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Joel OF

Best country in the world to be a blacksmith?

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Just a hypothetical question...I'm curious which country people think is the best in the world to be a blacksmith? Qualify your opinion however you see fit.

 

To spark some opinions maybe factors like apprenticeships, government funding, availability of tools, heritage, etc may play a part in your thinking...

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Tough question, as each of us in our particular country do not know what is available in other countries. 

 

My opinion, of course I am prejudiced to the good ol' USA.  Lots of new and old tooling available, great interstates to move man and materials,  lots of history of the field(for at least the last 250 years), and a great community that freely shares their time and knowledge.

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The UK seems to have higher numbers of available tooling and perhaps more of a general appreciation of the craft among the buying public.  Germany might also rank near the top based on the same line of reasoning.

 

However, I'm also prejudiced to our own USA so the above comments are certainly not a criticism.

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Well I am not prejudiced.  It is quite clearly better to be a blacksmith in any number of European countries than in the U.S.  That is because there is a LOT more antique iron work and really old buildings that need blacksmiths to maintain and restore them.  Jim Austen, a well know Bay Area blacksmith actually went through a formal apprentice program in Germany.  Not much of that going on in the U.S.  Europeans know the difference between actual quality hot work and the cold formed security work most Americans think of as "ironwork".  

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Most small crafters in the SA are only 1 major medical issue from bankruptcy; so I'd have to throw in "someplace with socialized medicine".

 

USA has more "looseness" than Germany making it easier to set up a shop----just my scrap pile would get me shut down *fast* the places in Germany I have visited.

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I think the Europeans view ironwork (forged or not) as a legitimate trade worthy of the same respect an electrician or plumber gets.  Here it is often perceived as a quaint thing to see at craft shows and folk festivals.

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In the US they would have already pulled down the pubb and built a stripmall (that would now be defunct and be only a third full of cheesy little shops, the castle would still be standing (more or less) because it's to much work to tear down. Easyer to pave over farm land.

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For day-to-day drudge work, I'd say that most third-world countries would be dandy because they still used blacksmiths to craft all sorts of tools.  The pay and living conditions, however, are somewhat lacking.

 

Europe, to include the UK, must certainly be very nice because they have so much historical familiarity with the craft and there are still tons of relatively affordable anvils and other kit to be found.  Some of the anvils I've seen on the web are ridiculously cheap compared to what they'd cost over here.

 

In the US and Canada, the blacksmith has been relegated to either a quaint kitsch-maker found at small fairs, or a professional shop able to turn out big pieces for wealthy estates.  The general lack of antique ironwork in most locales means there's nothing that needs repair and maintenance.  And the appreciation for the craft isn't so great that we see fancy subdivisions around the country supporting the local smiths with their need for gates, burglar bars, and furniture.  Heck, I live just a few miles from a dozen different golf-course communities that are big money, but you don't see any decorative ironwork on the McMansions unless you count the mass-produced machine-bent scrolls tack welded in to the mass-produced fencing.

 

All told, I wouldn't want to live or work anywhere else.

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Andorra for sure, small little place with iron ore, pine(for charcoal), and is seated between Spain and France so there should be plenty of history and clients on either side. Plus it's beautiful. Hopefully I can take my wife and kid there on vacation. :)

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Interesting question because it's got several avenues of thinking. One country may have standing ironwork that's centries old.  In contrast, it's not like they've hired out a lot of work since then.

 

Available apprenticeships sound impressive until you realize that between that and Master is "Journeyman".  Many trades consider it necessary to apply learned skill in different areas to diversify your experience before earning the title of Master.

 

It could be argued that a developing/ rural area would be better to learn blacksmithing pertaining to agricultural pursuits, whereas working in a historically intact area might be better for learning restoration of various architectural elements.

 

Working towards sales in craft fairs or art show commissions is an entirely different discipline.

 

Without that "journey" it's hard to claim it's really possible to know the answer on an individual level. I know that I learned a great deal by applying my skills far from home.  Being a stranger in a foreign land teaches much about what we all have in common.

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Unless we have walked a Hundred miles in the shoes of a Blacksmith in every Country in the world I doubt any of us are qualified to make an intelligent judgment.  I personally will stay put for my remaining time swinging a hammer. 

 

Grass is always greener somewhere else esp. when it is December in Vermont.  

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Japan. Their apprenticeships for different trades are very rigorous and the best swordsmiths are national treasures.

The country seems to embrace the old world and integrate it into their lives a little more readily than other countries.

