HOW IT’S MADE
To start to understand the life of a blacksmith one has to start to understand the process to which he or she dedicates their life, the fundamental practice that they work at on a daily basis.
FORGING – “to shape metal by heating in a furnace and hammering.”
This is the very heart of the blacksmiths art – to take the steel to the correct temperature in the forge, place it on the anvil and to strike repeatedly until the metal has cooled and then returned to the fire for more heat. Heat, strike, repeat! A smith can spend many hours at a time, or even days and weeks, repeatedly heating and striking until the desired shape is reached.
Temperature and hammering technique are, in my opinion, the two most fundamental skills to that anyone will need to lean to be able to progress in the smithy.
Of these two temperature is probably the most crucial thing to master and for this the smith gauges by colour, not with a thermometer but by eye (and plenty of experience!). Steel starts to become soft (or plasticized) at around 650°C (dark red) but is not truly ready to forge until it is 850°C (bright orange) and is ideally forged at 1000°C (bright yellow) for the most efficient results. Yes it is possible to forge steel at low temperatures (unless it is high carbon) but the difference in 150°C to its plasticity is huge. However over heating the steel will result in it burning and becoming useless – this happens at around 1250°C. So reaching the right heat for a particular operation is crucial and considering that the smith might strike 20-30,000 times a day something they want to get this right!