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Blacksmithing Basics

During Medieval times most villages in Europe were equipped with their own smithy and a full time blacksmith. There are still many proud blacksmiths today who continue to study the traditional ways of metalworking, either for their profession or as a hobby. Blacksmithing is the art of molding and controlling metal by heating it until it's soft enough to shape with a hammer.

The Tools, Anvil, and Forge

There are many tools and materials needed initially to start assembling your workshop, because of this blacksmithing could be considered an expensive hobby. One of the many rewarding aspects of blacksmithing is that it's one of the few crafts where you can create your own tools. Keep in mind that it does take some practice until you can craft satisfactory tools and work. Some of the basic steps to manipulating metal involve:

  • Maintaining the forge; which requires a lot of fuel, heat and air. The forge is heated with materials such as coal or gas since metals require temperatures higher than a wood burning fire can provide. In Medieval times charcoal was the most important fuel used for a forge, but eventually blacksmiths turned to coal.
  • Once the forge is hot enough it's ready for the metal. Metal, such as iron, will be placed directly on the heat source until its changed to the right color for shaping, which according to blacksmiths is a yellow/orange color.
  • After it reaches the correct heat, a hammer and other tools are used to manipulate the metal into the desired shape. The shaping and working process is typically done on top of an anvil. This is where a smith will spend most of their time using different methods and techniques to form the desired object or weld.

Here are some more reading materials to learn more about modern smithing and safety.

The Medieval Blacksmith

A blacksmith in Medieval Europe had a necessary presence in every village since they were crafting for the nobility, the common people and even the clergy. They were responsible for forging metal instruments and tools required for farming and building. Some of the common metal instruments forged at a Medieval smithy included door knobs, nails, swords, axes, armor, and horseshoes.