Blacksmiths heat metal, usually steel, in a forge and shape it with a hammer, chisel, and an anvil. Contemporarily, they predominantly create artisanal metal products, including ornamental work, as well as horse shoes, one of the sole metal fabricating processes that has not been industrialised.
- Scraping and grinding metals to remove defects such as dents or scratches
- Inspecting work orders to ensure they are accurate and complete
- Hammering heated metal to shape it, using pneumatic hammers, hand hammers, or power hammers
- Repairing damaged equipment with methods such as welding or soldering
- Heating and shaping metal to create tools and other products
- Cleaning and preparing raw materials such as iron or steel for use in manufacturing
- Operating a forge to melt metals and shape them into new products
- Welding materials together using an arc welder
- Operating machinery such as a furnace or forge to melt and shape metals
The blacksmith’s work is physically demanding, and the work environment is hot, dirty, and noisy. Blacksmiths work in foundries, forges, or shops, and they may be exposed to fumes, heat, and noise. They may work long hours, and their work may be repetitive. However, blacksmiths find their work to be challenging and satisfying, and they take pride in their skills.
A large proportion of blacksmiths are self-employed. Artist blacksmiths may be self-employed working full time, or work part time until they have enough commissions to earn a full-time living from the work.
The following job titles also refer to blacksmith:
foundry moulding operator
sheet metal operative
sheet metal apprentice
foundry patternmaker technician
sheet metal technician
A high school diploma is generally required to work as a blacksmith. Many blacksmiths choose to pursue a two-year associate degree in metalworking or a similar field.
Most blacksmiths learn the specific skills and techniques of their trade while on the job. Training may last from a few months to a year, depending on the complexity of the trade and the size of the business.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Blacksmith is a Skill level 2 occupation.
Blacksmith career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to blacksmith.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of blacksmith. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of blacksmith with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of blacksmith.
- Types of metal: Qualities, specifications, applications and reactions to different fabricating processes of various types of metal, such as steel, aluminium, brass, copper and others.
- Forging processes: The various processes in the metal-forming practices of forging, such as swaging, open-die forging, automatic hot forging, cogging, impression-die forging, roll forging, upsetting, press forging, and others.
- Hot forging: The metalworking process of forging whilst the hot metal is right above its recrystallisation temperature after casting and being solidified.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of blacksmith.
- Maintain furnace temperature: Monitor and govern the pyrometer to control the furnace temperature.
- Join metals: Join together pieces of metal using soldering and welding materials.
- Use welding equipment: Operate welding equipment in a safe manner; use welding techniques such as shielded metal arc welding or flux-cored arc welding.
- Operate furnace: Operate or tend furnaces, such as gas, oil, coal, electric-arc or electric induction, open-hearth, or oxygen furnaces, to melt and refine metal before casting, to produce specified types of steel, or to finish other materials such as cokes. Set furnace controls to regulate temperatures and heating time.
- Apply smithing techniques: Apply techniques and use technologies in relation to the various smithing processes, including sculpting, forging, upsetting, heat treating, and finishing.
- Wear appropriate protective gear: Wear relevant and necessary protective gear, such as protective goggles or other eye protection, hard hats, safety gloves.
- Load materials into furnace: Load materials in furnace with correct positioning, fastening and levelling when needed.
- Measure metal to be heated: Measure the amounts of steel or other metals to be heated. Take decisions on the amount of heat to be used, the duration of the heating, and other variables in the process based on the measurement.
- Work with blacksmithing power tools: Work with drills, air chisels, power hammers, hydraulic presses, grinders, and others to create (semi-)hand-made metal products by performing blacksmithing operations.
- Operate metal heating equipment: Use heating machinery to bake filled-up moulds or to melt steel, metal and other materials.
- Work with blacksmithing hand tools: Work with hammers, chisels, anvils, tongs, vises, forges, and others to create hand-made metal products by performing blacksmithing operations.
- Shape metal over anvils: Forge pieces of metal over an anvil using the appropriate hand tools and heating equipment.
- Ensure correct metal temperature: Ensure the necessary, usually constant, temperature of processed metal workpieces during metal fabrication processes.
- Heat metals: Heat steel and metals in fire; adjust and regulate heat controls to reach appropriate pouring temperature.
- Prevent damage in a furnace: Provide damage and risk prevention in a furnace or a smelter.
