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Traditional blackmsithing.

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I've been seeing a surge of blacksmiths selling they're work as traditional, which is great, but it begs the question; What is "traditional" blacksmithing?

I personally see blacksmiths as craftsmen and women who use what they have on hand to create something functional, beautiful, or both. Here's where it's tricky. People have been forging for almost as long as there have been people. So really, "traditional" would be hammer, fire, and anvil. Yes? So then 99% of people who forge today are doing it traditionally!

Now let's say that traditional blacksmithing is from 1840-1920. There were a LOT of advances in that 80 year period! Welders, non solid fuel forges, electricity become more redily available, power hammers in more styles then simple water powered trip hammers, and the list goes on. Wouldn't a blacksmith use these advances in his work? And many did. But limiting your work to hammer, anvil and fire then slapping traditional on it makes no sense.

Maybe I'm making no sense. Let me know if I'm not alone or just complaining.

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This is why "traditional" is practically useless as a description of blacksmithing -- unless you're talking about the tradition of constant innovation and of seeking technical and mechanical improvements to accomplish more in less time!

Personally, I'd be a lot happier with people describing themselves as "period blacksmiths", but only if they were really, really specific about what period (and what place) they were supposed to be emulating.

(I predict our resident medievalist will have much to say on this. Over to you, @ThomasPowers!)

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(already on it JHCC)

Traditional means you have at least 3 to 5 people in your shop working for the smith.  Having only 1 person doing all the work is *MODERN* *MODERN* *MODERN*!

Many people use traditional to mean no power tools ignoring the fact that having strikers to assist hammering and for other tasks goes back all the way to the beginning of smithing.  (You can see examples in the Shire Book "Egyptian Metalworking and Tools") The earliest power hammer I've seen good documentation on predates the year 1000, (Medieval Technology Conference, Penn State.)  So the powerhammer predates the use of coal in smithing for instance...

Or I guess you could use traditional to mean you only work with real wrought iron, the "traditional" material of the smith. Mild steel, a product of the Bessemer/Kelly process and then the open hearth, BOF, etc, dates to the mid 1850s for Bessemer and books written 35 years later were still talking about the "new" material and how it worked different from what they were used to. The Great Depression marked the common end of use wrought iron as it was more expensive to make...

Or you could mean you work only with charcoal as fuel as it has 2000+ years of being used for forging versus less than 1000 for using coal...

Or you use two single action bellows with a thrall to work them...

So in reality "working traditionally" really only tends to mean "I'm doing it right and everyone else is doing it wrong!"---There was a discussion once about "true path" blacksmithing to which a smith replied that he was a "twisted path" smith; and ever after I have used that term to refer to my work as well.

You can be a truly great smith and not need to have studied the history of the craft; but only how to use modern materials and techniques.  Far better to be that way than to mislead people making claims about how things were done that come from Hollywood, video games and fantasy books...

 

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25 minutes ago, JHCC said:

"period blacksmiths", but only if they were really, really specific about what period (and what place) they were supposed to be emulating.

I actually just hopped on today to start a topic on making viking period tools in a period authentic manner. I'm not sure if I will post today but, you never know^_^.

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Viking period materials, Viking period tools, Viking period techniques, Viking period designs?    GOOD!

I tend to default to the Hylestad stave church set up nowadays as my knees don't support working on the ground anymore.  (Easier to get a bellows thrall that way too.) Remote Norse farms are also the exception to the rule that smiths would trade for their iron; so you can get away with smelting your own wrought iron in a bloomery!

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Without digging deeper I find I'm not really too far off regarding what "tradition" means, it's basically long established and remembered information. Before the written word knowledge was passed down via word of mouth, example and hands on instruction. The master apprentice system in one form or another. 

The teacher student relationship changes from teacher to student and so on, nobody's memory or experiences are perfect or permanent.  This ain't so good, it evolves pretty quickly. Tradition?

So how do humans pass unchanging knowledge? Memorized stories, song and dance come to  mind. The Viking Skalds (?) remain pretty unchanged since they were first inscribed and supposedly predate runes considerably. The Norse still recite, sing perform(?) them as far as can be told unchanged. There are Tlinget dances and stories that date from before the last Ice age. Because they're dances, everything has to be done just so or the student dancers do it again till it's right.

So, "traditional" is a subjective adjective. "It's traditional because that's how I learned from Joe Bloe." "It's the way it's done here." And across the street, "That's how THEY do it, we do it THIS way." 

Tradition is a way of doing things that became established because it works. Not because it's best it just outlasted other ways.

Of course that's just how I read the term, usage and definitions. I learned my vocabulary mostly from context as a kid only going to the dictionary if contexts don't jibe or I need a word. It works it's traditionally Frosty because I SAY SO.

