The journey of becoming a professional blacksmith is not too different from that of becoming a professional in other crafts or fields. It all begins with the willingness to learn, but it does not have an ending. Yes, even a professional is continually learning, both in processes and experience.
As an aspiring blacksmith, the things to learn are quite diverse, but they are not complicated. It ranges from work ethics to safety measures, from handling of tools and operational procedures.
It is an easy journey through time; just ensure you are always on the right path. We will discuss that in bits; let’s define who a blacksmith is before diving into more details on a step by step process of becoming a blacksmith.
Who Is A Blacksmith?
Basically, a blacksmith is someone who forges iron. This elementary definition doesn’t say it all but gives you an introductory insight into the occupation. A blacksmith can work with metals other than iron. In some cases, the blacksmith even works with wood or other none metals.
Operational processes include forging, shaping, bending, rolling, hammering, heat-working, melting, joining, and many more. The combination of multiple techniques in an orderly sequence is required to execute blacksmithing tasks. Manufacturing and correctional tasks are kinds of foundational to the work structure of a blacksmith.
How to Become a Blacksmith: 13 Steps
Here are the 13 steps for becoming a self employed professional blacksmith from beginning. We have tried to simplify the things so that you can easily understand things.
1. Start with a Basic Book About Blacksmithing
The most important part of learning a craft is the mental bank of knowledge. Books can supply you with the required information that details the journey towards becoming a professional blacksmith.
Though it takes more than reading to become an expert, it is a great place to start. You will have idea on basic things and you will know what challenges you are going to face in the journey along with key terms and techniques, essential for a blacksmith to know.
Here is a basic blacksmithing book by Jack Andrews that you can have (click on image to check details)-
2. Learn from Online Resources
The internet is filled with lots of information. The beauty of learning from online resources is that there are various forms and formats to study. You can learn from eBooks, publications, podcasts, journals, videos, and others. There is quite a great multitude of such content that is based on blacksmithing and other crafts.
Once you finish reading a book, I suggest you to search on the internet with every bit of details that went above your head. This simple technique will help you a lot in clearing things up, sometimes better than a paid instructor.
3. Taking Classes
In the past, the approach to being a professional blacksmith is to learn from a blacksmith that has enough experience. It is best to be physical. Things are quite different these days. There are more comfortable ways to learn: ways that are relatively cheap and easier.
Vocational schools are good options. You should be able to find one in most communities. These schools specialize in equipping their students with the practical experiences needed to become experts in different crafts.
You also have the option of taking online courses where physical presence is not required. With online classes, you will be trained theoretically by experts through chats, transfers of documents, video calls, and other means. This allows you to learn from your room or workshop’s convenience, but it has a major disadvantage; on-the-job practical experience is missing. That is why you have to go for practical sessions after learning online.
You get to know a lot about design drawing, blacksmithing tools, and safety measures when you learn online. Also, you will be introduced to processes like cutting, brazing, finishing, and lots more. Such information will obviously give you a boost in the trip to professional level blacksmithing. With online classes, question and answer sessions will take less time to clear your doubts about blacksmithing processes, and you get to meet more people to grow together within your category.
4. Advance Classes on Metal-Work
There are always levels to different crafts. Taking advanced classes doesn’t only set you apart from other beginners but also opens you to numerous opportunities. Advanced metal-work skillset is like the ultimate level of blacksmithing, and other metalworking processes make you well-rounded. Traditional approaches and contemporary styles are all considered advanced metalworking practices.
This notch of being above the regular level will open you to various materials, their properties, and applications. You will understand the microscopic cadences of different metals and their reaction to different temperature levels. This mastery is also crucial outside blacksmithing, making you a qualified expert in multiple fields of metalworking.
Advanced courses cover features like hardness, toughness, texture, melting points, atomic structures, malleability, heating responses, cooling processes, and others. The processes are studied in detail, and the applications in blacksmithing are covered. Understanding such features makes you qualified to work with a lot of materials, mostly metals.
