|The Blacksmith from Wikipedia
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought
iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer,
bend, and cut (compare to whitesmith). Blacksmiths produce objects such
as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools,
agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils,
Despite common usage, the person who shoes horses is a
farrier (though a blacksmith may fabricate the shoes). Many farriers have
carried out both trades, but most modern or engineering smiths do not.
Origin of the term
The term "blacksmith" comes from the activity of "forging"
iron or the "black" metal - so named due to the color of the metal after
being heated (a key part of the blacksmithing process). The term "forging"
means to shape metal by heating and hammering .
Blacksmiths work primarily with wrought iron and steel.
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 word
"smith" derives from an old word, "smite" (to hit). Thus, a blacksmith
is a person who hits black metal.
Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or
steel, until the metal becomes soft enough to be shaped with hand tools,
such as a hammer, anvil and chisel. Heating is accomplished by the use
of 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 is heated to increasing temperatures,
it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white. The ideal heat
for most forging is the bright yellow-orange color appropriately known
as a "forging heat". Because they must be able to see the glowing color
of the metal, some blacksmiths work in dim, low-light conditions. Most
work in well-lit conditions. The key is to have consistent lighting which
is not too bright. Direct sunlight obscures the colors.
The techniques of smithing may be roughly divided into
forging (sometimes called "sculpting"), welding, heat treating, and finishing.
Forging is the process in which metal is shaped by hammering.
Forging is different from machining in that material is not removed by
it; rather the iron is hammered into shape. Even punching and cutting operations
(except when trimming waste) by smiths will usually re-arrange metal around
the hole, rather than drilling it out as swarf.
There are seven basic operations or techniques employed
in forging: drawing down, shrinking (a type of upsetting), bending, upsetting,
Swageing, punching and Forge welding.
These operations generally employ hammer and anvil at
a minimum, but smiths will also make use of other tools and techniques
to accommodate odd-sized or repetitive jobs.
Drawing lengthens the metal by reducing one or both of
the other two dimensions. As the depth is reduced, the width narrowed,
or the piece is both lengthened or "drawn out."
As an example of drawing, a smith making a chisel might
flatten a square bar of steel, lengthening the metal, reducing its depth
but keeping its width consistent.
Drawing does not have to be uniform. A taper can result
as in making a wedge or a woodworking chisel blade. If tapered in two dimensions,
a point results.
Drawing can be accomplished with a variety of tools and
methods. Two typical methods using only hammer and anvil would be hammering
on the anvil horn, and hammering on the anvil face using the cross peen
of a hammer.
Another method for drawing is to use a tool called a fuller,
or the peen of the hammer, to hasten the drawing out of a thick piece of
metal. (The technique is called fullering from the tool.) Fullering consists
of hammering a series of indentations with corresponding ridges, perpendicular
to the long section of the piece being drawn. The resulting effect will
look somewhat like waves along the top of the piece. Then the hammer is
turned over to use the flat face and the tops of the ridges are hammered
down level with the bottoms of the indentations. This forces the metal
to grow in length (and width if left unchecked) much faster than just hammering
with the flat face of the hammer.
Shrinking, while similar to upsetting, is essentially
opposite the process of drawing. As the edge of a flat piece is curved—as
in the making of a bowl shape—the edge will become wavy as the material
bunches up in a shorter radius. At this point the wavy portion is heated
and the waves are gently hammered flat to conform to the desired shape.
If you were to compare the edge of the new shape to the original piece,
you would discover that the material is now thicker. This change in thickness
is due to the excess material that formed the waves being pushed into a
uniform edge having a smaller radius than before.
Heating iron to a "forging heat" allows bending as if
it were a soft, ductile metal, like copper or silver.
Bending can be done with the hammer over the horn or edge
of the anvil or by inserting a bending fork into the Hardy Hole (the square
hole in the top of the anvil), placing the work piece between the tines
of the fork, and bending the material to the desired angle. Bends can be
dressed and tightened, or widened, by hammering them over the appropriately
shaped part of the anvil.
Some metals are "hot short", meaning they lose their tensile
strength when heated. They become like Plasticine: although they may still
be manipulated by squeezing, an attempt to stretch them, even by bending
or twisting, is likely to have them crack and break apart. This is a problem
for some blade-making steels, which must be worked carefully to avoid developing
hidden cracks that will cause failure in the future. Although rarely hand-worked,
titanium is notably hot short. Even such common smithing processes as decoratively
twisting a bar are impossible with it.
