August 2016 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Blacksmith -  from Wikipedia

A blacksmith is a metalsmith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend, and cut (cf. whitesmith). Blacksmiths produce objects such as gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, furniture, sculpture, tools, agricultural implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils and weapons.

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."

Smithing 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.


Forging—the process smiths use to shape metal by hammering—differs from machining in that forging does not remove material. Instead, the smith hammers the iron into shape. Even punching and cutting operations (except when trimming waste) by smiths usually re-arrange metal around the hole, rather than drilling it out as swarf.

Forging uses seven basic operations or techniques:

    Drawing down
    Shrinking (a type of upsetting)
    Forge welding

These operations generally require at least a hammer and anvil, but smiths also use 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, or the width narrowed, the piece is 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 looks somewhat like waves along the top of the piece. Then the smith turns the hammer over to use the flat face to hammer the tops of the ridges 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.


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 would cause failure in the future. Though 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.

Combining processes

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, they 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 they would hammer the ends of the stock down into the bend, 'upsetting' it at the point of the bend. They 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 the shape.


Welding is the joining 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 join are heated to what is generally referred to as welding heat. For mild steel most smiths judge this temperature by color: the metal glows 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 cause it to fail. Thus the mating surfaces to be joined must be kept clean. To this end a smith makes 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 also carefully shapes mating faces so that as they come together foreign material squeezes 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 sometimes uses flux—typically powdered borax, silica sand, or both.

The smith first cleans parts to be joined with a wire brush, then puts them in the fire to heat. With a mix of drawing and upsetting the smith shapes the faces so that when finally brought together, the center of the weld connects first and the connection spreads outward under the hammer blows, pushing out the flux (if used) and foreign material.

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, to see the color of the metal, the smith must remove it from the fire—exposing it to air, which can rapidly oxidize it. 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 forms where the wire touches the mating face, so it sticks). The smith commonly places the metal in the fire so he can see it without letting surrounding air contact the surface. (Note that smiths don't always use flux, especially in the UK.) Now the smith moves with rapid purpose, quickly taking the metal from the fire to the anvil and bringing the mating faces together. A few light hammer taps bring the mating faces into complete contact and squeeze out the flux—and finally, the smith returns the work to the fire. The weld begins with the taps, but often the joint is weak and incomplete, so the smith reheats the joint to welding temperature and works 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 bring a piece to final shape, removing burrs and sharp edges, and smoothing the surface.
    Heat treatment and case-hardening achieve the desired hardness.
    The wire brush—as a hand tool or power tool—can further smooth, brighten, and polish surfaces.
    Grinding stones, abrasive paper, and emery wheels can further shape, smooth, and polish the surface.

A range of treatments and finishes can inhibit oxidation and enhance or change the appearance of the piece. An experienced smith selects the finish based on the metal and on the intended use of the item. Finishes include (among others): paint, varnish, bluing, browning, oil, and wax.

Blacksmith's striker

A blacksmith's striker is an assistant (frequently an apprentice), whose job it is to swing a large sledgehammer in heavy forging operations, as directed by the blacksmith. In practice, the blacksmith holds the hot iron at the anvil (with tongs) in one hand, and indicates where to strike the iron by tapping it with a small hammer in the other hand. The striker then delivers a heavy blow to the indicated spot with a sledgehammer. 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 with modern mild steel, because it welds in a narrower temperature band. 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. Sometimes they use electrolytic-process pure iron.

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.


    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 

    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.

Steel with less than 0.6% Carbon content cannot be hardened enough by simple heat-treatment to make useful hardened-steel tools. Hence, in what follows, wrought-iron, low-carbon-steel, and other soft unhardenable iron varieties are referred to indiscriminately as just 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 had forged.

Seppo Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor in the Kalevala, is an archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology.

Tubal-Cain is mentioned in the book of Genesis of the Torah as the original smith.

Ogun, the god of iron, is one of the pantheon of "orisa" traditionally worshipped by the Yoruba of Nigeria.

