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736 Mackville Rd.
Hardwick
Vermont
05843
USA
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Blacksmithing - The Process

Materials | Technique (video) | Tools

Diderot'sA 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.

Materials

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. wrought ironSmiths 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

Traditional forging 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 cold metal.

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.


drawing out
Draw out -
To make thinner and longer. Usually acomplished by hammering the hot metal on a convex surface.
video
upsetting
Upset -
To make thicker and shorter. Usually by hitting the hot piece on the end.
video
scrolling
Bend -
This term is used in the normal way -- to cause to assume a curved or angular shape.
video
slitting
Chisel -
To shape or cut with a sharp tool - a chisel.
video
chaseing
Chase -
To indent with a blunt tool from the front.
video
repousse
Repoussť -
To push out from the back to give more depth. Usually used on sheet metal.
video
hot punching
Hot punch -
To make a hole by displacement and shearing, using a special punch.
video
twisting
Twist -
To turn the ends of a piece in different directions and impart (or take out) a helix shape.
video
forge welding
Forge weld -
To join two or more pieces by melting their surfaces together.
video
Video of spreading, a sister technique to drawing out.
Video of cutting off with the hot cut.

Tools

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
Forge - The furnace or hearth where the metal is heated. Mild steel is forgeable between 1300F and 2400F.
anvil
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
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
Tongs - Large iron pliers that allow the smith to handle hot metal.
leg vice
Leg vice -
A stationary clamping device with a leg that transmits the force of the hammer blows to the floor.