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Detailed Blacksmith Metal Working Information

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While there are many people who work with metal such as farriers, wheelwrights, and armorers, the blacksmith had a general knowledge of how to make and repair many things, from the most complex of weapons and armor to simple things like nails or lengths of chain.

Origin of the term

The "black" in "blacksmith" refers to the black fire scale, a layer of oxides that forms on the surface of the metal during heating. The origin of "smith" is debated, it may come from the old English word "smythe" meaning "to strike" or it may have originated from the Proto-German "smithaz" meaning "skilled worker."

The process

Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or steel until the metal becomes soft enough for shaping with hand tools, such as a hammer, anvil and chisel. Heating generally takes place in a forge fueled by propane, natural gas, coal, charcoal, coke or oil.

Some modern blacksmiths may also employ an oxyacetylene or similar blowtorch for more localized heating. Induction heating methods are gaining popularity among modern blacksmiths.

Color is important for indicating the temperature and workability of the metal. As iron heats to higher temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white. The ideal heat for most forging is the bright yellow-orange color that indicates forging heat. Because they must be able to see the glowing color of the metal, some blacksmiths work in dim, low-light conditions, but most work in well-lit conditions. The key is to have consistent lighting, but not too bright. Direct sunlight obscures the colors.

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

Notable blacksmiths


  • Tubal-cain, in biblical tradition, the first smith
  • Sons of Ivaldi, in Norse mythology, three dwarf brothers who make a variety of gifts for the Gods.
  • Mime, brother of Alberich, Wagnerian dwarfs and maker of the sword Nothung and the Tarnhelm


  • James Black, creator of original bowie knife
  • John Silvester, a blacksmith at the Tower of London
  • Panday Pira, the first Filipino cannon maker


  • Elizabeth Brim, noted for feminine imagery of lingerie or shoes in her work, also for the Brim technique of inflating balloons of hot metal with compressed air.
  • Roland Greefkes, wrought iron work
  • Paul Zimmermann, contemporary forge work

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26 November 2020
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