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.

Iron Age

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, Inughuit, northern Greenlandic Inuit, 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 Smithsonian Institution.

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 of artifacts.

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.

Medieval period

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.

Industrial era

During the eighteenth century, agents for the Sheffield cutlery industry scoured the British country-side, offering new carriage springs for old. Springs must be made of hardened steel. At this time, the processes for making steel produced an extremely variable product—quality was not ensured at the initial point of sale. Springs that had survived cracking through hard use over the rough roads of the time, had proven to be of a better quality steel. Much of the fame of Sheffield cutlery (knives, shears, etc.) was due to the extreme lengths the companies took to ensure they used high-grade steel.

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 services.

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 Whitney).

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.

20th and 21st centuries

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. In 1973 the Artists Blacksmiths’ Association of North America was formed with 27 members. By 2013 it had almost 4000 members. Likewise the British Artist Blacksmiths Association was created in 1978, with 30 charter members and had 2013 about 600 members and publish for members a quarterly magazine.

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.

World Championship Blacksmiths'/ Farrier Competitions

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 tons of coke (fuel made from coal) and 1,300 linear feet of steel bar stock.

As of 2015, the Blacksmiths' Competition is an invitational competition consisting of four teams of four blacksmiths competing for an $8000 prize.

Horseshoe - from Wikipedia
A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal, although sometimes made partially or wholly of modern synthetic materials, designed to protect a horse's hoof from wear. Shoes are attached on the palmar surface of the hooves, usually nailed through the insensitive hoof wall that is anatomically akin to the human toenail, although much larger and thicker. However, there are many cases where shoes are glued.

The fitting of horseshoes is a professional occupation, conducted by a farrier, who specializes in the preparation of feet, assessing potential lameness issues, and fitting appropriate shoes, including remedial features where required. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, horseshoeing is legally restricted to only people with specific qualifications and experience. In others, such as the United States, where professional licensing is not legally required, professional organizations provide certification programs that publicly identify qualified individuals.

Horseshoes are available in a wide variety of materials and styles, developed for different types of horse and for the work they do. The most common materials are steel and aluminium, but specialized shoes may include use of rubber, plastic, magnesium, titanium, or copper. Steel tends to be preferred in sports where a strong, long-wearing shoe is needed, such as polo, eventing, show jumping, and western riding events. 

Modern horseshoes are most
commonly made of steel
and nailed into the hoof wall.
Aluminium shoes are lighter, making them common in horse racing, where a lighter shoe is desired; and often facilitate certain types of movement, and so are favored in the discipline of dressage.[2] Some horseshoes have "caulkins", "caulks", or "calks": protrusions at the toe or heels of the shoe, or both, to provide additional traction.

When kept as a talisman, a horseshoe is said to bring good luck. Some believe that to hang it with the ends pointing upwards is good luck as it acts as a storage container of sorts for any good luck that happens to be floating by, whereas to hang it with the ends pointing down, is bad luck as all the good luck will fall out. Others believe that the horseshoe should be hung the other way (with the ends pointing down), as it will then release its luck to the people around it. A stylized variation of the horseshoe is used for a popular throwing game, horseshoes.

A variety of horseshoes, including
aluminium racing plates (light coloured)
and shoes used on cattle in lower right.

Since the early history of domestication of the horse, working animals were found to be exposed to many conditions that created breakage or excessive hoof wear. Ancient people recognized the need for the walls (and sometimes the sole) of domestic horses' hooves to have additional protection over and above any natural hardness. An early form of hoof protection was seen in ancient Asia, where horses' hooves were wrapped in rawhide, leather or other materials for both therapeutic purposes and protection from wear. From archaeological finds in Great Britain, the Romans appeared to have attempted to protect their horses' feet with a strap-on, solid-bottomed "hipposandal" that has a slight resemblance to the modern hoof boot.

