What is a Blacksmith?

What Does a Blacksmith Do?

It’s a question we get asked a lot, and most people are surprised to learn that it has nothing to do with shoeing horses. So, we thought we’d give our readers a look inside our shop so they can see for themselves what it is we do.

Blacksmithing is the art of crafting items from wrought iron by forging metal using various tools. Traditionally these tools were the hammer and anvil. And really not much has changed. The hammer and anvil are still the tools of the trade.

Here are a few key terms that will help you sound like a true blacksmith:

Learning the Lingo of Blacksmithing | blacksmith, artisan, forge, wrought iron, anvil, alloy

It’ a simple process that hasn’t changed since the 12th century B.C.! Sure, you’ll see more sophisticated production methods, modern tools, and higher-grade iron, but blacksmithing is still just the process of heating iron with a forge until it becomes soft enough to shape. That’s it.

Of course, it’s in the very simplicity of the process where the artist is separated from the practitioner. It’s the true artist or artisan who can take his skill to craft objects that are both aesthetically pleasing and useful.

 A Brief History of the Art of Blacksmithing

Ever wondered what it is really like inside a blacksmith’s studio?

Old blacksmith shop
photo from Jasper Journal (http://jasperjournal.com/jaspergallery/v/historical/495138-blacksmith.jpg.html)

Things have changed some since this photo was taken around the turn of the 18th century, but not as much as you might think.

Manufacturing IMG_1466
Modern blacksmithing

The Copper Age

Forging metals dates as far back as the fifth millennium B.C.—archaeologists have found evidence of ancient civilizations forging soft metals like gold, copper, tin, and silver. By the end of this period, those early simiths had learned how to alloy metals, the first of which was bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

The Bronze Age

During this time, smiths discovered that if they hammered bronze, the finished product would be harder. Hammered bronze became the choice of metal for weaponry, and valued by royalty for a number of things, including jewelry, elegantly crafted bowls, and other goods.

The Rise of Iron

The earliest evidence of extracting iron from iron ore and then forging it dates back to 1500 B.C. with the Hittites in Asia Minor. And by 1200 B.C. there is evidence that smelting iron was fairly common. Anyone who possessed this ability was highly revered as artisans—blacksmiths were thought to have the same magical powers as alchemists.

The blacksmith was a vital component to every community. He was the maker of weapons and tools that were necessary for life in every community, whether it was rural farming community or on the teeming streets of New Orleans:

Laffite's Blacksmith Shop Bar in New Orleans.
Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop Bar in New Orleans.

This is the legendary Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop (now a popular bar), which was used both as a blacksmith shop and a hideout for pirates during the early 1800s.

The blacksmith’s supremacy lasted up until the Industrial Revolution, when automated machines and production processes relinquished him to history and a storied past. Ironically, it was blackmiths who crafted and forged the machines that eventually made their craft obselete.

But, the art never died, as there were those who appreciated it as an art form and a viable means of producing high-quality goods.

Modern-Day Blacksmiths

Blacksmithing and metalworking have become popular once again. Designers and homeowners alike covet wrought iron for its compatibility with different design schools or styles, from Industrial to Rustic and just about everything in between. An “artisanal movement” is underway as small craft shops spring up. These shops make all kinds of things, including coffee, butter, bread, and beer, and sell to an interested public who desires these handcrafted, homegrown products. We’re seeing a shift from quantity of goods to quality of goods.

Ironhaus has been a leader in this movement by essentially doing what it’s been doing for the past 35 years. We employ old-world techniques of the art with modern production practices, allowing us to create custom goods that will work seamlessly in any home.

We hear stories from people who wanted a handcrafted item that would serve both as an object of architectural interest and fill a need. So they found a small blacksmith shop with an artisan who has been to a few art festivals and had a nice book. They hired him to make a fireplace door, and behold, it truly was a thing of beauty. That is, until the homeowner tried to install it on his or her fireplace, and it didn’t fit. Suddenly that one-of-a-kind fireplace door becomes an unusable work of art.

We think a homeowner can, and should have both beauty and functionality. After all, although blacksmithing was art, it produced useful goods. This principle is at the heart of everything we do at Ironhaus. To get a firsthand look. check out our guys in action in this video.

Our artisans create one of kind pieces for the home. With meticulous attention to detail and by employing modern production practices, we deliver products that are functional and that will work with what a homeowner already has in their home.

Detail Craftsman-Liz Bowles

Over the years we’ve done a number of projects and crafted a lot of items for the home. We gradually came to be known as “the custom fireplace and fireplace door” company. We’re excited to be returning to our early roots — making a broad range of custom architectural products for the home. We’re pleased to announce a new line of lighting, range hoods, outdoor fire features, as well as a broad new line of iron mantels and wrought iron surrounds, plus whatever else our Lead Designer Tim Campbell dreams up.

We think you’ll be pleased with the new things happening at Ironhaus. Visit our website and watch as we unveil these new additions to our family of products. And if you’re in the area of Las Vegas next month, come by and see us in person at the NAHB International Builders Show and the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show as part of Design and Construction Week. We’re expecting it to be a little bit like Houzz and Pinterest on steroids!  And we’ll be there showcasing our new products and visiting with customers.