Haven't ever been a smith there, but the information about it is available.

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I think that most of us neglect to include the middle east as a part of the world where metal smithing is still an 'everyday' job.


In Cairo you can go around to the back of the Kahn Al Khalil market and find about 20 small workshops all hand producing some metal product, hand forged chains(from reused nails) to large brass chandeliers with all the holes hand drilled and cut with a fret saw. The same can be said of villages in Syria, Kuwait and India.

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Any country is the best - A lot of people think that just by going to another country - you will see a whole different world or a better world, yes per say you will but it's just another place (better or not) as your own with some differences. I have been fortunate to travel to Australia and meet many of the Australian smiths that frequent this site. While there, I never felt any different than the feeling I have here in the USA with friends...doesn't get better than that, - While forging I am at peace. Forging with people you've conversed with over 10 years over the net here on IFI (I'm talking the Australians and Brits that were there when I was) is better than one can say in words. As has been shown - the smithing tools can be extremely simple in design or very extravagant as in the latest and greatest innovations. If I can smith anywhere, any country - I will be having a great time. I just wish I could travel more. The process is the same no matter where you are - fuel sources is about the only thing that is the limit. Any country you are in and have access to forging capabilities is in my mind is Great! No matter where you are at - forge away when you can and consider it a luxury to that availability.

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The best country in the world to be a blacksmith is the one where you can get all the fuels you want, all the steels you think you want, all the tools you need, and can pretty much do whatever you want.  It helps if you already live there and have a shop set up.   For me, that's where i am.........I know I'm biased, but do you realize how much work. etc. it is to move to a different country and get set up all over again???   Just sayin'.......

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The best country in the world to be a blacksmith is the one where you can get all the fuels you want, all the steels you think you want, all the tools you need, and can pretty much do whatever you want.  It helps if you already live there and have a shop set up.   For me, that's where i am.........I know I'm biased, but do you realize how much work. etc. it is to move to a different country and get set up all over again???   Just sayin'.......

This guy managed to do it.

 

http://gstongs.com/

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yes, and if only we all were as skilled/talented/brave/lucky???  But thanks for the link, forgot about that Glen

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The best country in the world to be a blacksmith is the one where you can get all the fuels you want, all the steels you think you want, all the tools you need, and can pretty much do whatever you want.  It helps if you already live there and have a shop set up. Just sayin'.......


Yep, that about sums it up.
Today I drove out bush and found a massive bloodwood tree down in the recent bushfires. Collected eight bags of good quality charcoal in about 15 mins. Had a look around the scrap pile and found some useful steel to make another sculpture. Lit the forge and hammered away with with no neighbours to complain about noise or smoke.
What more does a bloke need? Australia will do me.

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As far as historical Europe would be number one. As far raw material goes I would think the USA would be the best. But remember best is what you make of it. You can have iron work made in the 10th century but if you do not strive to make it as well as the day it was made. Then what do you have

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It would be country that need tools to work on  agriculture  so i would say some country that dont have too much mechanistation and all job is done by animals and humans, If you have horse,it need horseshoe than blacksmith is need for that, than if you have a woodworkers or lumberjacks they will need blacksmtih so ,blacksmith can take care of axe or make drawknife etc.

Than for agriculture i saw in Bosnia that nowdays  it still  populated to bring plough for potato, there are some left plough that is powerd by tractor but it is navigated by human. And some of agricutural tools are bringed to blacksmith to fix it. In past blacksmith would have to make ring for carrige  wheel now it is not that case. It have blacksmithing but that trade is dying here to casue off moderation fof tools and stuffs like hand plane are moderated to electric planer like hand powered grinder is now electric angle grinder everything is done by shortcut. That's why old trades are dying,

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This has been a very interesting read so far. 

 

As pointed out it would be very difficult to make a fair judgement as most of us are stuck in our country of origin. 

 

I guess you could argue that every country has it's unique pros and cons. 

 

The UK for the relatively cheap start up cost? The US for the abundance of availability of new tools from modern manufacturers? Mainland Europe for the quality of available tools and the more traditional view and appreciation of blacksmithing as a whole? 

 

 

I'd love to have easy access to some of the materials available in the USA, but on the other hand the amount of money I have so far spent over the course of 6-7 years of smithing - would barely buy me an anvil the same quality as the one I've got. 

 

I'd love to travel to Germany and France to see how things are done over there as well as third world countries to see what is being achieved with relatively basic tools. 

 

Andy

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