Historians have expressed differing opinions on the origin of the horseshoe. Because iron was a valuable commodity, and any worn out items were generally melted down and reused, it is difficult to locate clear archaeological evidence. Although some credit the Druids, there is no hard evidence to support this claim. In 1897 four bronze horseshoes with what are apparently nail holes were found in an Etruscan tomb dated around 400 B.C. The assertion by some historians that the Romans invented the "mule shoes" sometime after 100 BC is supported by a reference by Catullus who died in 54 BC. However, these references to use of horseshoes and muleshoes in Rome, may have been to the "hipposandal"—leather boots, reinforced by an iron plate, rather than to nailed horseshoes.

Existing references to the nailed shoe are relatively late, first known to have appeared around AD 900, but there may have been earlier uses given that some have been found in layers of dirt. There are no extant references to nailed horseshoes prior to the reign of Emperor Leo VI and by 973 occasional references to them can be found. The earliest clear written record of iron horseshoes is a reference to "crescent figured irons and their nails" in AD 910. There is very little evidence of any sort that suggests the existence of nailed-on shoes prior to AD 500 or 600, though there is a find dated to the 5th century A.D. of a horseshoe, complete with nails, found in the tomb of the Frankish King Childeric I at Tournai, Belgium

Around 1000 AD, cast bronze horseshoes with nail holes became common in Europe. Common was a design with a scalloped outer rim and six nail holes. The 13th and 14th centuries brought the widespread manufacturing of iron horseshoes. By the time of the Crusades (1096–1270), horseshoes were widespread and frequently mentioned in various written sources. In that period, due to the value of iron, horseshoes were even accepted in lieu of coin to pay taxes.

By the 13th century, shoes were forged in large quantities and could be bought ready-made. Hot shoeing, the process of shaping a heated horseshoe immediately before placing it on the horse, became common in the 16th century. From the need for horseshoes, the craft of blacksmithing became "one of the great staple crafts of medieval and modern times and contributed to the development of metallurgy.” A treatise titled "No Foot, No Horse" was published in England in 1751.

In 1835, the first U.S. patent for a horseshoe manufacturing machine capable of making up to 60 horseshoes per hour was issued to Henry Burden. In the mid 19th century Canada, marsh horseshoes kept horses from sinking into the soft intertidal mud during dike-building. In a common design, a metal horseshoe holds a flat wooden shoe in place.

Reasons for use of horseshoes
Environmental changes linked to domestication
Many changes brought about by domestication of the horse have led to a need for shoes for number of reasons, mostly linked to management that results in horses' hooves hardening less and being more vulnerable to injury. In the wild, a horse may travel up to 50 miles per day to obtain adequate forage. While horses in the wild covered large areas of terrain, they usually did so at relatively slow speeds, unless being chased by a predator. They also tended to live in arid steppe climates. The consequence of slow but nonstop travel in a dry climate is that horses' feet are naturally worn to a small, smooth, even and hard state. The continual stimulation of the sole of the foot keeps it thick and hard. However, in domestication, the ways horses are used differ from what they would encounter in their natural environment. Domesticated horses were brought to colder and wetter areas than their ancestral habitat. These softer and heavier soils soften the hooves and have made them prone to splitting, making hoof protection necessary. Consequently, it was in northern Europe that the nailed horseshoe arose in its modern form.

Domesticated horses are also subject to inconsistent movement between stabling and work, they must carry or pull additional weight, and in modern times they are often kept and worked on very soft footing, such as irrigated land, arena footing, or stall bedding. In some cases, management is also inadequate. The hooves of horses that are kept in stalls or small turnouts, even when cleaned adequately, are exposed to more moisture than would be encountered in the wild, as well as to ammonia from urine. The hoof capsule is mostly made from keratin, a protein, and is weakened by this exposure, becoming even more fragile and soft. Shoes do not prevent or reduce damage from moisture and ammonia exposure. Rather, they protect already weakened hooves. Further, without the natural conditioning factors present in the wild, the feet of horses grow overly large and long unless trimmed regularly. Hence, protection from rocks, pebbles, and hard, uneven surfaces is lacking. A balanced diet with proper nutrition also is a factor. Without these precautions, cracks in overgrown and overly brittle hoof walls are a danger, as is bruising of the soft tissues within the foot because of inadequately thick and hard sole material.

