ORIGINS & IRON AGE
Blacksmithing origins first trace back to 1500 BC when the Hittites discovered the process of forging and tempering iron ore. When the Hittites were scattered in 1200 BC so was their knowledge and understanding of basic iron work. Launching into the Iron Age, a process to produce wrought iron was developed through reducing natural iron ore with heat. This new substance could be used to make simple tools that proved much tougher and sharper than stone.
Even with developments in heating iron with the use of charcoal, ancient blacksmithing was quite unpredictable due to their lack of understanding the basic properties of iron. With inconsistencies in heating the iron and thus carbonization of the iron, early craftsmen found they produced works that varied in quality. Most ancient iron work was either too soft to hold a sharp edge or it became extremely hard but brittle. However, the blacksmith would occasionally and unintentionally produce weapons and tools of steel. These weapons proved harder and tougher than others and because of their unique nature, they were thought to have magical or spiritual powers. Such weapons were named, handed down from generations, and carried an air of mysticism around them.
During the Medieval Period, blacksmithing was considered part of the set of seven mechanical arts and was a staple of every town. With advances in heating techniques and a greater understanding of iron properties, the village blacksmith was skilled in making various tools, household objects, weapons and armour. Along with their useful skill, blacksmiths were often highly regarded in their community and would serve in other roles of leadership within the village. However, in some villages, they were viewed as workers of witchcraft and evil because of the nature of their work. No matter how they were viewed, the blacksmith was essential for everyday life.
Equipped with advancing technology, medieval blacksmithing techniques carried through the mid-nineteenth century until experiencing a cultural shift with the introduction of the Industrial Era. As machinery and mass production increased, the demand for blacksmithing products declined leaving blacksmiths primarily occupied in farrier work. Because of the lack of work, many blacksmiths transitioned into the initial generation of automobile mechanics.
Early in the 20th century, prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was a golden age for blacksmiths who made architectural ironwork. Many of the work during this time is preserved and admired today. However, the Great Depression started the art on its road of near extinction. Without a need for blacksmiths because of industrialization, blacksmithing was seen as an obsolete trade through much of the 20th century.
In 1970, a resurgence of interest in blacksmithing occurred, and the art has steadily captured the interest of many since then. Blacksmithing has redeveloped into a unique community of artists who are specialized in their skill as they use and advance upon traditions and techniques that have existed for thousands of years.
Today, blacksmithing continues to grow in popularity as there are more opportunities to learn and excel in this skill. We are proud to uphold the traditions and history of blacksmithing as we continue to advance our trade into the future.