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He Who Smites Black Metal

Blacksmithing is the art and science of creating objects from iron or steel by forging the metal; i.e., by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut. Blacksmiths produce things like iron gates, grills, railings, furniture, sculpture, tools and implements, decorative and religious items, cooking utensils and horseshoes. In Mizahar, blacksmiths are not all that uncommon in the few cities that exist although in the wilds it can be harder to locate one. Blacksmiths work with iron, the 'black' metal, and in the case of more advanced forges, steel, its derivative. The black color comes from fire scale, a layer of oxides that forms on the surface of the metal during heating. The term 'smith' originates from the word 'smite', which means 'to hit'. Thus, a blacksmith is a person who smites black metal.



Blacksmithing was a gift from Izurdin to the peoples of Mizahar. The God of Industry realized that in order for the various races of the world to grow and advance, they needed to be able to construct and shape implements to work the land, build structures and generally improve the quality of life. So he appeared in many guises to a select few individuals from every race and trained them in the art of blacksmithing; the art which many other industrious skills evolved from. The first smiths then passed on their knowledge to others and from them others thus solidifying the art of blacksmithing into the cultural heritage of all sentient, humanoid races.

Prerequisites and Maintenance

While a skill such as Mathematics can be useful in blacksmithing, it is not required. Anyone with the drive and the creative skill to work with metal can become a blacksmith. It is important to note that blacksmithing involves crafting decorative items as well as tools and other implements. It does not include the forging of weapons or armor as these require differing techniques. Weaponsmithing and the Armorer skills are related to blacksmithing and though similar in some ways, differ in many. Blacksmithing can be very helpful in the learning and implementation of the weaponsmithing and armorer skills.


The blacksmith's tools are their life and lively-hood. Without them, there isn't such thing as a blacksmith. The following list contains the more common and most important pieces of equipment a blacksmith will have and use. Often, the blacksmith will make their own tools; custom fit for their specific style of smithing.

The Forge

The forge is where smithing occurs. Full, properly equipped forges will contain a gear driven blower operated by a crank as well as a hearth at least 18 in. wide, preferably somewhat larger. The hearth and stand are of built of brick or other stout masonry. The forge will have a hood and chimney set-up for taking away the smoke.

The Anvil

Anvils are of two general grades: cast iron and steel. Steel anvils are higher quality but can cost almost twice as much as cast iron. The two kinds can be distinguished by striking with a hammer. A cast anvil has a dead sound while a steel one has a clear ring. Anvils range in size from 50-200lbs. Anvils found in the typical forge weigh between 100-125lbs.

Parts of Anvil

Parts of an 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 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 smiths 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. The anvil should be mounted on a solid block and at such a height that the face of the anvil can just be reached with the knuckles of the clenched fist when standing erect.

The anvil should be mounted on a solid block, preferably of wood. It should be so located in front of the forge that the workman can take the irons from the fire and place them on the anvil by making a short turn and without the necessity of taking even a full step. The horn should be to the workman's left (unless he is left-handed, in which case it should be to his right). The face of the anvil should be at such a height that it can be touched with the knuckles of the clenched fist when standing erect and swinging the arm straight down.


At least one or two pairs of tongs are a mainstay of a good forge. Tongs 18 to 20 in. long are a good size for average work.


A blacksmith's hand hammer weighing 1 1/2 or 2 lb. and another weighing 3 or 3 1/2 lb. will handle all ordinary work very satisfactorily.

Hardy, Chisels and Punches

There should be a hardy to fit the hole in the anvil, and there should be a fair assortment of chisels and punches. In most forges there are two specific types of chisels; a hot cutter and a cold cutter (large chisels with handles on them) for heavy cutting with a sledge hammer. There are also one or two large punches with handles on them for punching holes in hot metal.


One vise can well serve for all metal work in the typical forge. A heavy blacksmith's steel-leg vise with jaws 4 to 5 in. wide the primary vice within a blacksmiths forge. A leg vise is one that has one leg extending down to be anchored or into the floor. Such a vise can be used for heavy hammering and bending.

Fire Tools

A small shovel and poker or rake will be needed for use on the forge fire. These are some of the easier tools to forge and are essential in operating a forge. A flat piece of heavy sheet iron about 3 or 4 in. wide by 4 or 5 in. long, riveted to a bar or rod for a handle, makes a good shovel. A 1/2-in. round rod,with an oblong eye in one end to serve as a handle and the other end flattened and curved, makes a good combination poker and rake.

