cutting tools and implements. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, cheap steel became abundant, and thus steel was the material of choice for blacksmiths and farriers.
Mild steel bars are heated to about 2100-2300 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature they become malleable and are then hammered into the desired shape on the anvil or with a power hammer. They also may be sculpted, chiseled or twisted to create uniquely designed decorative and functional pieces. Blacksmithing requires a great deal of skill and hard work. Hand-forging of this tough and resistant material together with traditional methods of joinery, such as mortise and tenon and collaring, take a great deal of time and skill. Modern methods of joinery such as arc welding are sometimes used to produce specific items. Consequently, the price of the resulting objects reflects the time and skill of the craftsman. However, the beauty of the work far outweighs the cost. Ironwork will last for centuries when properly maintained. It adds a touch of class to home furnishings and architecture which has no equal.
|A typical anvil with various tools||A Vise with Tongs|
|An Anvil with a Gas Forge in the Background||An assortment of hammers and tongs|