How to Become a Blacksmith Guide 2020 (Apprenticeships, Degrees & Training)
Blacksmithing, while less widespread than in the past, continues to be a viable career for those interested in metalworking and using their creativity in the workplace. The skills of blacksmiths are sought-after in various industries, making the craft relevant today. The process of modern blacksmithing looks much like that of the past, but the items blacksmiths create today and the methods they can utilize to make such products are truly endless.
Whether you desire to make functional pieces or works of art, blacksmithing and similar fields of metalworking can be career paths where you find great success and job satisfaction.
What Does a Modern Blacksmith Do?
If you are thinking about becoming a blacksmith, one of the first things you should do is consider the main duties of a smith to see if they align with your personal interests. Blacksmithing is a very rewarding career with physically demanding and varied daily work.
Duties of a Career Blacksmith
While the duties you perform as a smith might vary from day to day depending on what type of work you are doing, some basic duties you can expect to perform are:
- Drafting and reading sketches and designs
- Choosing metals and applying appropriate techniques depending on the chosen material
- Working mostly independently with occasional team work for larger items
- Operating equipment and using small tools to measure, cut, and refine products
- Forging and heating metals for shaping
- Inspecting final products to ensure high quality
- Answering phone calls, emails, and performing other business procedures
Blacksmith Equipment Required for the Job
As a blacksmith, you will become familiar with a wide range of equipment and tools depending on the type of items you create. A forge, anvil and small hand tools like hammers, tongs, chisels and snips are all necessary for you to get familiar with using. As a blacksmith working in modern times, heavier machinery like welders, hydraulic presses and circular saws will also likely be required for you to do your job well.
Becoming comfortable with a wide range of equipment will give you an edge in the competitive job market. The tools you use will also help you form a specific style, which is important when marketing yourself.
- USA MADE double forge burner furnace with 2300F capability and UPGRADED 0-30 psi regulator
- Large size (6" x 4.75" x 19") provides max workspace, ideal exposure to the flames "sweet spot"
- 1" thick ceramic fiber blanket ships with HELLCOTE 3000 Refractory Coating (applied by customer)
Items You’ll Make as a Blacksmith
Blacksmiths today make an array of items that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Common items are industrial products like grates, architectural pieces and furniture, decorative items for outdoor use, and swords and knives which can be used or collected. The possibilities are really endless depending on your personal interests and preferences.
Blacksmiths who create more functional, industrial items work within specific industries and with clients who trust that the work they do is top-notch and consistent. Blacksmiths creating more artistic pieces might sell their goods at fairs and in studios and likely have a reputation within artist communities.
Additional Skill Requirements of Blacksmithing – What’s Good to Have?
Blacksmithing requires a variety of different skills, especially in our technologically advanced society. The more skills a smith can acquire, the better prepared he or she will be for the workforce. Below are a few of the most important skills and characteristics of a modern smith.
Blacksmithing is an art, so it is important that a smith has an eye for design and form. The best blacksmiths can think outside the box to create visually appealing or functional pieces that clients have never seen before. The nature of a blacksmiths work also requires creative problem-solving, as things may not always go according to plan and an idea may need to be altered to fit the needs of a specific project or client.
2) Coordination and Calculating Skills
Shaping and finishing metal takes solid hand-eye coordination, strength, and cognitive skills as well as a level of patience to get work done correctly. Measuring and cutting metal requires math skills to ensure precision and accuracy. These skills improve over time with continual practice.
3) Business Skills/Social Media/Advertising
In our modern world, a grasp on business, marketing, and social media is necessary for self-employed blacksmiths. A basic website, Facebook page and Instagram profile are extremely helpful in advertising your skills and showing potential clients the work you have already done.
4) Customer Service
Working with clients in a professional and friendly manner ensures that you build and maintain a positive reputation within the blacksmithing community. Although having a digital presence (website, email etc.) can make this process easier, having positive feedback spread through old fashioned word-of-mouth is still a powerful force, especially within smaller communities.
5) Wide Knowledge of Techniques or a Signature Style
The more you know about blacksmithing, the more services you can offer to clients and the more money you can make, so it is in a blacksmith’s best interest to learn a variety of techniques. Having a signature blacksmithing style will also help you stand out amongst competitors.
Education Paths for Blacksmiths – Where to Begin?
Whether you prefer learning in the classroom, one-on-one with a seasoned professional, or learning on your own, there is an educational path that will help you transform into a respected blacksmith.
1) Bachelor’s Degree/Vocational School
While uncommon, some colleges around the world offer bachelor’s degrees in blacksmithing and similar trades. Oftentimes, students choose to go to vocational schools, which are two year programs focused on blacksmithing. Getting a formal degree in blacksmithing allows you to experience the full breadth of the trade through both lectures and studio time. You will also learn the history of blacksmithing and a wide range of techniques that will prepare you for work in the real world.
Something to consider if you are thinking about getting a formal degree is that you will typically work with the pace of your classmates, so the process is less individualized. Getting a degree in blacksmithing is also a significant financial and time investment, since it can cost thousands of dollars and take two to four years to complete.
Blacksmithing students can supplement their learning with an apprenticeship, which is like an internship for craftsmen. You will work with a skilled smith to learn the basics in person at your own pace. Apprenticeships are great for getting exposure to real workplace settings and the daily demands blacksmiths face while on the job.
A downside to apprenticeships is that you will not have a set curriculum like in a college and may not learn a wide range of topics related to blacksmithing.
It is possible to become a successful blacksmith without formal training. If you prefer to learn at your own pace and in your own way, teaching yourself can be a viable education path! It certainly takes a lot of work and self-discipline, but it can be done.