Physical stresses requiring horseshoes
    Abnormal stress: Horses' hooves can become quite worn out when subjected to the added weight and
    stress of a rider, pack load, cart, or wagon.

    Corrective shoeing: The shape, weight, and thickness of a horseshoe can significantly affect the 
    horse's gait. Farriers may forge custom shoes to help horses with bone or musculature problems in 
    their legs, or fit commercially available remedial shoes.
    Traction: Traction devices such as borium for ice, horse shoe studs for muddy or slick conditions,
    calks, carbide-tipped road nails and rims are useful for performance horses such as eventers, show
    jumpers, polo ponies, and other horses that perform at high speeds, over changing terrain, or in
    less-than-ideal footing.

    Gait manipulation: Some breeds such as the Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking Horse, and other gaited
    horses are judged on their high-stepping movement. Special shoeing can help enhance their natural

    Racing horses with weakness in their foot or leg require specialized horseshoes.

These bar shoes are commonly used
in corrective shoeing, to help support
the heels.
Horseshoeing theories and debates

Horseshoes have long been viewed as an aid to assist horses' hooves when subjected to the various unnatural conditions brought about by domestication, whether due to work conditions or stabling and management. Many generations of domestic horses bred for size, color, speed, and other traits with little regard for hoof quality and soundness make some breeds more dependent on horseshoes than feral horses such as mustangs, which develop strong hooves as a matter of natural selection.
Nonetheless, domestic horses do not always require shoes. When possible, a "barefoot" hoof, at least for part of every year, is a healthy option for most horses. However, horseshoes have their place and can help prevent excess or abnormal hoof wear and injury to the foot. Many horses go without shoes year-round, some using temporary protection such as hoof boots for short-term use.
Process of shoeing
Shoeing, when performed correctly, causes no pain to the animal. Farriers trim the insensitive part of the hoof, which is the same area into which they drive the nails. This is analogous to a manicure on a human fingernail, only on a much larger scale.

Before beginning to shoe, the farrier removes the old shoe using pincers (shoe pullers) and trims the hoof wall to the desired length with nippers, a sharp pliers-like tool, and the sole and frog of the hoof with a hoof knife. Shoes do not allow the hoof to wear down as it naturally would in the wild, and it can then become too long. The coffin bone inside the hoof should line up straight with both bones in the pastern. If the excess hoof is not trimmed, the bones will become misaligned, which would place stress on the legs of the animal.

Shoes are then measured to the foot and bent to the correct shape using a hammer and anvil, and other modifications, such as taps for shoe studs, are added. Farriers may either cold shoe, in which he bends the metal shoe without heating it, or hot shoe, in which he places the metal in a forge before bending it. Hot shoeing can be more time-consuming, and requires the farrier to have access to a forge; however, it usually provides a better fit, as the mark made on the hoof from the hot shoe can show how even it lies. It also allows the farrier to make more modifications to the shoe, such as drawing toe- and quarter-clips. The farrier must take care not to hold the hot shoe against the hoof too long, as the heat can damage the hoof.

Hot shoes are placed in water to cool them off. The farrier then nails the shoes on, by driving the nails into the hoof wall at the white line of the hoof. The nails are shaped in such a way that they bend outward as they are driven in, avoiding the sensitive inner part of the foot, so they emerge on the sides of the hoof. When the nail has been completely driven, the farrier cuts off the sharp points and uses a clincher (a form of tongs made especially for this purpose) or a clinching block with hammer to bend the rest of the nail so it is almost flush with the hoof wall. This prevents the nail from getting caught on anything, and also helps to hold the nail, and therefore the shoe, in place.

