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The blacksmith forge at Heritage Farm is a functional replica of a forge from the mid-1800s. An artisan blacksmith works here several days a week creating knives and other pieces for demonstration. Blacksmithing was one of the most important jobs in early Appalachia. People depended on the blacksmith to make or repair farming tools, horseshoes, wagon rims, nails, and other products that could not be made at home. Blacksmithing requires using extremely hot fires to make pieces of metal soft and bendable; this metal can then be shaped to make different items.
Backstory and Context
A typical forge consists of a furnace, which produced a hot fire; a bellow, to blow air onto the flames and make it hotter; tongs to hold and move the metal pieces; and an anvil, a large metal block where the metal pieces were placed while being shaped. Furnaces burned extremely hot, up to 2000 or 3000˚F; pieces of metal placed in a furnace grew so hot that they became soft and easy to shape. Blacksmiths then used tools to hammer, bend, or twist heated metal into different shapes. As it cooled, the metal would become hard again.
Blacksmithing was a very dangerous job, but it was an essential one. Every community needed to have a blacksmith forge. The average person did not have the knowledge or resources necessary to create their own metal tools. People therefore relied on a skilled blacksmith to make or repair almost any metal things that they needed. This included nails and screws; axes and hammers; plows, and shovels; barrel and wagon rims; and horseshoes. Blacksmiths and the tools that they created were critical for helping construction, transportation, and farming.
“Blacksmith.” Colonial Williamsburg. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.history.org/almanack/life/trades/tradebla.cfm
“Blacksmith.” Encyclopedia Britannica. August 9, 2018. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/blacksmith.
“The History of Blacksmithing.” Forge Magazine. March 15, 2017. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.forgemag.com/articles/84597-the-history-of-blacksmithing.
“History of Blacksmithing.” Oldfield Forge. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.oldfieldforge.co.uk/history-of-blacksmithing/.
Kauffman, Henry J. “The Tools and Trade Techniques of the Blacksmith.” Medieval Technology and American History – Pennsylvania State University. Accessed November 7, 2019. https://www.engr.psu.edu/mtah/articles/techniques_blacksmith.htm
Images courtesy of Heritage Farm Museum & Village.