Blacksmithing for Beginners.


Blacksmithing is by no means a dead trade, but if you watch or have watched shows like Forged in Fire, you’ll notice the modern forge has quite a few degrees of separation from the bellows and hammering of forges past. When I first got into blacksmithing, I wanted things to be modern. “This trade won’t die if we just keep moving forward!” I’d think; but all the automatic power hammers in the world won’t make you a better craftsman, and if all your fires are perfectly electronically heated, what will you really know about the giants whose shoulders you’re standing on? This is a guide on what you’ll need to set up your very own forge – the right way.

Barett Poley has a good article up at Make, all about setting up your own forge. I’d love to do this someday, and it’s definitely a doable project.


  1. blf says

    Bristol (England), where I used to live, has a floating harbour,† using an anti-silting system designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In Brunel’s day, the primary metal used in projects was iron, and so much of the workings of the system — which is still in-use and working (as far as I know) essentially flawlessly — is iron. All which was forged / shaped manually. The iron parts need replacement / repair on a regular(-ish) basis, so the city docks runs a fully operating traditional smithy, with a master and apprentices.

    If my memory is correct, it dates back to Brunel’s day and very possibly before. It’s usually open to public each year on visitation day. It is a fascinating place to visit, with the apprentices giving demos and short lessons in iron-working skills.

      † “Floating harbour” means the ships, not the harbour itself, float. Bristol is some miles inland on the River Avon, with a powerful tidal flow on the river as far as Bristol(at least). Prior to the construction of Bristol’s floating harbour, when the tide went out, the harbour mostly drained completely, so the ships would rest on their sides on the mudbanks to be loaded / unloaded. As you can imagine, loading / unloading a ship titling at some remarkably crazy angles (45 degrees or more!) is difficult, and resting on their sides is potentially quite damaging to the ships. The floating harbour fixed all that, but initially tended to silt up, as the dams that created it had no useful provisions to allow the incoming silt from upriver to be flushed away. Brunel devised a very clever self-cleaning system to allow the slit to be flushed away with compromising the integrity of the floating harbour and its dams.

    Nowadays, the floating harbour in the centre of Bristol is primary for recreation, &tc, the actual industrial working harbour is at the mouth of River Avon, and called (rather unimaginatively) Avonmouth.

  2. blf says

    Obviously, in @1 “with compromising the integrity of…” should be “without compromising the integrity of…”.

    Yes, I certainly think it’s fascinating. Another neat, and very steampunk thing in the floating harbour (albeit nothing to do with blacksmithing) is a self-contained live steam crane. The thing is still in operating order, and is fired up for demonstrations a few times a year. (As an aside, the modern building you can see on the other side of the floating harbour in the linked-to photo is one of arts centres dotted around the floating harbour area.)

  3. says

    Brunel devised a very clever self-cleaning system to allow the slit to be flushed away with compromising the integrity of the floating harbour and its dams.

    That guy was a general purpose genius, who was as cool as Edison, Musk, and a load of other inventors not named Tesla, combined.

  4. Crimson Clupeidae says

    This would be a cool skill to learn. I’m going to the renfair next weekend, and I love to hang around the various smiths (I think we have a total of 4 at our fair) and watch them.

    The glass blowing is also fun to watch.

    I’m in the process of getting some basic supplies to learn leather crafting. First project: A sheath for my viking hewing spear.

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