anvilfire logo (c) 1998 by Patrick Dempsey
anvilfire home
anvilfire! News
Blacksmithing News and Events
Eternal flame graphic by Andrew Hooper
Force to 300 Volume 16 - Page 14 of 14
Force to 260 Eternal Flame Edition
anvilfire! Millennium's End Report

Late Breaking News - Anvilfire makes NY Times!
Thanks to Glenn Conner - AKA Ntech for alerting us!
NY Times logo

December 22, 1999

A Resurgence of Blacksmithing


To understand blacksmithing's current appeal, forget about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's village smithy under the spreading chestnut tree with his arms like iron bands. Instead, suggests Brian Gilbert, consider the lowly kitchen spatula. Everybody has one.

"I have one, too," Mr. Gilbert of Chattanooga, Tenn., wrote by e-mail, "except mine is handmade, and if you take the time to notice, has decorative touches that make it really nice to hold. It's a pretty piece, there's not another exactly like it anywhere else in the world, and I'm proud of it."

The web page of Lorelei Sims, artist blacksmith.
A revival of blacksmithing has given rise to a number of Web sites, such as
Mr. Gilbert is editor of The Hammer's Blow, one of two publications of Abana, the Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America, which was founded in 1973 in Lumpkin, Ga., by 20 blacksmiths attending a convention. Ten years later, membership was 2,250, and today, it is 4,500, with more than 300 joining each year, according to Abana's Web site, There are more than 50 Abana chapters, including chapters in Australia and New Zealand and some on university campuses where decorative arts and metalworking are taken seriously. On the site, one can subscribe to Abana's two newsletters, The Hammer's Blow, with many how-to hints, and The Anvil's Ring, which showcases new creations. There is also an on-line store.

Blacksmithing is most often associated with shoeing horses, an association not all blacksmiths care for, said Jim McCarty, who edits The Anvil's Ring. "I know many blacksmiths who would not like to admit this," Mr. McCarty of Taos, Mo., wrote by e-mail.

"They wear pins with a horseshoe covered by the 'Ghostbusters' symbol as a sign of disdain for the mere shoer of horses. The fact is had they not continued their trade, blacksmithing would have died."

Farriers, blacksmiths who specialize in shoeing horses, kept the old traditions alive, Mr. McCarty said. "The farrier saved blacksmithing," he wrote. "While the need for blacksmiths to make tools, repair farm equipment and forge household items ended around World War II, there has never been a time when the services of the farrier were no longer needed."

A second reason for the resurgence of blacksmithing, he wrote, was the efforts of the Sixties generation to rediscover lost arts.

And there were revered teachers like the late Francis Whitaker, who died in October at age 92 and whose contributions are outlined in a special page in Abana.

You are not going to learn blacksmithing without doing it in person, but the fraternity will be glad to give you plenty of on-line help. Blacksmithing has its own Web ring, and one of its sites,, has a How Do I Get Started in Blacksmithing page with many suggestions, including these: Sign up for a welding course at a local college or trade school. Buy a few books, recommended on-line. Join Abana. "Start to look for equipment and scraps of steel to experiment with or to build equipment. Be imaginative. Don't get stuck on setting up a classic 19th-century shop!" The site also posts basic information on hammers, tongs, forges and anvils, as well as how to buy out-of-print blacksmithing books.

An effort to keep alive the traditions of a trade that involves more than just shoeing horses.

The Blacksmith's Compendium, sponsored by the Celtic Knot, has an Frequently Asked Questions list of sorts, indexed from Abana ( Topics include anvils and anvil repairs, "blacksmith's elbow," chain mail, blade steels, Damascus steel and "Coal: A Brief Primer."

For a blacksmith's page for women, try "In many ways, women make better blacksmiths," Mr. Gilbert wrote, "since they often have less upper body strength. They cannot force the iron to move as easily as a large man could, so they work smarter, often with better hammer technique and control than the average male."

Perhaps the most enthusiastic and charming site is the Blacksmith's Virtual Junkyard (, the creation of Neil Winikoff, 79, of Bellevue, Wash., a former writer for industrial magazines and a blacksmithing devotee for 30 years. Interspersed with pictures of Cassius, his junkyard dog, and audio of appropriate rock songs are a joke page, how-to pages for beginning and advanced metalworkers, listings (you want to contact a smith in Sri Lanka?), a sketchbook page for drawings and ideas, and an on-line junkyard.

Blacksmithing sites are far removed from any guild-style secrecy. "The near loss of this art form isn't lost on today's smith, either," Mr. Gilbert wrote by way of explanation. "Some of the original founding members of Abana are still around. These 30 or so people realized that secrecy was death, and they freely shared all that they knew, and encouraged others to do the same."

Related Sites
These sites are not part of The New York Times on the Web, and The Times has no control over their content or availability.

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company
* The web page of Lorelei Sims, Artist Blacksmith

[ HOME ]   Page 1 (Vol 16)   Page 13 - Previous   Page 14  
| Anvilfire Home | Guru's Den | V. Hammer-In | Slack-Tub Pub | Power hammer Page |
| iForge | Touchmark Registry | What's New! | Links | Rate Card | Web Ring Nexus |
December 1st (24th) 99 Edition
Comments to: Jock Dempsey
Copyright © 1999 by Jock Dempsey
Page Counter