This is the most challenging way to learn the trade, but with the right resources and a lot of practice, self-teaching can pay off. Make sure you are educating yourself through a variety of methods like reading, watching instructional videos, practicing on your own, and maybe attending a workshop or two to ensure you are continually challenging yourself and learning new skills.
Where Will You Work as a Blacksmith?
People around the world work as blacksmiths. While not as numerous as in the past, thousands of blacksmiths work in the United States, Britain, and many other countries worldwide. Blacksmiths of different nationalities are renowned for different things.
For example, Japan is home to many master swordsmiths who make swords and other weaponry using techniques passed down for hundreds of years. In America, many smiths work in a similar way as frontier smiths of the 1800s, making a variety of rustic items.
A blacksmith’s workplace differs depending on his or her personal preferences and specializations. Some blacksmiths work in a garage or their own workshop, others prefer operating from spaces resembling art studios. No matter where they work, however, blacksmiths are used to heat and dirt. Expect to get dirty and work in potentially dangerous conditions if you want to be a blacksmith.
Average Salary and Working Hours of Blacksmiths
The salary and working requirements of modern blacksmiths are quite varied depending on where you live and the work that you do. However, there are general salary estimates and working hour requirements that pertain to most blacksmiths working around the world today.
What’s a Blacksmiths Salary?
For American blacksmiths working on industrial products in a specific industry, such as metal fabricating or welding, the average salary is around $38,500 per year. The salary of blacksmiths who are self-employed varies widely depending on where they live, what they make, and who they work for. For blacksmiths who own their own businesses, the sky’s the limit in terms of income. Blacksmiths in the UK earn an estimated £25,000 per year in certain industries, and a more varied amount if self-employed.
What are a Blacksmiths Working Hours?
Blacksmiths working full-time average about 35-40 hours per week. For blacksmiths who are also business owners, exceeding 40 hours is sometimes required to get projects done on time and manage the needs of their clients. Most blacksmiths today work part-time and supplement their income with another job or two, but there are also many professionals putting in full-time hours each week doing work that they love.
Career Prospects for Blacksmiths and Other Metalworkers
Blacksmithing may be a more unconventional career path for workers today, but that does not mean that their skills are not sought-after in today’s economy. Many people want handcrafted goods and are willing to pay top dollar for unique pieces. Location also plays a role in how secure you will be as a blacksmith in today’s ever changing job market.
Growth Trends – Blacksmithing is Rising!
In the UK, blacksmith apprenticeships are growing in popularity. For people who do not like office work and desire to make things with their hands, blacksmithing is an excellent career choice. This is why more and more young people are going down less conventional routes of employment to follow their true passions.
Although the number of blacksmiths has declined since the industrial revolution, there is still a demand for the products that smiths can create. Blacksmith businesses enjoy loyal clientele who appreciate their work, and can sustain themselves through solid marketing and high-quality finished products.
Preparing for a Blacksmithing Career (Things You Can Do Right Now!)
While some sort of traditional education is oftentimes required to become a blacksmith, there are things you can do right now to jumpstart your journey into blacksmithing as a career or passion project. The possibilities are as varied as the items you will be crafting, but here are a few especially helpful ones.
Whether online or in-person, there are some great blacksmithing courses that do not require the time and investment of longer, more in-depth blacksmithing programs. Websites like teachable.com and professional blacksmiths in your area offer courses on beginner blacksmithing, specific techniques, and crafting various items.
The best thing about individual courses is that you can pick what you want to learn about. Really interested in knives or swords? There are courses out there that teach on niche items and techniques so you can learn what you want and skip all the things you are not as interested in.
Workshops are similar to courses, in that you receive instruction from an expert in the field. The main difference is that workshops tend to be more hands on and personalized. They also usually last for several hours. Check out art studios, blacksmith shops, or blacksmith associations in your area to see if workshops are offered.
3) Art Classes
Blacksmiths are craftsmen, meaning that their work requires an eye for aesthetics. There are so many art classes out there, and they do not have to pertain to metalworking in order to allow you to flex your creative muscles. If drawing, painting or sculpture appeals to you, sign up for an art class in your area and learn about form, balance, and other elements of good design and artistry.
4) Personal Experimentation
If you are feeling adventurous, sometimes the most rewarding way to learn something new is to dive in headfirst and experiment on your own! Get a grasp on how to use the basic tools of the trade safely and start crafting in the comfort of your own workspace. Make mistakes and learn from them and you will find that over time you are able to make some pretty cool things without traditional instruction.
One of the best ways to get familiar with different blacksmithing techniques is to read books written by professional blacksmiths working today. Not only are books chock full of useful information, but reading about the trade from someone who is making a living doing it themselves is super motivational. Although some books on blacksmithing can be on the expensive side, think of it as an investment towards your education and remember that you can reference the book for years to come. Check out our full recommendation list on the most useful blacksmiths books here!
- Thomas, Robert (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 160 Pages - 02/13/2018 (Publication Date) - Quarry Books (Publisher)
We live in the age of fast, easily digestible information. If you want a rundown of blacksmithing without having to wade through a lot of material, and if you are a visual learner, YouTube might be the perfect place to start!
There are so many instructional videos on the web about blacksmithing techniques for beginners that are easy to practice along with. One awesome YouTube channel with almost 2 million subscribers is Alec Steele Blacksmith. Steele teaches both beginner techniques and shows off his advanced skills. No matter where you are in your blacksmithing journey, there are plenty of videos online for you to take advantage of.
Are You Ready to Be A Blacksmith?
Becoming a blacksmith is no small feat, but hopefully now you feel ready to take steps towards becoming a modern smith. There are many opportunities out there to learn the trade and make it your own, whether as a full-time professional, or a passionate hobbyist.