The art of blacksmithing has experienced many evolutionary periods and changes throughout history. This practice has phased in and out of popularity, and it almost vanished at several points in the past. If you’re interested in learning how the craft survived these ups and downs, keep reading to learn a brief history of blacksmithing throughout the ages. We’ll discuss the very origins of this process and how it became the artisan craft we know and love today.
Blacksmithing During the Iron Age
Blacksmithing began with the Hittites of Anatolia around 1500 BCE when this group discovered smelting. The Iron Age, named after human’s discovery of iron ore, provided a crucial foundation for blacksmithing. Iron, bronze, and later steel were some of the most common metal types for smelting and weapon-making during this era. The simple fires of the time would later become forges fueled by charcoal, coal, and gas in modern times.
The introduction of charcoal as a forging fuel was one of the most significant advancements of ancient blacksmithing. Ancient smiths still only had a shaky grasp on the concepts and properties of iron ore, so their tools and other pieces were still largely inconsistent in quality. However, they also discovered steel during this time and used it in their creations. The introduction of steel led to stronger weapons and tools. Their use of charcoal allowed them to hone smithing processes and forge more potent items.
Blacksmithing During the Medieval Era
Blacksmiths were an everyday necessity during the Medieval Ages. Due to the high demand for stronger weapons, armor, tools, and more, every town or village had at least one blacksmith. Specialized smiths also crafted specific items such as locks, silverware, nails, chains, and more. During this era, charcoal was the fuel of choice. Coal, which is a typical modern fuel, didn’t become readily available until the nineteenth century when humans had depleted forests across Britain and the United States of America.
Blacksmithing and the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Era brought with it new machinery that started a wave of automation. Humans designed machines to replicate armor, tools, parts, and weapons—all things blacksmiths traditionally created. Of course, automatic machines could manufacture products much faster, and traditional smiths couldn’t keep up with production. Slowly, village smithies started to close their shops because they could no longer compete with advanced technology.
Old West Blacksmiths
When automation started to phase out town blacksmiths, many smiths had to adapt to create what machines couldn’t. This was when smiths began to take on farrier work, which machines weren’t occupied with. Old West smiths took on various new jobs, including horseshoeing, repairing carriages and wheels, and more. To survive during the Industrial Revolution, smiths needed to offer a variety of skills and services to stay afloat and compete with emerging technology.
Blacksmithing During the Twentieth Century
After automation became widespread thanks to the Industrial Revolution, blacksmiths shifted to making custom, iron-wrought pieces. However, during The Great Depression from 1929 to 1939, people didn’t have the money or resources to spend on custom-made products. Many smiths had to start completely new ways of life and careers.
To make matters worse for blacksmithing, material collection efforts for World War II took up all metals and other forging materials. It was impossible to practice smithing during this time, outside of the automation used to create plane and vehicle parts. Society viewed custom, hand-made tools and products as obsolete during this era.
In the 1970s, long after the economic and material shortages of The Great Depression, people started to view blacksmithing in a different light. While smiths and metalworkers were largely phased out by the Industrial Revolution and no longer needed for survival, many smiths started to practice their skills as artists. This brings us to today’s smiths, who craft art, practical items, replica weapons, and more for display or sale. You might even be able to find a course on blacksmithing at your local technical college or community center. With the development of popular television shows such as Forged in Fire and easy access to tools, blacksmithing is regaining its popularity.
Forging’s Influence on Modern Technology
Even in the age of modern technology, we still see blacksmithing techniques of old in manufacturing, metalworking, and other automated processes. Smelting is still a crucial process for creating steel, which is a major component of modern construction. Welding techniques also utilize heat to form and change the shape of metallic pieces. Many artisan blacksmiths also channel ancient blacksmithing techniques to create artwork and reproductions of relics from the past. The growth and evolution of smithing throughout the ages have helped our society reach where it is today.
Where To Find Modern Blacksmithing Tools
While you can’t find a blacksmithing shop in the middle of most towns anymore, there are still many resources out there. You can join the numerous modern smiths and take up blacksmithing as a hobby or career. With the proper training and practice, it’s easier than ever to set up your own metal forging workshop.
Modern blacksmiths utilize a wide range of furnaces, hammers, fuel, and more. If you’re interested in learning more about modern blacksmithing tools and exploring the craft yourself, you can find a variety of metal forging equipment here at Cast Master Elite. We offer vital tools and accessories that every smith needs, whether you’re a beginner blacksmith or a seasoned professional.
We hope this dive into the history of blacksmithing throughout the ages has been eye-opening. While forging technology and processes have changed and evolved, modern manufacturing and metalworking businesses use many of the same time-honored techniques. Most modern smiths use blacksmithing as a creative outlet or a way to work with their hands and sell their creations. If you’re also interested in metalworking and forging, start your blacksmithing journey today with products from Cast Master Elite. We can help you find the tools you’re looking for whether you’re just starting out or are a practiced smith.