5. Gathering Your Collection of Tools
Whether you take classes or not, you will need to have the required tools before becoming a professional blacksmith. As an apprentice, you need to have the basic tools. As you grow as an expert, your toolbox becomes bigger. Basic blacksmithing tools include an anvil, safety gears, tongs, hammers, clamps, and a forge. These are essential equipment capable of serving your basic blacksmithing needs and more serious projects too. It is not a must to get brand new tools; fairly used options can be very handy.
Changing and upgrading your tools is an inevitable possibility as time goes on; borrowing is not. There is no professional blacksmith whose craft totally depends on borrowing tools. Not having your basic tools is a factor that is strong enough to depress your learning curve.
It is more than just having the tools. It is more important to understand what they do and how they work. Blacksmithing tools are not really complex. You just have to master the basic uses and improvised uses while making sure the operations are safe.
6. Becoming A Blacksmith Apprentice
Traditionally, this is the most efficient process of becoming a professional. As the saying goes, ‘All masters were once apprentices.’ Willingness is the first virtue you need as an apprentice; you must be willing to learn. Hard work, submissiveness, and commitment come next.
Take it or leave it; being an apprentice is more about having progressive qualities than skillful or technical. Respecting the master and loving the job does the magic. Before joining an internship or apprenticeship, make sure the quality of work is standard. If you learn from a weak blacksmith, you will become a weak one yourself. Apprenticeships offer practical on-the-job experiences, and wrong practices garnered are more difficult to correct than if it was just a wrong theory. That is why you only want to learn from blacksmiths that are truly capable.
Supervision is extremely important as an apprentice; you need all the supervision possible. Being left alone as a beginner is very dangerous, and it is even against work ethics. Routine repetition while being monitored is the right approach that provides the progressive edge needed. Apprenticeships are not necessarily free; you may have to pay some dime. The same is the case for an online course or buying books; you pay to learn. The only difference with apprenticeships is that you are also assisting your tutor directly as an apprentice.
7. Owning a Shop
Apprenticeships can take a year and even more, depending on where you learn and how fast you learn. After serving as an apprentice, you are expected to have gathered the minimum expertise required to own your blacksmith shop. The key is to start small and grow; the blacksmithing job is not heavily dependent on having an elaborate setup.
With your shop, make sure you have nothing less than a minimum number of tools you need. You don’t want to have a shop and start borrowing tools. You should also arrange your shop so that your operations are easy flowing and less hectic.
8. Marketing Your Enterprise
Your blacksmithing job is similar to other enterprises; it needs to be promoted by proper marketing. In this new age that we are in, marketing can be done with different platforms.
It can be done virtually online or with physical interventions and campaigns—the aim to know your target audience and know your targeted locations, then how to reach them.
Your target dynamics can be focused on a particular age group, too, or even gender-specific. Technical and workshop practices are mostly frequented as customers by middle-aged and older men.
9. Have a Specialty
Blacksmithing has different aspects; it is very beneficial if you have significant aspects you are focused on. The challenge is to master something instead of being average in everything. Having a specialty doesn’t limit your creativity and versatility; it just allows you to pack from an unlimited universe of possibilities.
You can select a variety of products you will be producing massively. That doesn’t prevent you from exploring all the interesting blacksmithing operations. It allows you to apply them to make products you prefer to work on. Having specific products that you venture into makes you sustain a loyal fan base that knows where you are when they need such a product.
Knives forging, blade shaping, farm tools, welding, and artistic smithing are a few of the options to choose from. You are not necessarily supposed to be stuck with one. You can choose multiple operations that have similar processes.
As a small-scale or averagely sized business venture, you are not capable of working on everything. Even big businesses with long staff lists don’t produce everything. It is also better to be known for something. That should not be a limit, be free to try out other possibilities when you wish to.
10. Make Practicing A Habit
It is not limited to blacksmithing as practice makes perfect. Dedicated repetitions lead to mastery. The more you practice, the more you can do; this is not a shortcut. Always practice and make sure you get better because there is no pinnacle where you are expected to stop.
11. Update Your Toolkit
Traditional blacksmithing in ancient times didn’t require you to change or upgrade your tools. There was an established format of tools and applications. The current time is quite different; you need to be updated.
