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What is Blacksmithing?
Blacksmithing is the art of shaping heated iron and steel with hand tools such as hammers or with forging machines.
A Blacksmith is the person who does this work either by hand or with help of machines. "Black" comes from the color of the metal after being heated and cooled. "Smith" comes from the word, "smite" or "to strike". Therefore the blacksmith is one who strikes black metal.
Blacksmithing dates from the earliest iron age, which started about 1500 BC or earlier in Central Asia. Many of the tools and techniques date from the earlier times of the bronze age going back over 5,000 years.
The metal worked by the blacksmith is either the old ductile wrought iron or the modern steel. Wrought iron is the product of early iron furnaces called bloomeries. Wrought iron has no carbon and cannot be hardened. It is no longer manufactured but old scrap wrought is sought out by blacksmiths and recycled.
Steel is iron with a small amount of carbon (0.1 to 1.5%) that makes it hardenable. Early steel was an expensive product made in small quantities. Modern low carbon steel has largely replaced Wrought Iron. Modern steel has been available in bulk since the invention of the Bessemer process in the 1860's.
Cast iron is iron with 2 to 3 percent carbon or more. It is brittle and can only be shaped by casting in a mold or by carving or machining (making chips). Cast iron has many uses because it is inexpensive to produce items from it. Cast iron is also better for things like the body of machine tools or engine blocks because it is stiff and is vibration dampening. Cast Iron is not forged and so is not a product of the blacksmith.