Measuring Tools

Some kind of metal rule will be needed for measuring and checking pieces being forged. A small steel square is very good for both measuring lengths and checking angles and bends. A wooden rule should not be used to measure hot iron. A caliper, or a caliper rule, for measuring diameter of rods and thickness of parts, although not a necessity, will be found very convenient in the blacksmithing process.


What a wonderful shoe!

Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of iron or steel until the metal becomes soft enough to be shaped with hand tools, such as a hammer, anvil and chisel. Heating is accomplished by the use of a forge fueled by coal, charcoal, or coke or in some rare instances, magic.

Color is important for indicating the temperature and workability of the metal: As iron is heated to increasing temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white; then it melts. The ideal heat for most forging is the bright yellow-orange color appropriately known as a "forging heat." Because they must be able to see the glowing color of the metal, many blacksmiths work in dim, low-light conditions with only nearby fires to illuminate their workspace.

The various techniques of smithing may be divided into forging or sculpting, welding, heat treating, and finishing.


Forging is the process in which metal is shaped by hammering. Even punching and cutting operations (except when trimming waste) by smiths will usually re-arrange metal around the hole, rather than removing it altogether. As a part of forging, there are five basic operations. These are: drawing, shrinking, bending, upsetting and punching. In addition to a number of other specialized tools, the five basic operations are done with a hammer and anvil.


Drawing lengthens the metal by reducing one or both of the other two dimensions. As the depth is reduced, the width narrowed, or both the piece is lengthened or "drawn out". For example, a chisel may be made by flattening a square bar of steel followed by lengthening it. Then its depth would be reduced while its width is kept the same. Drawing does not have to be a uniform process as a taper can be created as in the construction of a wedge or chisel blade. Tapering two dimensions would result in the formation of a point. There are a couple of ways one can accomplish the drawing technique. One using just a hammer and anvil could hammer the metal on the horn of the anvil or hammering on the anvil face with the cross peen of the hammer. Fullering is another option for drawing out metal and consists of using the peen (the pointed or chiseled part of the hammer head) to create indentations and ridges in the metal. The flat part of the hammer head is then used to strike the ridges until they are level with the indentations. This forces the metal to stretch faster than simply hammering with the flat face.


Shrinking, while similar to upsetting, is essentially the opposite of drawing. As the edge of a flat piece is curved, such as in the making of a bowl shape, the edge will become wavy as the material bunches up in a shorter radius. At this point the wavy portion is heated and the waves are gently pounded flat to conform to the desired shape. If one compares the edge of the new shape to the original piece, they would discover that the material is thicker than before. This change in thickness is due to the excess material that formed the waves being pushed into a uniform edge that has a smaller radius than before.


Heating steel to what is known as, forging heat, allows it to be bent with significant but not impossible effort. Bending can be done with the hammer over the horn or edge of the anvil or by inserting the work into one of the holes in the top of the anvil and swinging the free end to one side. Bends can be dressed and tightened or widened by hammering them over the appropriately-shaped part of the anvil.


Upsetting is the process of making metal thicker in one dimension through shortening in the other. One form is by heating the end of a rod and then hammering on it as one would drive a nail: the rod gets shorter, and the hot part widens. An alternative to hammering on the hot end would be to place the hot end on the anvil and hammer on the cold end.


Punching may be done to create a decorative pattern, or to make a hole. For example, in preparation for making a hammerhead, a smith would punch a hole in a heavy bar or rod for the hammer handle. Punching is not limited to depressions and holes. It also includes cutting, or slitting and drifting: these are done with a chisel.

Combining Processes

The five basic forging processes are often combined to produce and refine the shapes necessary for finished products. For example, in making a chisel, when it is lengthened by drawing it would also tend to spread in width, so a smith would frequently turn the chisel-to-be on its side and hammer it back down, upsetting it, to check the spread and keep the metal at the correct width for the project.

As another example, if a smith needed to put a 90-degree bend in a bar and wanted a sharp corner on the outside of the bend, the smith would begin by hammering an unsupported end to make the curved bend. Then, to "fatten up" the outside radius of the bend, one or both arms of the bend would need to be pushed back into the bend to fill the outer radius of the curve. So the smith would hammer the ends of the stock down into the bend, 'upsetting' it at the point of the bend. The smith would then dress the bend by drawing the sides of the bend to keep it the correct thickness. The hammering would continue, upsetting and then drawing, until the curve had been properly shaped. In the primary operation was the bend, but the drawing and upsetting are done to refine the shape.