- Select filler metal: Select optimal metal used for metal joining purposes, such as zinc, lead or copper metals, specifically for welding, soldering or brazing practices.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of blacksmith. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Non-ferrous metal processing: Various processing methods on non-ferrous metals and alloys such as copper, zinc and aluminium.
- Design drawings: Understand design drawings detailing the design of products, tools, and engineering systems.
- Ferrous metal processing: Various processing methods on iron and iron-containing alloys such as steel, stainless steel and pig iron.
- Cold forging: The metalworking process of forging whilst hot metal is right below its recrystallisation temperature, being cooled and solidified after casting.
- Coating substances: Have knowledge of various types of coating, providing a workpiece with one or more finishing layers of resins, sugars, powders, inactive and insoluable fillers, waxes, gums, plasticisers, colouring materials, lacquer, and others.
- Dust usage for forging: The qualities and applications of frit dust, sawdust, coal dust, and others, in the process of hot forging when strewn into dies to ensure the metal workpiece does not stick to the die.
- Types of metal manufacturing processes: Metal processes linked to the different types of metal, such as casting processes, heat treatment processes, repair processes and other metal manufacturing processes.
- Manufacturing of door furniture from metal: The manufacture of metal items that can be attached to a door in order to support its function and appearance. The manufacture of padlocks, locks, keys, hinges and the like, and hardware for buildings, furniture, vehicles etc.
- Casting processes: The various practices used in the casting of metal, plastics and other cast materials, including mould filling, solidification, cooling, and others, all relating to varying approaches in case of different types of material.
- Manufacturing of tools: The manufacture of knives and cutting blades for machines or for mechanical appliances, hand tools such as pliers, screwdrivers etc. The manufacture of non-power-driven agricultural hand tools, saws and saw blades, including circular saw blades and chainsaw blades. The manufacture of interchangeable tools for hand tools, whether or not power-operated, or for machine tools: drills, punches, milling cutters etc. The manufacture of press tools, moulding boxes and moulds (except ingot moulds), vices and clamps, and blacksmiths’ tools: forges, anvils etc.
- Precious metal processing: Various processing methods on precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of blacksmith. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Supply machine with appropriate tools: Supply the machine with the necessary tools and items for a particular production purpose.
- Insert mould structures: Insert mould structures using the appropriate hand tools.
- Mark designs on metal pieces: Mark or engrave designs on metal pieces or pieces of jewellery, closely following design specifications.
- Monitor gauge: Oversee the data presented by a gauge concerning the measurement of pressure, temperature, thickness of a material, and others.
- Apply preliminary treatment to workpieces: Apply preparatory treatment, through mechanical or chemical processes, to the workpiece preceding the main operation.
- Remove finished casts: Open mould and safely remove the finished cast from within.
- Operate precision measuring equipment: Measure the size of a processed part when checking and marking it to check if it is up to standard by use of two and three dimensional precision measuring equipment such as a caliper, a micrometer, and a measuring gauge.
- Manage time in casting processes: Work on castings with the necessary sense of timing in regards to quality, for example when measuring how long moulds must rest before they are used in further casting processes.
- Fill moulds: Fill up moulds with appropriate materials and ingredient mixes.
- Ensure equipment availability: Ensure that the necessary equipment is provided, ready and available for use before start of procedures.
- Mark processed workpiece: Inspect and mark parts of the workpiece to indicate how they will fit into the finished product.
- Apply precision metalworking techniques: Comply with precision standards specific to an organisation or product in metalworking, involved in processes such as engraving, precise cutting, welding.
- Cut metal products: Operate cutting and measuring instruments in order to cut/shape pieces of metal into given dimensions.
- Recognise signs of corrosion: Recognise the symptoms of metal showing oxidation reactions with the environment resulting in rusting, copper pitting, stress cracking, and others, and estimate the rate of corrosion.
- Smooth burred surfaces: Inspect and smooth burred surfaces of steel and metal parts.
- Remove scale from metal workpiece: Remove the accumulated scale, or metal ‘flakes’, on the surface of the metal workpiece caused by oxidation after removal from the furnace by spraying it with an oil-based liquid that will cause it to flake off during the forging process.
- Provide customer follow-up services: Register, follow-up, solve and respond to customer requests, complaints and after-sales services.
- Produce customised products: Produce goods designed and created to fit the specific needs or request of a customer.
ISCO group and title
7221 – Blacksmiths, hammersmiths and forging press workers
- Blacksmith – ESCO
- Blacksmith Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More – Climb the Ladder
- Blacksmith – Job Role – Careers Wales
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