The history of blacksmithing is a bit of a mysterious thing with some gaps in the story we can only guess at. It's generally believed that the Hittite people were the first blacksmith who developed the skill to forge iron. Before that, humans long had the ability to smith other metals like copper and gold. Alloys like bronze had been produced but all of those metals were much softer and more malleable than iron. There's a reason that we refer to the period in history when ironworking came into fashion as the Iron Age. Iron really did change the world.
The first examples of blacksmithing are literally thousands of years old. A dagger found in Egypt, thought to be Hittite, is one of the first pieces of ironwork known to history, and you better believe when iron showed up to compete with weapons made of bronze, it made a huge difference. The practice expanded dramatically and lead to all kinds of innovations which we're still enjoying today. We wouldn't have skyscrapers and car engines without the skills blacksmiths brought to the table over the generations. If you think you know some blacksmithing, why not give our quiz a try? The worst thing that happens is you toss it back in the furnace and try it again.
What exactly is "pig iron"?
It's iron with a pink hue to it.
Iron that has bee quenched in oil.
High-carbon iron that gets poured into bricks that look like pigs.
Pig iron comes out of smelting or blast furnace. It's a crude, brittle high-carbon form on iron and the name comes from the fact that when it's poured into sand molds, it looks a bit like a little pig.
There are a lot of different kinds of iron out there. What is wrought iron?
Iron with low carbon.
Unlike cast iron, which has a high carbon content, wrought iron is low carbon and is usually best used for rolling rather than casting. This is why you see so much fence work made from wrought iron and not many pans.
Flux is any compound that you put on the metal to keep oxygen from getting to it, which in turn stops it from oxidizing. You can buy fancy flux compounds to do this or even use something simple like charcoal or borax.
What exactly is a crucible and why do you need one?
It's the container that the metal gets melted in.
A crucible is a container that holds metal as it melts. Back in the day, these were simple clay pots. As time went on they, of course, became a little more complex. Essentially all it needs to be is something that can withstand the heat.
Cold forging is sometimes called room-temperature forging, mostly because it doesn't involve adding any heat. How does that work? Rather than shaping by melting and manipulating, extremely powerful tools are used to just bend and shape the metal.
They work with bright metals like copper and brass.
A brightsmith chiefly works with bright metals. While a tinsmith works with tin and a silversmith with silver, a brightsmith will use any bright metals to make jewelry, cookware or whatever lends itself to that kind of material.
What is someone talking about if they refer to a "Catalan Forge"?
A mobile forge.
A furnace that can be worked by several smiths at once.
A forge used for melting precious metals.
An ancient type of furnace that was an early version of the blast furnace.
The Catalan Forge was invented in the 8th century in Catalonia, Spain. Also called a "bloomery" it forced air into the bottom of the furnace to heat the fuel and was essentially a rudimentary version of a modern blast furnace.
In 1855, Henry Bessemer patented a process for the mass production of steel that removed impurities by oxidizing them with air. What was it called?
The Air Oxidization Method
The Bessemer Process
The Bessemer Process was the first inexpensive process to mass produce steel from molten pig iron. Air blown through the molten iron would remove impurities and you'd end up with a fairly decent quality product when it was all said and done.
A bellfounder is what you call someone who makes bells in a foundry. It's an art form that dates back to at least 2000 BC and is separate from normal blacksmithing as the process of creating a bell that produces the proper sound and is also strong takes a bit of skill.
Impurities from the fuel can gather at the bottom of a fire and block the air as well as stick to your metal. What's that stuff called?
Clinker is the catchall name for all the junk that can form near where the air is blown into the forge. Slag, charcoal, coke and other junk forms in the forge. It can be recycled for use in things like paving footpaths.
This term refers to a widely used grade of stainless steel that contains high levels of chromium and nickel but low levels of carbon. What is it?
Austenitic steel is non-magnetic and forged with high chromium and nickel to produce very shiny steel that is resistant to corrosion. This is pretty much the most popular kind of stainless steel on the market.
What is the name for the measurement used to determine the hardness of metal?
Brinell Hardness is the name given for the measurement of metal's hardness as determined by a specific process. A steel ball will be pressed into the metal at a specific pressure and the dent it makes is measured to determine the Brinell Hardness Number.
If iron is not the main alloy in your metal, what term can be used to describe it?
Ferrous metal refers to metals mostly made from iron while non-ferrous metals are those that are not chiefly made up of iron. On the periodic table, "Fe" is the symbol for iron as it comes from the Latin word for iron which is "Ferrum."
What's the term used in blacksmithing to describe a person who makes wrought iron by melting pig iron and then working out the impurities?
Puddlers worked pig iron into wrought iron in a process that was actually very dangerous. Because they were working the iron in a reverberatory furnace, the heat and toxic fumes would often greatly lower a puddler's life expectancy.
This was the term to describe a traveling smith who usually worked with tin and would go from town to town mending things like pots.
Tinkers were not full blacksmiths, making things like weapons or wrought iron, but they could work with tin and do simple repairs for everyday people, especially out in rural areas where there may not have been a smith handy.
What was the name of the person whose job it was to maintain the furnace fires by feeding them coal or wood?
If your job was to stoke the fires, you were a stoker. These workers were sometimes called firemen or furnacemen, and their job could have even been on a steamship or any other place that required the use of a large furnace.
What's the name for the process of heating and cooling metal by quenching to make the metal stronger?
Tempering is the process of making metal stronger. When iron is heated and then cooled down, the hardness of the metal increases, making a stronger finished product. You can also temper chocolate to make it smooth and shiny, too.
What do you call the process of heating up a metal filler between two other pieces of metal until that filler melts and then bonds the two pieces together?
Soldering is a pretty common method of bonding metal where a soft metal filler called solder is heated until it's molten hot and then melts between two pieces of metal, bonding them together. There are various kinds of solder that offer different strengths, but some like brazing require much higher temperatures.
There's a term used to describe the seven elemental metals of gold, iron, copper, silver, lead, tin and mercury. What is it?
Metals of Antiquity
The seven metals of antiquity were the oldest metals that humans identified and made use of, as far as anyone can tell. Products made from these metals date back to prehistory and serve as examples of the earliest acts of blacksmithing.