Traditional is too fluid a word to get upset because someone else interprets it differently because they're probably right. As are YOU and I and that stuffy old codger who hasn't had an original thought since he discovered beer.

Fun to think about though.

Frosty The Lucky.

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7 hours ago, JHCC said:

This is why "traditional" is practically useless as a description of blacksmithing -- unless you're talking about the tradition of constant innovation and of seeking technical and mechanical improvements to accomplish more in less time!

This is exactly my point. Traditional for a blacksmith is using what's on hand to do the task at hand.

@ThomasPowers yes, a lot of what I see is folks using a forge, anvil, hammer etc, then when they drill holes they use a post drill instead of an electrice drill press and now they are super skilled traditional blacksmith expert. Argh, people.

And if you're going to do it period correct, count me in! One question, is my large attic fan from 1765?

@Frosty exactly blacksmithing isn't something that can be said "this is how it is done and this way only", because everyone has different materials, styles, technology, and preferences!

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7 hours ago, Kaleb said:

I actually just hopped on today to start a topic on making viking period tools in a period authentic manner. I'm not sure if I will post today but, you never know^_^.

Rowan Taylor on YouTube does a little bit of that.  He just tried to recreate the Sutton Hoo chain and it was amazing.  He's very talented.  He also made an Anglo Saxon anvil and then used it for his next project.

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Around here, the deffinition is more-or-less agreed: "modern" blacksmithing" is the use of tools such as arc welders, angle grinders, mills and torches. And women may be allowed (up to reasonable limits, obviously)

Of course there is a gray area, and you can argue about power hammers and such. I think the main idea is the use of principal technology that was not available to the blacksmith of old times.

That is not to say you can't have modern features integrated in traditional blacksmithing. Your hammer may be CNC manufactured and not forged by your own hands, because it's still a hammer, and a tool of the same technology. My opinion is that gas forge is also legitimate. True that it wasn't available in the past, but it does the same thing as coal forge, just with more comfort. The work proccess itself is the same.

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My wife says that I am seldom romantic, usually semantic, and always pedantic, so here goes nuthin':

I think some of us are confusing 'traditional' with 'place specific and period correct'.

Traditional may mean the way that the craft was taught, and the methods used to manipulate the metal, usually in your specific area. Thumb on top vs thumb alongside, for example. (Pulls pin, throws and ducks for cover.)  :rolleyes: 

Or it may mean a family tradition, which becomes a legacy, if not a dynasty. Daniel Boone was a blacksmith, Dan Boone is a blacksmith, with an unbroken lineage of smiths going back at least 250 years. Another Blue Ridge traditional lineage of smiths is the Kayne family.

America, Australia, and other expansionist colonies turned countries, never had sufficient time or a monolithic culture to develop traditional methods. They had a polyglot populace of immigrants in an unending stream, and an expanding frontier, AND technological advancement all happening at once. Every generation or so was doing something different in the blacksmith shop, even if the shop was on the same site.

Wrought iron was replaced by the homogeneous steels, teams of strikers were replaced by an evolutionary line of power hammers, horseshoeing by auto repairs, etc.

So, if you ask me to portray a smith on a prosperous 2000 acre antebellum cotton plantation 5 miles from the US Mint in a gold boom town in 1836, you get a charcoal fire and fine home accents being produced on a chunky English anvil by a guy in pocketless pants held up by bracers with a pullover shirt.

If I am portraying the smith at the same smithy in the Great Depression of 1936, you get sharecropper neighbor's farm repairs and mule shoes for cash or trade on an 8 acre home site. "Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash" the crumbling mansion. Done with a coal fire and a sleeker London pattern anvil, by a guy in brogans, worn overalls and a button up shirt.

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Well, you know, ... they're just words .....

And as such, ... they mean whatever the user intends them to mean.

 

I know this doesn't help define the term "Traditional", ... but then, who's to say I'm here to help ?  :P

 

.

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1 hour ago, SmoothBore said:

Well, you know, ... they're just words .....

And as such, ... they mean whatever the user intends them to mean.

Not necessarily. The essence of a word is to be the vehicle of meaning, and if it fails to convey what the person using it means to the person hearing or reading it, it has failed its essential function. Therefore, words represent not simply what the user intends them to mean, but what the community of users of that word agree that they mean.

A big part of that agreement is the past history of that word, the inheritance of how it has been used previously. Certainly, words can change meaning over time, but that inheritance carries significant weight, especially for words that have been used consistently for centuries. Studying that history can help one understand both how a word was used in the past and (perhaps more importantly) if it will adequately convey what one means to express in the present.

1 hour ago, SmoothBore said:

I know this doesn't help define the term "Traditional", ... but then, who's to say I'm here to help ?  :P

I wouldn't dream of suggesting such a thing!

