How Much Do You Know About Blacksmithing?

Ian Fortey

What exactly is "pig iron"?

Pig iron comes out of smelting or blast furnace. It's a crude, brittle high-carbon form on iron and the name comes from the fact that when it's poured into sand molds, it looks a bit like a little pig.

Do you know what "slag" refers to in blacksmithing terms?

Slag is the unwanted byproduct of smelting and is sometimes called "dross" or "tailings."

What does it mean to quench something?

Quenching metal involves cooling it down after it's been heated. Quenching can involve several different liquids from water to oils, and the purpose is generally to make the finished product harder.

How do you anneal metal?

Annealed metal is heated to not quite melting then allowed to cool naturally. It makes the metal softer and much more easy to work with and removes stresses.

What exactly is a blast furnace?

A blast furnace raises the temperature by allowing compressed air to blast through the bottom. These furnaces are remarkably old and date back to the first century BC.

If you need to bust out the arbor press, what kind of job might you be doing?

An arbor press is a hand-operated press that's pretty small and can be used for tasks like riveting as well as staking or pressing pins into holes.

Where would you go looking if you wanted to find a Pritchel Hole?

A Pritchel hole is the rounded hole on the top of an anvil that can be used with a Pritchel, a kind of punch, to punch holes in metal, like a horseshoe.

Fish and lizards have scales, but what does scale mean in blacksmithing terms?

Scale is the oxide coating that forms when steel is heated. It's black and flaky and will come off pretty easily as the steel is hammered.

There are a lot of different kinds of iron out there. What is wrought iron?

Unlike cast iron, which has a high carbon content, wrought iron is low carbon and is usually best used for rolling rather than casting. This is why you see so much fence work made from wrought iron and not many pans.

A hardie hole has a kind of silly name, but what is it?

The hardie hole is the name of the square hole found on top of an anvil. It's used for tooling, punching square-shaped holes and such inside the metal you may be working on.

What does a blacksmith need flux for?

Flux is any compound that you put on the metal to keep oxygen from getting to it, which in turn stops it from oxidizing. You can buy fancy flux compounds to do this or even use something simple like charcoal or borax.

What exactly is a crucible and why do you need one?

A crucible is a container that holds metal as it melts. Back in the day, these were simple clay pots. As time went on they, of course, became a little more complex. Essentially all it needs to be is something that can withstand the heat.

What do you do if you're a farrier?

A farrier is a smith that works with horses. Farriers make horseshoes and fir them to the horses and will also care for the horse's feet by trimming and balancing their hooves.

What the heck does cold-forging refer to?

Cold forging is sometimes called room-temperature forging, mostly because it doesn't involve adding any heat. How does that work? Rather than shaping by melting and manipulating, extremely powerful tools are used to just bend and shape the metal.

What does it mean if someone is a brightsmith?

A brightsmith chiefly works with bright metals. While a tinsmith works with tin and a silversmith with silver, a brightsmith will use any bright metals to make jewelry, cookware or whatever lends itself to that kind of material.

What is someone talking about if they refer to a "Catalan Forge"?

The Catalan Forge was invented in the 8th century in Catalonia, Spain. Also called a "bloomery" it forced air into the bottom of the furnace to heat the fuel and was essentially a rudimentary version of a modern blast furnace.

In 1855, Henry Bessemer patented a process for the mass production of steel that removed impurities by oxidizing them with air. What was it called?

The Bessemer Process was the first inexpensive process to mass produce steel from molten pig iron. Air blown through the molten iron would remove impurities and you'd end up with a fairly decent quality product when it was all said and done.

What do you call it when you force metal through a hole in a die to make it smaller?

Swaging is what you call it when you hammer a section of metal into a hole and force it through to make it smaller or maybe reshape it from round to square.

What is the term for a person who makes bells?

A bellfounder is what you call someone who makes bells in a foundry. It's an art form that dates back to at least 2000 BC and is separate from normal blacksmithing as the process of creating a bell that produces the proper sound and is also strong takes a bit of skill.

There's a special name for a smith that bends and joins metal to form angular shapes. What is it?

It may not be the most clever name ever, but an anglesmith is what you call a smith who specifically bends and joins metal at angles.

Any anvil has a round, tapered section. What's it called?

Sometimes called a beak or a horn, the bick of an anvil is the section that looks a bit like a cone. It's used for shaping and hammering curved pieces.

Impurities from the fuel can gather at the bottom of a fire and block the air as well as stick to your metal. What's that stuff called?

