Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA

What does a Blacksmith do?


After posting about our newest building, a blacksmith shop, I was suprised at the number of comments made to me about the new horse building.  In fact, our new shop really doesn't have anything to do with the horses, and I realized it was my fault for not clearing up what I mean by "blacksmith", so I wanted to remedy that with this post.

 Although the word blacksmith may make folks think of the guy putting shoes on a horse, the actual name of that profession is farrier.  Years ago, it was common for farriers to make horseshoes out of hot metal to custom fit the horse, but today most farriers' vehicles are stocked with a variety of sizes of premade horseshoes.  Very few do custom work with hot metal.

The term blacksmith, however, is used to describe a person who works with metal.  The traditional way to do this craft is to heat a piece of metal in a coal fire and then shape it using an anvil and a variety of hammers, tongs and other tools.   Years ago, many farmers were amateur smiths, and would make lots of different items for the like rakes and shovels, blades including knives and axes, hardware like hinges and door pulls, plus fire pokers, pot racks, hooks for hanging things and more.  Most blacksmiths made many of their own tools, and were able to use their craft to repair  or recreate parts for the machinery around the farm.  Those with more skill or interest would refine their craft, sometimes generating extra income for the farm with their metal work.  When you think of wrought iron, the twists and scrolls are good examples of what a skilled blacksmith can do with a piece of raw metal.

I find it absolutely fascinating to watch Dan working at this ancient craft.  To watch as a straight piece of square metal is twisted and worked into a fancy fire poker or other item amazes me every time.  There is real skill involved, much of it learned simply through practice.  You must be able to tell how hot the metal is simply by the color it turns in the fire...too cold and it won't shape properly, too hot and it will melt and be ruined.  Different tools create different shapes and textures.  The forge can be used to harden metal, or to weld as well.  It truly is an art, and one that truly fits our farm, with our desire to preserve old skills that increase our self-sufficiency.   I'm also really excited about my own workspace there. I've already moved my jewelry making supplies there, and the internet tracking code says my stained glass supplies should arrive today.  While I'm anxious to get started with that, between butchering a pig today, picking up a coffee order, and setting up the stand for tomorrow, not to mention running the stand and attending a wedding tomorrow, I'll have to wait a few days at least.  But as the days grow cooler and the garden wraps up for the year, I think we'll be spending plenty of time in our new workspace!

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