The farrier then uses a rasp (large file), to smooth the edge where it meets the shoe and eliminate any sharp edges left from cutting off the nails.

Shoeing mistakes

Mistakes are sometimes made by even a skilled farrier, especially if the horse does not stand still. This may sometimes result in a nail coming too close to the sensitive part of the hoof (putting pressure on it), or a nail that is driven slightly into the sensitive hoof, called quicking or nail pricking. This occurs when a nail penetrates the wall and hits the sensitive internal structures of the foot. Quicking results in bleeding and pain and the horse may show signs of lameness or may become lame in following days. Whenever it happens, the farrier must remove the offending nail. Usually a horse that is quicked will react immediately, though some cases where the nail is close to sensitive structures may not cause immediate problems. These mistakes are made occasionally by anyone who shoes horses, and in most cases is not an indication that the farrier is unskilled. It happens most commonly when horses move around while being shod, but also may occur if the hoof wall is particularly thin (common in Thoroughbreds), or if the hoof wall is brittle or damaged. It may also occur with an inexperienced or unskilled horseshoer who misdrives a nail, uses a shoe that is too small, or has not fitted the shoe to the shape of the horse's hoof. Occasionally, manufacturing defects in nails or shoes may also cause a misdriven nail that quicks a horse.

However, the term "farrier" implies a professional horseshoer with skill, education, and training. Some people who shoe horses are untrained or unskilled, and likely to do more harm than good for the horse. People who do not understand the horse's foot will not trim the hoof correctly. This can cause serious problems for the animal, resulting in chronic lameness and damage to the hoof wall. Poor trimming will usually place the hoof at an incorrect angle, leave the foot laterally unbalanced and may cut too much off certain areas of the hoof wall, or trim too much of the frog or sole. Some horseshoers will rasp the hoof down to fit an improperly shaped or too-small size of shoe, which is damaging to the movement of the horse and can damage the hoof itself if trimmed or rasped too short. A poor horseshoer can also make mistakes in the shoeing process itself, not only quicking a horse, but also putting shoe on crooked, using the wrong type of shoe for the job at hand, shaping the shoe improperly, or setting it on too far forward or back.

In culture
Horseshoes have long been considered lucky. They were originally made of iron, a material which was believed to ward off evil spirits, and traditionally were held in place with seven nails, seven being the luckiest number. The superstition acquired a further Christian twist due to a legend surrounding the 10th century saint Dunstan, who worked as a blacksmith before becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. The legend recounts that, one day, the Devil walked into Dunstan's shop and asked him to shoe his horse. Dunstan pretended not to recognize him, and agreed to the request; but rather than nailing the shoe to the horse's hoof, he nailed it to the Devil's own foot, causing him great pain. Dunstan eventually agreed to remove the shoe, but only after extracting a promise that the Devil would never enter a household with a horseshoe nailed to the door.
Opinion is divided as to which way up the horseshoe ought to be nailed. Some say the ends should point up, so that the horseshoe catches the luck; others say they should point down, so that the luck is poured upon those entering the home. Superstitious sailors believe that nailing a horseshoe to the mast will help their vessel avoid storms.

In heraldry, horseshoes most often occur as canting charges, such as in the arms of families with names like Farrier, Marshall and Smith. A horseshoe (together with two hammers) also appears in the arms of Hammersmith and Fulham, a borough in London. The arms of Rutland, England's smallest county, consist of a golden horseshoe laid over a field scattered with acorns. This references an ancient tradition in which every noble visiting Oakham, Rutland's county town, presents a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor, which is then nailed to the wall of Oakham Castle. Over the centuries, the Castle has amassed a vast collection of horseshoes, the oldest of which date from the 15th century.

All articles submitted to the "Brimstone Gazette" are the property of the author, used with their expressed permission. 
The Brimstone Pistoleros are not responsible for any accidents which may occur from use of  loading data, firearms information, or recommendations published on the Brimstone Pistoleros web site.