Blacksmiths form, shape and join metal by hot forging, using both traditional tools and techniques and more modern methods of welding and metal work.
Artist blacksmiths make decorative items such as wrought iron gates, railings, sculptures and furniture. They may produce their own style and designs or create pieces to suit specific commissions. Some are involved in the restoration of antique ironwork.
Many artist blacksmiths are self-employed, so will need to find markets for their work, for example by attending craft shows and fairs, and to carry out the administrative tasks involved in running a business.
Industrial blacksmiths make functional items such as large industrial components, fire escapes and specialist tools.
Blacksmiths use traditional hand tools such as hammers and anvils, as well as power tools, such as power hammers, drills, air chisels and hydraulic presses. Engineering machinery such as centre lathes, millers, grinders and welding equipment may also be used.
Materials used include wrought iron, mild steel, brass, bronze or copper. Blacksmiths heat the metal to the correct temperature so that it can be shaped and, if necessary, joined to another piece of metal by various methods of welding and riveting. Once construction is complete, the metal is ‘finished’ for its required use.
Some blacksmiths are trained and registered as farriers, and shoe horses alongside their blacksmithing work. Please see the Farrier profile for details of this career.
Blacksmiths generally work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Overtime may be available. Most blacksmiths are self employed or work in small businesses.
Forges vary in size from a small shed to a large engineering workshop. Most of the work is done under cover, but installation can involve working outdoors on customers' premises. Conditions can be hot, noisy, dirty and contain fumes from oils, paints or chemicals.
The work can be physically demanding, with a lot of standing, lifting and bending. Industrial blacksmithing in particular can involve heavy lifting and strenuous work, although power tools are increasingly used for the heavier aspects.
Blacksmiths wear protective clothing such as boots, apron, gloves, safety glasses or a visor, and ear defenders.
To be a blacksmith you should:
There are opportunities for industrial blacksmiths in the armed forces, mining, docks, steel and engineering for maintenance, repair and production, although demand is decreasing.
Most blacksmiths are self-employed or work for small family businesses. In larger organisations there may be opportunities for promotion to supervisor. Some overseas work may be available.
Artist blacksmiths may also have other jobs to supplement their income.
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