Being up to date is not only about tools but also about technics and processes. Innovation may include a different combination of tools, effective processes, and even regulations.
An essential part of being updated is networking and staying in touch with other professional blacksmiths.
12. Create Apprenticeships and Internship Programs
Don’t underestimate how much you learn from teaching others. At a stage like this, you are no longer an amateur. It is time to take beginners under your wings and let them grow.
The growth of different apprentices will take different forms, and you will definitely gain a thing or two from the whole dynamics while you get your confidence increased.
These interns and apprentices will also help your ventures, making it easier for you to accomplish your tasks. They help you while they learn. Also, most training programs are not free; you also get to make some cash.
13. Satisfying the Customers
This is expected to be the primary goal of your business, satisfying the customers. The more you can make your clients happy, the more you get jobs while your experience increases. Having a good customer relationship can be as important as the craft itself.
There are quite a number of approaches that make your customers and partners happy. The best way to achieve this is to always ensure the end product of your job is exactly what the customers want, or even more if that is fine by them. That is the soul of the business—things like developing good communication skills and connecting with them outside business count a lot too.
If you are able to totally satisfy the customers, they will come back for your services and even recommend you to their friends and family. Always use excellent quality materials and take time to make sure the product meets the expectations of those that are patronizing you.
What Are the Benefits of Being A Blacksmith?
There are quite a bunch of advantages of being a blacksmith. A blacksmith improves the economy by creating job opportunities for others while being financially independent for himself. Apart from making money, the blacksmith solves many technical problems by creating and mending various tools.
Being an independent blacksmith gives you the room to be very flexible with your scheduling and work protocols. That is something you need because blacksmithing operations can get pretty stressful.
A lot of industrial manufacturing depends on blacksmithing processes like welding, forging, and others. Being a blacksmith creates sustainable wealth. You get to cater for yourself and family members, making other people beneficiaries from his work.
You also have a lot of creative licenses when undertaking a specific job because the priority is the required outcome and not the actual processes. There are multiple ways to achieve a single thing in blacksmithing, and that factor alone makes the job very interesting. Blacksmithing can be extremely interesting; that is why some people take it as a hobby and a regular job.
Blacksmiths hired by firms and companies are also well paid while helping in science and technology’s innovative processes. It is a very lucrative and practical job.
What Are the Challenges Blacksmiths Face?
There are quite a handful number of challenges for the blacksmithing profession; safety issues are on top of the list. A blacksmith works with extremely high temperatures that threaten the help of the blacksmith. Most of the heat comes from heat or melt metals before shaping or reshaping them into the required form.
Also, working with burning red hot metal can have scorching particles flinging irregularly in different directions. That is something to watch out for; protective clothing and safety glasses are compulsory when running such tasks.
Another challenge is the all-practical approach to the job. The job is heavily based on physical participation, leading stress of long working periods. A lot of hammering, forging, and bending can lead to body aches, especially when the blacksmith is new to the job.
An extreme level of coordination, improvisation, and concentration is required, which can lead to mental fatigue. Working under such a mental fuss can be very dangerous. Physical injuries are also possible if care is not taken; a small mistake can lead to severe injuries.
Also, blacksmithing processes hasn’t changed too much over hundreds of years. The techniques haven’t changed much too. This challenge is a motivation to get very creative and productive with the blacksmithing processes and techniques.
The highlighted steps to becoming a professional blacksmith consider both behavioral ethics and technical involvements. The steps are very flexible and not concrete, flexible but very effective. This mostly begins from the willingness and interest to the very learning processes needed.
As a beginner or amateur, don’t do more than you know. The blacksmithing processes can be hazardous, as explained earlier. Avoid injuries as accidents can lead to extreme pain or death. Always master the procedural requirements before taking up tasks. Also, make sure there is a supervisor present when you have to take on some challenging tasks and always ask questions when necessary.
The more you go on the journey of being a blacksmith, the more you master the art. There is no need to rush. Learn the theories well before you start internship or setting up a shop for yourself. Most importantly, be creative but don’t let creativity alter the end goal. There is no ending to what you can achieve.