Upsetting is the process of making metal thicker in one
dimension through shortening in the other. One form is to heat the end
of a rod and then hammer on it as one would drive a nail: the rod gets
shorter, and the hot part widens. An alternative to hammering on the hot
end is to place the hot end on the anvil and hammer on the cold end.
Punching may be done to create a decorative pattern, or
to make a hole. For example, in preparation for making a hammerhead, a
smith would punch a hole in a heavy bar or rod for the hammer handle. Punching
is not limited to depressions and holes. It also includes cutting, slitting,
and drifting—all done with a chisel.
The five basic forging processes are often combined to
produce and refine the shapes necessary for finished products. For example,
to fashion a cross-peen hammer head, a smith would start with a bar roughly
the diameter of the hammer face: the handle hole would be punched and drifted
(widened by inserting or passing a larger tool through it), the head would
be cut (punched, but with a wedge), the peen would be drawn to a wedge,
and the face would be dressed by upsetting.
As with making a chisel, since it is lengthened by drawing
it would also tend to spread in width. A smith would therefore frequently
turn the chisel-to-be on its side and hammer it back down—upsetting it—to
check the spread and keep the metal at the correct width.
Or, if a smith needed to put a 90-degree bend in a bar
and wanted a sharp corner on the outside of the bend, he would begin by
hammering an unsupported end to make the curved bend. Then, to "fatten
up" the outside radius of the bend, one or both arms of the bend would
need to be pushed back to fill the outer radius of the curve. So he would
hammer the ends of the stock down into the bend, 'upsetting' it at the
point of the bend. He would then dress the bend by drawing the sides of
the bend to keep the correct thickness. The hammering would continue—upsetting
and then drawing—until the curve had been properly shaped. In the primary
operation was the bend, but the drawing and upsetting are done to refine
Welding is the joining of metal of the same or similar
kind of metal
A modern blacksmith has a range of options and tools to
accomplish this. The basic types of welding commonly employed in a modern
workshop include traditional forge welding as well as modern methods, including
oxyacetylene and arc welding.
In forge welding the pieces to be joined are heated to
what is generally referred to as "welding heat". For mild steel most smiths
judge this temperature by color: the metal will glow an intense yellow
or white. At this temperature the steel is near molten.
Any foreign material in the weld, such as the oxides or
"scale" that typically form in the fire, can weaken it and potentially
cause it to fail. Thus the mating surfaces to be joined must be kept clean.
To this end a smith will make sure the fire is a reducing fire: a fire
where at the heart there is a great deal of heat and very little oxygen.
The smith will also carefully shape the mating faces so that as they are
brought together foreign material is squeezed out as the metal is joined.
To clean the faces, protect them from oxidation, and provide a medium to
carry foreign material out of the weld, the smith will sometimes use flux—typically
powdered borax, silica sand, or both.
He will first clean the parts to be joined with a wire
brush, then put them in the fire to heat. With a mix of drawing and upsetting
the faces will be shaped so that when finally brought together the center
of the weld will connect first and the connection will spread outward under
the hammer blows, pushing the flux (if used) and foreign material out.
The dressed metal goes back in the fire, is brought near
to welding heat, removed from the fire, and brushed. Flux is sometimes
applied, which prevents oxygen from reaching and burning the metal during
forging, and it is returned to the fire. The smith now watches carefully
to avoid overheating the metal. There is some challenge to this, because
in order to see the color of the metal it must be removed from the fire,
and this exposes the metal to air, which can cause it to oxidize rapidly.
So the smith might probe into the fire with a bit of steel wire, prodding
lightly at the mating faces. When the end of the wire sticks on to the
metal, it is at the right temperature (a small weld has formed where the
wire touches the mating face so it sticks on to the metal). The smith will
commonly place the metal in the fire so as it can be seen without letting
the surrounding air come into contact with the surface. (Note flux is not
always applied, especially in the UK.) Now the smith moves with rapid purpose.
The metal is taken from the fire and quickly brought to the anvil—the mating
faces are brought together, the hammer lightly applying a few taps to bring
the mating faces into complete contact and squeeze out the flux—and finally
returned to the fire again.
The weld was begun with the taps, but often the joint
is weak and incomplete, so the smith will again heat the joint to welding
temperature and work the weld with light blows to "set" the weld and finally
to dress it to the shape.
