Blacksmithing is the age-old craft of creating tools & wrought iron items, that still utilize the same traditional methods & techniques today, as were originally used in the fabrication of tools & implements necessary for survival & convenience of that time. Many of the tools that are available today were created & signed by blacksmiths.
Wrought Iron fireplace, hearth tools & implements play an important role in how people stay warm in the cold temperatures of the harsh winters; affecting many of the regions of this country. The tools that are used need to be strong & durable enough to perform the constant task of tending the fire, and wrought iron is the material that possesses these attributes.
Andirons are fireplace objects made to raise firewood off the floor of the hearth, to improve the circulation of air (or 'draft') around the wood, creating more efficient burning, and also resulting in less smoke being created. Andirons were fabricated to keep the logs in place, using square lengths of wrought iron bar. Three shorter pieces acted as legs, which supported an upright 'guard' located at the front. Later, as with fireplace tools, andirons became decorative as well as useful, and the guards were fabricated using more elaborate & recognizable designs; such as scrolls, ball-top, ring, 'fleur-de-lis', or in the form of different animals. Today an unlimited range of designs can be found to suit most styles of home decor, for example Mission-Style, Contemporary, Colonial, French Country, and more. In order to create the different fireplace implements, early blacksmiths 1st had to fabricate the tools that would be used to form the metal into different shapes such as tongs & pokers, which were needed to place or manipulate the firewood in order to keep the fire going. Flat shovels were needed to continually remove ashes to keep the fireplace clear for new firewood to be added, as well as to keep hot embers from being introduced onto wooden floors beyond the brick or stone hearth; which would of course have created a fire hazard.
The Blacksmith's Hammer is one of the most important tools of the blacksmith, used in conjunction with the forge, wrought iron is heated to make it workable enough to form into different shapes & forms. The wrought iron is heated, and then hammered to shape it into the desired shape. Hammers were created in different shapes & weights for the specific requirements to work the wrought iron into the design a blacksmith wanted. Sledge, Ball-Peen, Cross-Peen, & Rounding hammers; were the most common types used. Steel was the metal used to make hammers, and a blacksmith would create his according to his particular needs for weight & shape. A blacksmith's hand hammer weighing 1-1/2 or 2 lb. and another weighing 3 or 3-1/2 lb. will most ordinary work very satisfactorily.
Blacksmith Tongs were used by the blacksmith to hold different wrought iron pieces inside the forge until they were heated to the correct temperature. There were several types of tongs developed by the blacksmith for his particular preferences. He would make new ones whenever a certain piece required a different shape to be held securely by the jaws of tongs in a certain position in the forge, or when hammering, etc. At least one or two pairs of tongs are needed.Various types are available, but the hollow bit, curved-lip bolt tongs are probably the most useful. Flat bars as well as round rods and bolts can be held in them, and the curved part back of the tip makes it possible to reshape them easily to fit different sizes of stock. By grinding, filing, or sawing a groove crosswise in each of the lips, the tongs can be made to hold links practically as well as regular link tongs. Tongs 18 to 20 inches long are a good size for general work.
The Blacksmith's Anvil, was an integral part of working with wrought iron. Originally made of wrought iron and bronze until steel became available, it was used as a surface to hammer a wrought iron piece into shape after being heated in the forge. There are differently shaped areas of an anvil, used to manipulate the wrought iron into the shape desired by the blacksmith. The top, or 'face' is flat & made to be smooth & free of sharp spots which could crack the wrought iron piece; or also marks that would be transferred to it upon striking it with a hammer. Use of a hard surface such as steel for the face, was essential for reducing the amount of the force that is lost when hitting the area of the piece being worked on.At one end of the anvil is the 'horn', which is conical in shape, and is primarily used to bend the metal into scrolls or rounded shapes. The other end, is square & contains 2 holes for punching & bending. The 'Hardy Hole' is square for accommodating special tools for forming as well as cutting, & the 'Pritchel' Hole is round mostly use for punching the metal, as well as being a place to attach an extra tool if necessary.Anvils are of two general grades: cast iron and steel. Steel anvils are much better and should be used when possible. The two types of anvils can be distinguished by striking them with a hammer. A cast anvil has a dead sound while steel ones have a clear ring.Anvils are commonly available in sizes ranging from 50 to 200 lb. An anvil weighing 100 or 125 lb. would be quite satisfactory for the average farm shop. A piece of railroad iron 20 to 30 in. long, mounted on a suitable block or stand, will serve fairly well for light hammering and riveting, although a much greater variety of work can be done on a regular anvil.
Using Different Parts of the Anvil. The horn of the anvil is used for making bends and shaping curved pieces; and the flat face is used for general hammering. The flat depressed surface near the horn is the chipping block, and here all cutting with cold chisels and similar tools should be done, rather than on the face of the anvil. The chipping block is soft and will not damage the chisel if it cuts through. The face is hardened and cutting into it with a chisel would damage both the chisel and the face, which should be kept smooth for good blacksmithing.The better anvils have a corner of the face next to the horn slightly rounded, so that sharp bends may be made in rods and bars without unduly marring or galling the iron. The round hole in the face of the anvil is used for punching holes. It is called the pritchel hole, taking its name from the sharp punch used by blacksmiths in punching nail holes in horseshoes. The square hole in the face is called the hardy hole and is used for holding the hardy and other tools, such as swages and fullers.
A Blacksmith Vise is another essential piece of equipment, that is used by the blacksmith to secure the piece he is working on, while hitting it with a large amount of force. It is a type of clamp that uses a set of strong jaws, that can be adjusted by rotating a lever which is located at the front that can be open slightly to accommodate different widths of wrought iron pieces. A heavy blacksmith's steel-leg vise with jaws 4 to 5 in. wide is generally preferred as an all-purpose vise in the shop. A leg vise is one that has one leg extending down to be anchored or fastened into the floor. Such a vise can be used for heavy hammering and bending and is preferable to other types. If there is a strong steel machinist's box vise in the shop, it can be used for blacksmithing work if it is not used to do excessive amounts of heavy hammering or bending.
Hardies , Chisels, and Punches. There should be a hardy to fit the hole in the anvil, (referred to as the 'hardy hole') and there should be a fair assortment of hand cold chisels and punches. The chisels and punches may be made in the shop.If considerable amounts of blacksmithing are to be done, it would be a good idea to have a hot cutter and a cold cutter (these are simply large chisels with handles on them) for heavy cutting with a sledge hammer. It would be advisable to also have one or two large punches with handles on them for punching holes in hot metal. Punches for making holes 3/8 in. and 1/2 in. in diameter are probably the most widely used.