So You Want To Be A Blacksmith – Top Learning Resources
Want to be a blacksmith? Or perhaps it’s one of your kids that is begging to hammer on metal the way it’s been done for thousands of years? Chances are either you or someone you know has been caught up in the allure of blacksmithing. With the popularity of shows like Forged in Fire, being a blacksmith has moved back into the public eye and it’s popularity is soaring. How do I know? Because we are blacksmiths and when people discover what we do for a living, we get bombarded with questions! It happens so often I decided to write this resource article.
Here are some of our favourite learning to blacksmith resources
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links
A bit about blacksmiths in history
Working with fire and metal is a timeless tradition that goes back to the early days when man first started making tools from iron during the iron age. The ring of a hammer on metal is a music that echoes through the ages, known the world over. Blacksmithing throughout history is not limited to one culture, metalworks can be found in cultures around the world. And traditionally the smith held a position in their community of very high esteem. Without a skilled blacksmith, many facets of the community simply could not function. They created shoes for the horses, tools, weapons, jewelry, household items, and more. Although the essential need for the forge has diminished, modern blacksmiths continue to use many techniques that have remained unchanged for centuries. Their pieces are timeless and created to last generations.
“Have you seen that show?”
“My kid really wants to make knives!”
“I used to work with metal, I’d love to get back into it again.”
“When I was a child I worked the bellows at my father’s forge.”
Every time we attend a market, our table loaded with forged items, we hear these comments. Not just once, but many times over. It’s wonderful to see this ancient art getting so much attention and the excitement people have for blacksmithing.
I believe it is very important that we preserve ancient traditions and art forms. And from the comments we get, many people agree. In our race to embrace technology, techniques and secrets from these ancient arts can too easily be lost. So in an effort to promote learning the ancient art of blacksmithing, I’ve compiled a number of resources to help you dive into this profession that is thousands of years old.
One of the first things any aspiring blacksmith should do is stock their bookshelf with quality books. They will become your guide, resource, and teacher as you develop your skills. Having them available will give you valuable information at your finger tips. These are the books that we highly recommend.
History channel is home to the very popular Forged In Fire, a reality television show that pits blacksmiths against each other to forge knives and other edged weapons. Without question this show is the reason we have seen such an increase in the popularity smithing. Just remember, this is a reality TV show.
There are many very talented blacksmiths that share their knowledge and skills through YouTube videos. It’s amazing what you can learn just watching these professionals demonstrate their skills and techniques. Below I’ve provided just a handful of the many quality channels available.
By far one of the best creating educational and entertain videos is Alec Steele. He posts almost daily on his channel and you can interact with him live on Twitch. https://www.youtube.com/user/alectheblacksmith
Others you should check out:
https://www.youtube.com/user/TechnicusJoe : Joey van der Steeg
https://www.youtube.com/user/isolatedreality : Rory May (aka Dirty Smith)
https://www.youtube.com/user/garyhuston : Gary Huston
https://www.youtube.com/user/torbjornahman : Torbjörn Åhman
If you are on Facebook, there is a very vibrant group of blacksmiths that has exploded in popularity recently. Blacksmithing for Beginners is a great group with tons of valuable information. Make sure to check out their files section to get all your questions answered before diving into the discussions. Chances are many of your questions can be answered by the many resources they have available for people just getting started hammering on metal.
Supplies To Get Started
The best way to get started is to take a course (more on this in a moment). In our first course we forged a hammer, tongs and other tools to get us started on our blacksmithing journey. It was a wonderful way to learn proper (and safe) techniques, and also gather the tools needed to start forging at home.
Over time a blacksmith will purchase or build many of their own tools, but there are many things they need when starting out, including an anvil, hammer, tongs, steel-toed boots, and a leather apron. Here are links to a few items you can purchase. We also recommend seeking out local blacksmiths and support them by purchasing hand forged tools. Not only will you be supporting the profession, but by using forged tools you will learn more about how to make your own in the future.
Associations For Blacksmiths
ABANA (The Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America)
British Artists Blacksmiths Association
There are associations for blacksmiths everywhere, far too many for me to list here. To find your local group, simply Google the name of your City, State, Province or Country and the word Blacksmith. You should find plenty of options. These associations are also a great resource for finding courses in blacksmithing.
We are often asked if we accept visitors or if people can come and try hammering in our forge. We aren’t set up for public access and many blacksmiths do not open up their smithy to the public for many reasons (mainly around safety… red hot metal and all), but that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. You can often find blacksmith shops at living historical museums. Blacksmithing is such an integral part of our history that many of these museums hire local smiths to do demonstrations. Contact your local living historical museums and see if they have a forge and offer demonstrations.
Classes – The best bang for your buck
The best way to start your blacksmith journey is with a class or course. There are courses offered all over the place. Many colleges and even some high schools have classes. You can also search for blacksmiths in your area and see if they offer courses, or ask through your local association. Classes are a great way to get started. The cost of anvils, forges and the tools can be very steep. Taking a course will allow you try out hammering on metal before spending a lot of money. Plus, you may find a course that teaches you how to make your own tools to help you get started on your blacksmith journey like ours did.
These resources should get you started into the world of blacksmiths. From there, just keep on learning! Like any complex skill, being a blacksmith is a skill set where you can keep on learning and getting better throughout your lifetime. Swing your hammer proudly and know you are keeping ancient traditions and skills alive. Happy smithing!
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