Depending on the intended use of the piece a blacksmith
may finish it in a number of ways:
A simple jig (a tool) that the smith
might only use a few times in the shop may get the minimum of finishing:
a rap on the anvil to break off
scale and a brushing with
a wire brush.
Files can be employed to bring a piece
to final shape, remove burrs and sharp edges, and smooth the surface.
Heat treatment and case-hardening
to achieve the desired hardness.
The wire brush either as a hand tool
or power tool can further smooth, brighten and polish surface.
Grinding stones, abrasive paper, and
emery wheels can further shape, smooth and polish the surface.
There are a range of treatments and finishes to inhibit
oxidation of the metal and enhance or change the appearance of the piece.
An experienced smith selects the finish based on the metal and intended
use of the item. Finishes include but are not limited to: paint, varnish,
bluing, browning, oil, and wax.
A blacksmith's striker is an assistant (frequently an
apprentice), whose job it is to swing a large sledge hammer in heavy forging
operations, as directed by the blacksmith. In practice, the blacksmith
will hold the hot iron at the anvil (with tongs) in one hand, and indicate
where the iron is to be struck by tapping it with a small hammer held in
the other hand: the striker then delivers a heavy blow with the sledge
hammer where indicated. During the 20th century and into the 21st century,
this role has been increasingly obviated and automated through the use
of trip hammers or reciprocating power hammers.
The blacksmith's materials
When iron ore is smelted into usable metal, a certain
amount of carbon is usually alloyed with the iron. (Charcoal is almost
pure carbon.) The amount of carbon significantly affects the properties
of the metal. If the carbon content is over 2%, the metal is called cast
iron, because it has a relatively low melting point and is easily cast.
It is quite brittle, however, and cannot be forged so therefore not used
for blacksmithing. If the carbon content is between 0.25% and 2%, the resulting
metal is tool grade steel, which can be heat treated as discussed above.
When the carbon content is below 0.25%, the metal is either "wrought iron
(wrought iron is not smelted and cannot come from this process) " or "mild
steel." The terms are never interchangeable. In preindustrial times, the
material of choice for blacksmiths was wrought iron. This iron had a very
low carbon content, and also included up to 5% of glassy iron silicate
slag in the form of numerous very fine stringers. This slag content made
the iron very tough, gave it considerable resistance to rusting, and allowed
it to be more easily "forge welded," a process in which the blacksmith
permanently joins two pieces of iron, or a piece of iron and a piece of
steel, by heating them nearly to a white heat and hammering them together.
Forge welding is more difficult to do with modern mild steel because it
has a narrower band of temperature at which it will weld. The fibrous nature
of wrought iron required knowledge and skill to properly form any tool
which would be subject to stress. Modern steel is produced using either
the blast furnace or arc furnaces. Wrought iron was produced by a labor-intensive
process called "puddling," so this material is now a difficult-to-find
specialty product. Modern blacksmiths generally substitute mild steel for
making objects traditionally of wrought iron. Electrolytic-process pure
iron is sometimes used.
Many blacksmiths also incorporate materials such as bronze,
copper, or brass in artistic products. Aluminum and titanium may also be
forged by the blacksmith's process. Each material responds differently
under the hammer and must be separately studied by the blacksmith.
Steel with below 0.6% Carbon content cannot be hardened
by simple heat-treatment enough to make useful hardened-steel tools. Hence,
in what follows, wrought-iron, low-carbon-steel, and other soft unhardenable
iron varieties will be referred to indiscriminately as just iron.
|Iron is a naturally occurring metallic element. It is
almost never found in its native form (pure iron) in nature. It is usually
found as an oxide or sulfide, with many other impurity elements mixed in.
Wrought iron is the purest form of iron generally encountered
or produced in quantity. It may contain as little as 0.04% Carbon (by weight).
From its traditional method of manufacture, wrought iron has a fibrous
internal texture. Quality wrought-iron blacksmithing takes the direction
of these fibers into account during forging, since the strength of the
material is stronger in line with the grain, than across the grain. Most
of the remaining impurities from the initial smelting become concentrated
in silicate slag trapped between the iron fibers. This slag produces a
lucky side effect during forge-welding. When the silicate melts, it makes
wrought-iron self-fluxing. The slag becomes a liquid glass that covers
the exposed surfaces of the wrought-iron, preventing oxidation which would
otherwise interfere with the successful welding process.
