On Getting Started: How the Hell Do You Get Started? The "Easy" Way

Want to become a blacksmith?

If the answer is even a vague "Yes!", I have some good and bad news for you.

Historically, in order to become a smith you had to enter into an apprenticeship at a young age (more on this in the future). Essentially, you become an intern when you were a young kid and continue to work to pay off your "student loans" after you received a basic education. The bad news: those programs don't really exist these days. Truthfully, there are almost no definitive paths to take in the modern world to become a blacksmith. Some, and I mean few and far between, schools teach blacksmithing as part of a metalwork program. Even fewer, such as Southern Illinois University, actually have a degree program for it. In short, finding a organized program is tough and not likely to happen for the majority of interested people.

So with that disheartening bit of news aside - time for the good. Many studios offer specific classes to teach folks a particular skill set, or simply an introductory understanding, in blacksmithing. This means you will have to look up schedules to see when classes are offered, as many are only given a couple of times a year. It gets better, though! If you join ABANA (the Artist-Blacksmith's Association of America) you potentially have access to a wealth of knowledge.

Smiths are, typically, happy to teach other people what they know and give them a helping hand in acquiring or refining skills. There are numerous resources out there that offer a variety of how-to's and demonstrations. That said, smiths are hardworking people, especially those that do this professionally, and will not likely take on an apprentice or even a journeyman unless you can prove your desire to learn and an understanding of the skills necessary to do the job correctly. Basically, they don't want to waste your time or you to waste their time. Understanding that this is a highly-skilled production oriented profession, and a dangerous one at that, will go great lengths to opening doors into the shops of many smiths. There is a large community out there, and it may be intimidating to approach, but I have yet to meet a smith that wasn't excited at the idea of someone else trying to learn.

Take a look at ABANA's website, see if there are any schools or studios in your area that may be offering classes. If all else fails, you may be made aware of other smiths in your area that don't work in a school but may be willing to show you the ropes.

Good Luck!