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Blacksmithing - The Process
Technique (video) |
A blacksmith is a person who forms hot iron with hammer and anvil - a process
called forging. When iron is heated it becomes softer and can be readily shaped by skilled
hands. Forging is a cyclical process of heating in the forge then shaping with a hammer on the anvil as
the metal cools. When the metal gets too cold and hard to forge, the process starts again, and
is repeated until the desired effect is achieved.
Traditionally, a metal containing layers of silica interbeded with iron, called
wrought iron, was used. Often, if you look at old ironwork you can see the wood-like grain caused
by the iron rusting away, leaving the silica raised. Smiths today generally use mild steel, a
readily available, homogeneous iron alloy, though we now have many choices of medium - stainless
steel, brass, bronze, copper, aluminum and even titanium.
There is some
confusion about the term "wrought iron." Wrought means worked or hammered, so the term literally
means "hammered iron." When referring to types of steel, it means the
historic iron described above, containing layers of silica. In this case it refers to its
method of manufacture. An end product of iron smelting, called a bloom, was hammered out with a large trip hammer, into wrought
iron bars. The term is often used today to mean decorative ironwork made of mild steel that, hammered
or not, resembles traditional ironwork.
techniques are often divided into categories. In practice these divisions are not clear-cut and
more than one can happen simultaneously. Some of these are used on both hot and
A contemporary blacksmith commands a host of auxiliary skills in addition
to those listed here, such as brazing, heat treating, electric welding, filing, grinding, etc.
Draw out -
To make thinner and longer. Usually acomplished by hammering the hot metal on a convex surface.
To make thicker and shorter. Usually by hitting the hot piece on the end.
This term is used in the normal way -- to cause to assume a curved or
To shape or cut with a sharp tool - a chisel.
To indent with a blunt tool from the front.
To push out from the back to give more depth. Usually used on sheet metal.
Hot punch -
To make a hole by displacement and shearing, using a special punch.
To turn the ends of a piece in different directions and impart (or take out) a helix shape.
Forge weld -
To join two or more pieces by melting their surfaces
Video of spreading, a sister technique to drawing out.
Video of cutting off with the hot cut.
Again, this list contains only the most basic traditional elements,
the tools that distinguish blacksmithing from other trades/arts. A modern, well equipped shop will
have a huge assortment of tools, some specialized and some extensions of those listed below. One
of the beauties of blacksmithing is the ability to make one's own tools. This gives smiths great
creative latitude as they are not limited by what is commercially available.
Forge - The furnace or hearth where the
metal is heated. Mild steel is forgeable between 1300F and 2400F.
Anvil - These come in many shapes but all are heavy blocks of iron or steel with a flat top on which
metals are shaped by hammering. The horn is the round, pointy end, the hardy hole is square and
the pritchel hole is round.
Hammer - Hammers typically
have a flat side, called the face - the other end is called the peen. Hammers are usually
named by the shape of their peen end. In this case, a cross peen hammer on the left and a ball peen on the right.
Tongs - Large iron pliers that allow the smith to handle hot metal.
Leg vice -
A stationary clamping device with a leg that transmits the force of the hammer blows to the floor.