Steel is a mixture of Iron and between 0.3% to 1.7%
Carbon by weight. The presence of carbon allows steel to assume one of
several different crystalline configurations. Macroscopically, this is
seen as the ability to "turn the hardness of a piece of steel on and off"
through various processes of heat-treatment. If the concentration of carbon
is held constant, this is a reversible process. Steel with a higher carbon
percentage may be brought to a higher state of maximum hardness.
Cast iron is iron that contains between 2.0% to
6% Carbon by weight. There is so much carbon present, that the hardness
cannot be switched off. Hence, cast iron is a brittle metal, which can
break like glass. Cast iron cannot be forged without special heat treatment
to convert it to malleable iron.
History, prehistory, religion, and mythology
In Hindu mythology, Tvastar also known as Vishvakarma
is the blacksmith of the devas. The earliest references of Tvastar can
be found in the Rigveda.
Hephaestus (Latin: Vulcan) was the blacksmith of the gods
in Greek and Roman mythology. A supremely skilled artisan whose forge was
a volcano, he constructed most of the weapons of the gods, as well as beautiful
assistants for his smithy and a metal fishing-net of astonishing intricacy.
He was the god of metalworking, fire, and craftsmen.
In Celtic mythology, the role of Smith is held by eponymous
(their names do mean 'smith') characters : Goibhniu (Irish myths of the
Tuatha Dé Danann cycle) or Gofannon (Welsh myths/ the Mabinogion
The Anglo-Saxon Wayland Smith, known in Old Norse as Völundr,
is a heroic blacksmith in Germanic mythology. The Poetic Edda states that
he forged beautiful gold rings with wonderful gems. He was captured by
king Níðuðr, who cruelly hamstringed him and imprisoned
him on an island. Völundr eventually had his revenge by killing Níðuðr's
sons and forging objects to the king from their skulls, teeth and eyes.
He then seduced the king's daughter and escaped laughing on wings he himself
Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and
inventor in the Kalevala, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology.
Tubal-Cain (not to be confused with Cain, brother of Abel)
is mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Old Testament (the first book
of the Torah) as the original smith.
Before the Iron Age
Gold, silver, and copper all occur in nature in their
native states, as reasonably pure metals - humans probably worked these
metals first. These metals are all quite malleable, and humans' initial
development of hammering techniques was undoubtedly applied to these metals.
During the Chalcolithic era and the Bronze Age, humans
in the Mideast learned how to smelt, melt, cast, rivet, and (to a limited
extent) forge copper and bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and approximately
10% to 20% Tin. Bronze is superior to just copper, by being harder, being
more resistant to corrosion, and by having a lower melting point (thereby
requiring less fuel to melt and cast). Much of the copper used by the Mediterranean
World came from the island of Cyprus. Most of the tin came from the Cornwall
region of the island of Great Britain, transported by sea-borne Phoenician
and Greek traders.
Copper and bronze cannot be hardened by heat-treatment,
they can only be hardened by work-hardening. To accomplish this, a piece
of bronze is lightly hammered for a long period of time. The localized
stress-cycling causes the necessary crystalline changes. The hardened bronze
can then be ground to sharpen it to make edged tools.
Clocksmiths as recently as the 19th century used work
hardening techniques to harden the teeth of brass gears and ratchets. Tapping
on just the teeth produced harder teeth, with superior wear-resistance.
By contrast, the rest of the gear was left in a softer and tougher state,
more capable of resisting cracking.
Bronze is sufficiently corrosion-resistant that artifacts
of bronze may last thousands of years relatively unscathed. Accordingly,
museums frequently preserve more examples of Bronze Age metal-work than
examples of artifacts from the much younger Iron Age. Buried iron artifacts
may completely rust away in less than 100 years. Examples of ancient iron
work still extant are very much the exception to the norm.
Concurrent with the advent of alphabetic characters in
the Iron Age, humans became aware of the metal iron. In earlier ages, iron's
qualities, in contrast to those of bronze, were not generally understood
though. Iron artifacts, composed of meteoric iron, have the chemical composition
containing up to 40% nickel. As this source of this iron is extremely rare
and fortuitous, little development of smithing skills peculiar to iron
can be assumed to have occurred. That we still possess any such artifacts
of meteoric iron may be ascribed to the vagaries of climate, and the increased
corrosion-resistance conferred on iron by the presence of nickel.
