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Appreciating the Blacksmiths

Blacksmiths are extremely skilled individuals with a passion for their craft who deserved to be appreciated and supported so they can keep doing what they love. 

The word 'blacksmith' comes from the activity of 'smiting' iron (the 'black metal'). The 'smith' bit comes from the word 'smite' which means 'to hit'. Iron is called the 'black metal' because it goes black when heated in a fire. Therefore, someone who hits iron for a living is a blacksmith.

In reality, blacksmiths also use other metals too such as copper, bronze, aluminum, brass and titanium, especially for artistic pieces. The more carbon the iron possesses, the harder it can be made. Cast iron contains between 2.0% to 6% carbon by weight and it is brittle. Wrought iron is the purest form of iron, and steel is a mixture of iron and between 0.3% to 1.7% carbon by weight.

Blacksmiths make things from metal. Blacksmiths produce objects such as horseshoes, candlesticks, swords, wrought iron gates, leaded porches, railings, sculpture, tools and more. They use iron (or the derivative, steel) which they heat in a forge until it is hot enough to work with hammers, chisels and anvils.

A blacksmith is highly skilled. Many of the techniques require good hand-eye coordination and years of practice to perfect. They need to know the properties of each metal they are working with and be able to work quickly before the metal cools down too much. The top blacksmiths in the world compete annually in The World Championship Blacksmiths' farrier Competition in Calgary, Alberta. The best entrant is crowned The World Champion Blacksmith.

Blacksmiths sculpt, weld, heat-treat and finish the metal to get it to the state in they are aiming for. The metal can also be finished with paint, oil and wax. When the metal is put in the fire, it glows red, followed by orange and yellow which is the best point for the blacksmith to work it. Leaving the metal to continue heating will lead to it glowing white and then melting. Welding is used to join two or more bits of metal together. To create the final item, the blacksmith will use a combination of the forging processes which are bending, shrinking, punching (making holes and depressions), upsetting (making the metal thicker in one dimension by shortening it in the other) and drawing (lengthening the metal). Finishing can involve polishing and brightening the metal with a wire brush or sandpaper or smoothing burrs and unwanted sharp edges with a file.

It is important to support your local blacksmith because it would be very sad to see the trade die out. Buying a hand-crafted candlestick from a blacksmith is far nicer than having one that is mass-produced and that many other people have. Local blacksmiths used to be more common in the days when many people got around using horses. Commissioning a garden trellis or metal staircase means that you can have a bespoke piece of work that will last a lifetime and you will be supporting your local economy too, so why not see what your local blacksmith to do for you.

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