What does a blacksmith do?
Blacksmiths work with different metals to make and repair decorative, industrial and everyday items.
Blacksmiths shape and join metal by heating it in a forge until it is soft and workable. They then hammer, bend and cut the metal into shape before it cools again. Blacksmiths use these skills to make items such as wrought-iron gates, railings, furniture and tools. Artist blacksmiths focus on more architectural or artistic work like furniture or sculptural commissions. Individuals who are self-employed usually specialize in artistic work and sell their wares to galleries, or show their pieces at fairs and craft shows.
For each job, you might:
- sketch out new design plans or follow customer instructions
- heat metals to the right temperature in a forge or furnace
- shape metals with hand tools like hammers, punches and anvils
- use power tools, like drills, lathes and hydraulic presses
- join metal parts together using riveting and welding methods
- apply finishes
Image c. Hugh Fox
- technical skills
- the ability to work well with your hands
- attention to detail
- the ability to work on your own and as part of a team
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- ability to work in a physically demanding environment
- problem solving skills
You could work in a factory or in a workshop.
Your working environment may be physically demanding, hot and noisy.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Image c. Hugh Fox
Career path and progression
As an experienced artist blacksmith you could set up your own workshop. You could also teach your skills to others.
As an industrial blacksmith, you could move into workshop management. You could also train to become a design engineer.
How do I become a blacksmith?
You can do a degree in artist blacksmithing from Hereford College of Arts.
You'll need a portfolio of your work and creative ideas for course interviews.
You'll usually need:
- a foundation studies diploma in art and design
- 2 to 3 A levels for a degree
You could take an introductory college course in working with metal before looking for a trainee position with a blacksmith.
You could also take a Level 2 in Diploma in Blacksmithing and Metalworking though this is only available in a small number of places.
There is a Level 3 Diploma in Fabrication and Welding, which may lead you into industrial blacksmith work.
A course in general metalwork or art and design may also give you an advantage when looking for a job.
You may need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course
You can get into industrial blacksmithing through an engineering or welding intermediate or advanced apprenticeship.
You may be able to use this to find a trainee job with a specialist metalwork company.
You'll usually need:
- some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), usually including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
Image c. Andrew Orchard
You could work as an assistant to an experienced blacksmith and learn the craft on the job. Experience in metalwork and technical drawing can be useful for this career.
You'll may find it useful to do a short course in blacksmithing. This will help you decide if it's a suitable career and may be useful if you plan to look for a training position. The British Artist Blacksmiths Association has details of training organisations.
You can also learn some of the skills you need by doing a full-time course that focuses on either traditional blacksmithing skills or design.
Find out more:
Combining original contemporary design and high-quality craftsmanship, blacksmith James Price creates work that is firmly rooted in the present. He is interested in exploring the process of making, combining heat, force and ingenuity to manipulate the most dynamic of materials. A passion for craftsmanship and an inherent appreciation of forged metal are themes that run throughout his work. Find out more here or follow James on Instagram
Image c. John Brockliss