Welding is the joining of metal of the same or similar kind of metal. The pieces to be welded are heated to what is generally referred to as "welding heat". For mild steel most smiths judge this temperature by color: the metal will glow an intense yellow or white. At this temperature the steel is near molten. Any foreign material in the weld, such as the oxides or "scale" that typically form in the fire, can weaken it and potentially cause it to fail. Thus the mating surfaces to be joined must be kept clean. To this end a smith will make sure the fire is a reducing fire: a fire where at the heart there is a great deal of heat and very little oxygen. The smith will also carefully shape the mating faces so that as they are brought together foreign material is squeezed out as the metal is joined. To clean the faces, protect them from oxidation, and provide a medium to carry foreign material out of the weld the smith will use flux, typically very course sand.

The smith will first clean the parts to be joined with a wire brush, then put them in the fire to heat. With a mix of drawing and upsetting the faces will be shaped so that when finally brought together the center of the weld will connect first and the connection spread outward under the hammer blows, pushing the flux and foreign material out.

The dressed metal goes back in the fire, is brought near to welding heat, removed from the fire, brushed, flux is applied, and it is returned to the fire. The smith now watches carefully to avoid overheating the metal. There is some challenge to this, because in order to see the color of the metal it must be removed from the fire, and this exposes the metal to air, which can cause it to oxidize rapidly. So the smith might probe into the fire with a bit of steel wire, prodding lightly at the mating faces. When the end of the wire sticks on to the metal is at the right temperature (a small weld has formed where the wire touches the mating face so it sticks on to the metal).

Now the smith moves with rapid purpose. The metal is taken from the fire and quickly brought to the anvil, the mating faces are brought together, the hammer lightly applying a few taps to bring the mating faces into complete contact and squeeze out the flux, and finally returned to the fire again.

The weld was begun with the taps, but often the joint is weak and incomplete, so the smith will again heat the joint to welding temperature and work the weld with light blows to "set" the weld and finally to dress it to the shape.


Depending on the intended use of the piece a blacksmith may finish it in a number of ways:

- A simple tool that the smith might only use a few times in the shop; itmay get the minimum of finishing: a rap on the anvil to break off scale and a brushing with a wire brush is usually enough.

- Files can be employed to bring a piece to final shape, remove burrs and sharp edges, and smooth the surface.

- The wire brush either as a hand tool or power tool can further smooth , brighten and polish surface.

- Grinding stones can further shape, smooth and polish the surface.

- There are a range of treatments and finishes to inhibit oxidation of the metal and enhance or change the appearance of the piece.

- Finishes include but are not limited to: paint, varnish, bluing, browning, oil, and wax.

Blacksmith's striker

A blacksmith's striker is an assistant and often apprentice, whose job it is to swing a large sledge hammer in heavy forging operations, as directed by the blacksmith. In practice, the blacksmith will hold the hot iron at the anvil (with tongs) in one hand, and indicate where the iron is to be struck by tapping it with a small hammer held in the other hand: the striker then delivers a heavy blow with the sledge hammer where indicated.

Skill progression

Novice (1-25)
The Novice smith is learned in the use of the primary tools of the forge and how to craft them. They are also capable of forging a number of other basic tools and implements as well as simple decorative items. The five basic operations of smithing are the backbone of the novice's skill repertoire. Simple shapes such as horseshoes, squares, rectangles, large rings, railings, etc. are all known to the smith and they are capable of forging them. These items are almost always made of iron as working with steel is too advanced at this point. Simple metals such as brass and bronze are also commonly used. Welded items may be made however they are prone to failure when exposed to more than light stress. Objects tend to be rough, large and lack detail.
Competent (26-50)
Competent smiths further hone their skills so that they are able to work with steel. Metal-framed furniture and sculptures are commonly forged and constructed by the smith. More complex shapes such as spheres are possible and competent smiths are also capable of forging smaller items with greater detail. Copper and Silver are also materials that the competent smith can work with while maintaining the greatest value as is Cold Iron. Welded items are now stronger and can stand-up to normal amounts of stress.
Expert (51-75)
The Expert smith often forges items of such quality that their name alone carries with it the skill of the smith. Complexed welded items capable of handling great amounts of stress are simple for the expert. Their ability to draw out or shrink metal in the smithing process is legendary as is their attention to detail. There are few if any shapes not known to the expert and they are also able to forge items of pure gold while maintaining the greatest value.
Master (76-100)
The Master smith possesses a skill that some claim is a divine gift from Izurdin himself. The Master can forge any shape from nearly any metal. They are able to craft items of any shape and almost any size with welds that will never weaken or fail. The Master's skill with a forge is such that they can eliminate up to 50% of the weight from any item they forge while maintaining its structural integrity. Regardless of the material they work with, all metal objects forged by the master will never tarnish, rust or otherwise weaken in anyway.