How to become a Blacksmith. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Blacksmith do?
Blacksmiths shape and join metals like steel, iron, copper and bronze to make both decorative and practical items. They also sometimes restore antique ironwork.
As a blacksmith, you could specialise in either of the following:
- industrial work, making items such as specialist tools, fire escapes or security grills
- artistic work, such as decorative ironwork, gates, sculptures and furniture.
Depending on the type of blacksmithing you are involved in, your work could include:
- using traditional hand tools such as hammers and anvils
- using power tools, such as power hammers, drills, air chisels and hydraulic presses
- using engineering machinery such as centre lathes, millers, grinders and welding equipment
- working with various metals, including wrought iron, mild steel, brass, bronze and copper
- heating the metal to the right temperature so that it can be shaped
- joining it to another piece of metal if necessary, using various methods of welding and riveting
- ‘finishing’ metal for its intended use.
If you specialise in artistic work, you will usually be self-employed, so would also need to find markets for your work (for example by attending craft shows and fairs) and carry out the administrative tasks involved in running a business. You would either produce your own designs or create pieces to suit clients’ requirements (‘commissions’).
Some blacksmiths are trained and registered as farriers, and shoe horses alongside their blacksmithing work. See the Farrier profile for details.
You may work between 35 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday, although you would usually be self-employed or work in a small business, so would arrange your hours to suit your workload.
Forges vary in size from small sheds to large engineering workshops. You would need to wear protective clothing such as boots, apron, gloves, safety glasses or a visor, and ear defenders.
Your work would be physically demanding. Industrial blacksmithing in particular can involve lifting, although you would use power tools for the heavier work.
How much does a Blacksmith earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Salaries can start at between £16,000 and over £19,000 a year.
- Experienced blacksmiths can earn £27,000 or more.
However, earnings vary a great deal, as most blacksmiths are self-employed.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You can become a blacksmith in either of the following ways:
- learning the trade from an experienced blacksmith who is willing to offer on-the-job training
- completing a full-time college course.
If you want to train on the job, you will need to approach individual blacksmiths to see if they will take you on. You can find a directory of blacksmiths on the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths website.
- Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths – directory of blacksmiths
You may be able to train for industrial blacksmithing by doing an Apprenticeship in engineering, combining training for NVQs in Fabrication and Welding with working for a blacksmith or specialist company. The Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Alternatively, you can do full-time courses which concentrate either on traditional blacksmithing skills or on design. These include BTEC level 3 and higher national qualifications, foundation degrees and degrees. You can also do short and weekend courses with some training providers.
Visit the British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA) website for information on finding courses. Entry requirements can vary, so you should check with individual colleges and universities. For design-related courses you will usually need a portfolio of your design work.
- British Artist Blacksmiths Association
Training and Development
Once you are working as a blacksmith you can develop your skills and knowledge by doing short, special interest courses. These are run by blacksmithing schools, experienced blacksmiths and professional bodies. They include day, weekend and residential courses. Visit the BABA website for details.
You can also gain awards from the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, depending on your level of ability and achievement. Check the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths website for details.
Skills and Knowledge
- good hand-to-eye co-ordination
- good concentration, as much of the work is repetitive
- technical ability
- problem-solving skills
- motivation and self-discipline as you would often work alone
- business skills if you are self-employed
- creative and design skills if you want to specialise as an artist blacksmith.
You would usually be self-employed or work for a small family business. Demand for industrial blacksmithing is decreasing.
If you are self-employed you may need to have another job to supplement your income, especially in the early stages of your career.