A trade with a rich tradition
A blacksmith is someone who can forge objects out of "black metals" like iron or steel. The metal is heated (using a furnace or tools like a blowtorch) until it is red-hot and malleable. Then, tools (usually a hammer and anvil) are used to shape the metal. Blacksmiths make products like tools, gates, railings, grills, light fixtures, table frames, kitchen utensils and weapons. Some blacksmiths, known as farriers, specialize in making shoes for horses.
Many of the finer nuances of blacksmithing are best learned under the tutelage of a master artisan, so finding an apprenticeship program should be top priority for anyone interested in becoming a blacksmith.
There are many trade schools that offer courses in metalworking. These can serve as a great supplement to the information learned within the master-apprentice relationship. College courses can also help experienced blacksmiths upgrade their skills and learn to use new technology.
In the years before the industrial revolution, it was common for there to be a blacksmith or "smithy" in ever village, town and city. The advent of mass production has, for the most part, rendered the blacksmith obsolete in the Western world.
However, a recent revival in interest in custom metalwork has allowed for a small resurgence in the industry. Items like custom iron gates and light fixtures have become "must haves" for trendy homeowners. In addition to this, steel swords and other metal weapons are popular among collectors. Skilled blacksmiths can earn a very reasonable living producing such items.
As we look to the future of blacksmithing, it seems as if the production of ornamental items, as well as forging stainless steel for architectural purposes, will account for the vast majority of blacksmith work.