For a Smile…
An old blacksmith bound for retirement picked out a strong young man to become his apprentice. The old blacksmith was crabby and exacting. "Don't ask me a lot of questions," he told the boy. "Just do whatever I tell you to do."
One day the old blacksmith took an iron out of the forge and laid it on the anvil. "Get the hammer over there," he said. "When I nod my head, hit it real good and hard." … Now the town is looking for a new blacksmith.
Role of the Blacksmith
One of the greatest turning points in human history came when man acquired the knowledge of metalworking. The strength of metals, coupled with their ability to assume virtually any form, allowed people to create new technologies enabling metal to became a part of everyday life, from cutlery to weapons. From its place of origin in the Mediterranean, blacksmithing spread throughout the Old World.
Blacksmith's uses a variety of different tools and equipment. Some tools used are hammers, axes, chisels, tongs, pliers, etc. Unique to this profession is the fact that almost all of the smith tools were created by the apprentice, enabling unique development in tools style and versatility. While blacksmiths of yesteryear did not face many hardships of a solider, they did often get lead poisoning from working carelessly with lead.
The smith days starts well before dawn with a primer fire in the forge. This means chopping wood, gathering or buying coal, etc. For the next 10 to 12 hours smith’s spent most of their time making horseshoes, eating utensils, door handles, hinges, weapons, and tools (such as hammers, wedges, picks, shovels etc).
A Village Blacksmith was often treated with great respect as their profession was the most compulsory profession in the village. They often lived in a small cottage or flat within sight of the smith studio. A Castle Blacksmith lived within the protection of the castle walls and crafted and maintained the weapons and armor of Lords, Knights and Men-at-arms.
Blacksmithing has not passed into history. As modern blacksmiths redefine the nature of their work, they are finding more students to ensure that the art will continue to change and evolve into the next generation.
The Blacksmith Finds Flow
Think about the Flow a blacksmith experiences as a Jazz band finding their collective rhythm from their independent sounds. Every action, every sound, and every thought follows inevitably from the previous one. The song begins rough and disjointed, illuminating empty space with run-away harmony. Then, the individual musician’s ego falls away and the band finds one other despite the cacophony and a distinct blend of harmony and structure begin to evolve. Once this harmony is reached the first thing to occur is that time no longer has the same influence that it did a few seconds earlier. This is not to say that the moment of flow is found in passive, receptive, or relaxing times. Just the opposite. The experience of Flow occurs when “a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile” (Csikszentmihalyi).
Words from Wade Buck, Our Head Blacksmith
“I appreciate the energy captured by the fabrication of a forged piece and the design process it entails. The majority of my work is a result of experimentation with the inherit properties of materials and my intent with the fabrication process. The physical demands and concentration involved in blacksmithing allow me to reach a meditative realm where my hammer flows freely and intuitively. This mental state helps to focus my movement and energy. I enjoy forging steel because I can see the hammer textures frozen in the steel as it cools. The effort to push materials to their full potential develops a creative style that resonates the sincerity of my intent.”
-Wade Buck, 2020
-There are no mistakes in blacksmithing, only rapid design modifications (Adlai Stein)
-When you have a hammer, everything is a nail. When you have a blacksmith, everything is anything you want it to be. (Maslow, Kaplan or Twain)
Annealing is the process of heating metal and then allowing it to cool slowly. Annealed metal is softer, making it more workable and more ductile. Steel is annealed by heating it until it glows for a while, and then letting it cool to room temperature in still air.
A knife bolster is the junction between the blade and the handle. It makes the knife stronger, more durable, and serves as a counter-balance for improved handling.
A brightsmith is a person who works with bright metals like tin (aka “tinsmith”), copper, or brass.
Ductility is the property of metal that describes to what degree it can stretch without rupturing.
Pig iron is the crude, high-carbon iron from a smelting/blast furnace. It’s obtained in rounded, oblong bricks – slightly resembling a pig.
Finding Your Flow PART B: The Blacksmith
We continue our Finding Your Flow series with a video that takes you into the meditative rhythm of The Blacksmith. The video is a visual exploration of MFS Blacksmithing Instructor Wade Buck crafting one of the most important tools in their arsenal of tools…tongs.