Clinker is the catchall name for all the junk that can form near where the air is blown into the forge. Slag, charcoal, coke and other junk forms in the forge. It can be recycled for use in things like paving footpaths.

What is the name for a smith who specializes in making parts for guns?

An armorer may also repair guns but a gunsmith repairs, creates and modifies firearms, making them a much more in-depth kind of a smith.

What do you call a machine that can hammer metal into 3D shapes?

A forging press is often a massive, hydraulic machine that will bend and shape metal into fairly complex shapes that would be extremely hard to create by hand.

This term is what you use to describe when you use a press to punch a piece of metal out of a larger piece. What is it?

Blanking is what you call using a machine press to punch out a piece of the metal you're working with. The punched out piece, usually made in a specific shape like a circle, is called a blank.

This term refers to a widely used grade of stainless steel that contains high levels of chromium and nickel but low levels of carbon. What is it?

Austenitic steel is non-magnetic and forged with high chromium and nickel to produce very shiny steel that is resistant to corrosion. This is pretty much the most popular kind of stainless steel on the market.

What is the name for the measurement used to determine the hardness of metal?

Brinell Hardness is the name given for the measurement of metal's hardness as determined by a specific process. A steel ball will be pressed into the metal at a specific pressure and the dent it makes is measured to determine the Brinell Hardness Number.

If iron is not the main alloy in your metal, what term can be used to describe it?

Ferrous metal refers to metals mostly made from iron while non-ferrous metals are those that are not chiefly made up of iron. On the periodic table, "Fe" is the symbol for iron as it comes from the Latin word for iron which is "Ferrum."

What's the term used in blacksmithing to describe a person who makes wrought iron by melting pig iron and then working out the impurities?

Puddlers worked pig iron into wrought iron in a process that was actually very dangerous. Because they were working the iron in a reverberatory furnace, the heat and toxic fumes would often greatly lower a puddler's life expectancy.

This was the term to describe a traveling smith who usually worked with tin and would go from town to town mending things like pots.

Tinkers were not full blacksmiths, making things like weapons or wrought iron, but they could work with tin and do simple repairs for everyday people, especially out in rural areas where there may not have been a smith handy.

What is the name for the cleaning process in which a liquid is used to blast abrasive steel balls against the surface of the metal?

Shot blasting is very similar to sandblasting only the process obviously doesn't use sand. Instead, balls of abrasive steel are forced against the metal surface to clean and polish it.

What was the name of the person whose job it was to maintain the furnace fires by feeding them coal or wood?

If your job was to stoke the fires, you were a stoker. These workers were sometimes called firemen or furnacemen, and their job could have even been on a steamship or any other place that required the use of a large furnace.

What's the name for the process of heating and cooling metal by quenching to make the metal stronger?

Tempering is the process of making metal stronger. When iron is heated and then cooled down, the hardness of the metal increases, making a stronger finished product. You can also temper chocolate to make it smooth and shiny, too.

What do you call the process of heating up a metal filler between two other pieces of metal until that filler melts and then bonds the two pieces together?

Soldering is a pretty common method of bonding metal where a soft metal filler called solder is heated until it's molten hot and then melts between two pieces of metal, bonding them together. There are various kinds of solder that offer different strengths, but some like brazing require much higher temperatures.

There's a term used to describe the seven elemental metals of gold, iron, copper, silver, lead, tin and mercury. What is it?

The seven metals of antiquity were the oldest metals that humans identified and made use of, as far as anyone can tell. Products made from these metals date back to prehistory and serve as examples of the earliest acts of blacksmithing.

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About This Quiz

The history of blacksmithing is a bit of a mysterious thing with some gaps in the story we can only guess at. It's generally believed that the Hittite people were the first blacksmith who developed the skill to forge iron. Before that, humans long had the ability to smith other metals like copper and gold. Alloys like bronze had been produced but all of those metals were much softer and more malleable than iron. There's a reason that we refer to the period in history when ironworking came into fashion as the Iron Age. Iron really did change the world.

The first examples of blacksmithing are literally thousands of years old. A dagger found in Egypt, thought to be Hittite, is one of the first pieces of ironwork known to history, and you better believe when iron showed up to compete with weapons made of bronze, it made a huge difference.  The practice expanded dramatically and lead to all kinds of innovations which we're still enjoying today. We wouldn't have skyscrapers and car engines without the skills blacksmiths brought to the table over the generations. If you think you know some blacksmithing, why not give our quiz a try? The worst thing that happens is you toss it back in the furnace and try it again.

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