During the (north) Polar Exploration of the early 20th
century, Inuit of northern Greenland were found to be making iron knives
from two particularly large nickel-iron meteors. One of these meteors was
taken to Washington, D.C., where it was remitted to the custody of the
The Hittites of Anatolia first discovered or developed
the smelting of iron ores around 1500 BC. They seem to have maintained
a near monopoly on the knowledge of iron production for several hundred
years, but when their empire collapsed during the Eastern Mediterranean
upheavals around 1200 BC, the knowledge seems to have escaped in all directions.
In the Iliad of Homer (describing the Trojan War and Bronze
Age Greek and Trojan warriors), most of the armor and weapons (swords and
spears) are stated to have been of bronze. Iron is not unknown, however,
as arrowheads are described as iron, and a "ball of iron" is listed as
a prize awarded for winning a competition. The events described probably
occurred around 1200 BC, but Homer is thought to have composed this epic
poem around 700 BC; so exactitude must remain suspect.
When historical records resume after the 1200 BC upheavals
and the ensuing Greek Dark Age, iron work (and presumably blacksmiths)
seem to have sprung like Athena, fully-grown from the head of Zeus. Very
few artifacts remain, due to loss from corrosion, and re-use of iron as
a valuable commodity. What information exists indicates that all of the
basic operations of blacksmithing were in use as soon as the Iron Age reached
a particular locality. The scarcity of records and artifacts, and the rapidity
of the switch from Bronze Age to Iron Age, is a reason to use evidence
of bronze smithing to infer about the early development of blacksmithing.
Despite being subject to rust, iron replaced bronze as
soon as iron-wielding hordes could invade Bronze Age societies and literally
slice through their obsolete bronze defenses. Iron is a stronger and tougher
metal than bronze, and iron ores are found nearly everywhere. Copper and
Tin deposits, by contrast, are scattered and few, and expensive to exploit.
Iron is different from most other materials (including
bronze), in that it does not immediately go from a solid to a liquid at
its melting point. H2O is a solid (ice) at -1 C (31 F), and a liquid (water)
at +1 C (33 F). Iron, by contrast, is definitely a solid at 800 °F
(427 °C), but over the next 1,500 °F (820 °C) it becomes increasingly
plastic and more "taffy-like" as its temperature increases. This extreme
temperature range of variable solidity is the fundamental material property
upon which blacksmithing practice depends.
Another major difference between bronze and iron fabrication
techniques is that bronze can be melted. The melting point of iron is much
higher than that of bronze. In the western (Europe & the Mideast) tradition,
the technology to make fires hot enough to melt iron did not arise until
the 16th century, when smelting operations grew large enough to require
overly large bellows. These produced blast-furnace temperatures high enough
to melt partially refined ores, resulting in cast iron. Thus cast iron
frying pans and cookware did not become possible in Europe until 3000 years
after the introduction of iron smelting. China, in a separate developmental
tradition, was producing cast iron at least 1000 years before this.
Although iron is quite abundant, good quality steel remained
rare and expensive until the industrial developments of Bessemer process
et al. in the 1850s. Close examination of blacksmith-made antique tools
clearly shows where small pieces of steel were forge-welded into iron to
provide the hardened steel cutting edges of tools (notably in axes, adzes,
chisels, etc.). The re-use of quality steel is another reason for the lack
The Romans (who ensured that their own weapons were made
with good steel) noted (in the 4th century BC) that the Celts of the Po
River Valley had iron, but not good steel. The Romans record that during
battle, their Celtic opponents could only swing their swords two or three
times before having to step on their swords to straighten them.
On the Indian subcontinent, Wootz steel was, and continues
to be, produced in small quantities.
In southern Asia and western Africa, blacksmiths form
endogenous castes that sometimes speak distinct languages.
In the medieval period, blacksmithing was considered part
of the set of seven mechanical arts.
Prior to the industrial revolution, a "village smithy"
was a staple of every town. Factories and mass-production reduced the demand
for blacksmith-made tools and hardware.
The original fuel for forge fires was charcoal. Coal did
not begin to replace charcoal until the forests of first Britain (during
the AD 17th century), and then the eastern United States of America (during
the 19th century) were largely depleted. Coal can be an inferior fuel for
blacksmithing, because much of the world's coal is contaminated with sulfur.
Sulfur contamination of iron and steel make them "red short", so that at
red heat they become "crumbly" instead of "plastic". Coal sold and purchased
for blacksmithing should be largely free of sulfur.
European blacksmiths before and through the medieval era
spent a great deal of time heating and hammering iron before forging it
into finished articles. Although they were unaware of the chemical basis,
they were aware that the quality of the iron was thus improved. From a
scientific point of view, the reducing atmosphere of the forge was both
removing oxygen (rust), and soaking more carbon into the iron, thereby
developing increasingly higher grades of steel as the process was continued.
During the eighteenth century, agents for the Sheffield
cutlery industry scoured the country-side of Britain, offering new carriage
springs for old. Springs must be made of hardened steel. At this time,
the processes by which steel was produced resulted in an extremely variable
product: quality was in no way ensured at the initial point of sale. Those
springs which had survived cracking through hard use over the rough roads
of the time, were proven to be of a better quality steel. Much of the fame
of Sheffield cutlery (knives, shears, etc.) was due to these extreme lengths
that the companies went to, in order to ensure that high-grade steel was
used in their manufactures.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the US
government included in their treaties with many Native American tribes,
that the US would employ blacksmiths and strikers at Army forts, with the
expressed purpose of providing Native Americans with iron tools and repair
During the early to mid-nineteenth century both European
armies as well as both the U.S. Federal and Confederate armies employed
blacksmiths to shoe horses and repair equipment such as wagons, horse tack,
and artillery equipment. These smiths primarily worked at a traveling forge
that when combined with a limber, comprised wagons specifically designed
and constructed as blacksmith shops on wheels to carry the essential equipment
necessary for their work.
Lathes, patterned largely on their woodturning counterparts,
had been used by some blacksmiths since the middle-ages.
During the 1790s Henry Maudslay created the first screw-cutting lathe,
a watershed event that signaled the start of blacksmiths being replaced
by machinists in factories for the hardware needs of the populace.
Samuel Colt neither invented nor perfected interchangeable
parts, but his insistence (and other industrialists at this time) that
his firearms be manufactured with this property, was another step towards
the obsolescence of metal-working artisans and blacksmiths. (See also Eli
As demand for their products declined, many more blacksmiths
augmented their incomes by taking in work shoeing horses. A shoer-of-horses
was historically known as a farrier in English. With the introduction of
automobiles, the number of blacksmiths continued to decrease, many former
blacksmiths becoming the initial generation of automobile mechanics. The
nadir of blacksmithing in the United States was reached during the 1960s,
when most of the former blacksmiths had left the trade, and few if any
new people were entering the trade. By this time, most of the working blacksmiths
were those performing farrier work, so the term blacksmith was effectively
co-opted by the farrier trade.
During the 20th century various gases (natural gas, acetylene,
etc.) have also come to be used as fuels for blacksmithing. While these
are fine for blacksmithing iron, special care must be taken when using
them to blacksmith steel. Each time a piece of steel is heated, there is
a tendency for the carbon content to leave the steel (decarburization).
This can leave a piece of steel with an effective layer of unhardenable
iron on its surface. In a traditional charcoal or coal forge, the fuel
is really just carbon. In a properly regulated charcoal/coal fire, the
air in and immediately around the fire should be a reducing atmosphere.
In this case, and at elevated temperatures, there is a tendency for vaporized
carbon to soak into steel and iron, counteracting or negating the decarburizing
tendency. This is similar to the process by which a case of steel is developed
on a piece of iron in preparation for case hardening.
A renewed interest in blacksmithing occurred as part of
the trend in "do-it-yourself" and "self-sufficiency" that occurred during
the 1970s. Currently there are many books, organizations and individuals
working to help educate the public about blacksmithing, including local
groups of smiths who have formed clubs, with some of those smiths demonstrating
at historical sites and living history events. Some modern blacksmiths
who produce decorative metalwork refer to themselves as artist-blacksmiths.
While developed nations saw a decline and re-awakening
of interest in blacksmithing, in many developing nations blacksmiths continued
doing what blacksmiths have been doing for 3500 years: making and repairing
iron and steel tools and hardware for people in their local area.
The World Championship Blacksmiths'farrier Competition
is held annually, during the Calgary Stampede. Every year since 1979, the
world’s top blacksmiths compete in Calgary, Alberta; performing their craft
in front of thousands of spectators to educate and entertain the public
with their skills and abilities. The competition consists of a series of
forging, horseshoeing and team events, which sees competitors earn points
to qualify as one of the top 10 finalists as they compete for $35,000 in
prize money. The winner is crowned The World Champion Blacksmith. The competition
uses six tonnes of coke (fuel made from coal) and 1,300 linear feet of
steel bar stock.