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No, ... I don't buy that.

In political discussions, I often refer to members of our Congress as "honorable gentlemen".

As we all know, the majority of that group are neither honorable, nor are they gentlemen.

I use that traditional term, because I find it ironic.

And that irony accurately conveys my meaning.

Thus, ... words mean whatever the user wants them to mean.  :rolleyes:

.

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40 minutes ago, SmoothBore said:

No, ... I don't buy that.

In political discussions, I often refer to members of our Congress as "honorable gentlemen".

As we all know, the majority of that group are neither honorable, nor are they gentlemen.

I use that traditional term, because I find it ironic.

And that irony accurately conveys my meaning.

Thus, ... words mean whatever the user wants them to mean.  :rolleyes:

.

You know that last sentence sounds just like a politician, telling a constituency, s/he just insulted implying they're too stupid to see the obvious that, "it isn't HIS fault if THEY didn't understand what he meant."

How words are taken is what gives them meaning. Of course there is such a thing as honesty in using as well as "taking" the meaning of words.

That politicians play meanings like they do falls under my definition of the best way to lie. Tell the truth in a way that won't be believed. The irony politicians appreciate when they call each other honorable is the joke on people so foolish as to hire them to run things.

Not that we don't agree SmoothBore, I just inflect "honorable gentlemen" in such a way my scorn and derision for their ilk is plain as a fart in a phone booth. :P

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Through the Looking-Glass.

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1 hour ago, SmoothBore said:

No, ... I don't buy that.

In political discussions, I often refer to members of our Congress as "honorable gentlemen".

As we all know, the majority of that group are neither honorable, nor are they gentlemen.

I use that traditional term, because I find it ironic.

And that irony accurately conveys my meaning.

Thus, ... words mean whatever the user wants them to mean.  :rolleyes:

.

Not at all. Your example only works if there is a shared understanding of what "honorable" and "gentleman" both mean individually, how the expression "honorable gentleman" is used in political discourse, and how irony can be used to convey the precisely the opposite of words' literal meaning. 

If I were to say "honorable gentleman" and wanted those words to mean "heat to critical and cool slowly in vermiculite" -- well, it wouldn't matter what I wanted those words to mean: no-one would understand. 

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35 minutes ago, ThomasPowers said:

Except your students who you taught that meaning to.

To whom. 

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14 minutes ago, JHCC said:

To whom. 

That's not how he meant it, John. <sigh>

Frosty The Lucky.

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OK but I sometimes see a situation where the listener choses to interprete a word in a way the listener knows the speaker did not intend. Who is then right?

"Traditional" is one of those words that need a context. It means belonging to a certain tradition. Without that tradition being specified, it can mean anything. To me, traditional blacksmiting means using hammer, anvil and a solid fuel forge. However, to me, it also means that the products have a style that goes back a couple of hundred years or more - even if a grinder has been used instead of a hacksaw instead of a hardy.

Some people frown on reproduction furniture and other paraphernalia. I think they are wrong. There are designs that are (very) old but still very good.

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This discussion (and I'm not complaining) has become a seminar on Ludwig Wittgenstein's "On Words".  I'm having a flashback to my senior year in college.  

"For a large class of cases--though not for all--in which we employ the word "meaning" it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language"

   Understand that at the root of his argument was the fundamental understanding that language is limiting and can Ben a barrier to communication and higher understanding.

 

Every word has boundless meaning because it is altered by the life experience of each user.  We either have to celebrate the uniqueness of our experiences and world views or bemoan the reality that we can never really understand each other.....or both.

 

Lou

 

 

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4 hours ago, gote said:

OK but I sometimes see a situation where the listener choses to interprete a word in a way the listener knows the speaker did not intend.

This quote makes my point.

Choosing to misunderstand, ... can only happen, if the word has first successfully communicated to you, it's intended meaning.

Quote

"Traditional" is one of those words that need a context. It means belonging to a certain tradition. Without that tradition being specified, it can mean anything.

Concur.

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44 minutes ago, SmoothBore said:

 

Choosing to misunderstand, ... can only happen, if the word has first successfully communicated to you, it's intended meaning.

 

Absolutely! You are so right!  However I was thinking of something that here is called "tolkningsföreträde" (prerogative to interprete). The question is: Has the speaker or the listener right to decide what has been meant? It is sometimes used in discussions. A says something whereupon B deliberately misinterpretes and calls A a moron/raceist/pig or whatever. In my view only the speaker can know what is meant and the listener cannot take over this right although especially politicians often do.

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3 hours ago, SmoothBore said:

Choosing to misunderstand, ... can only happen, if the word has first successfully communicated to you, it's intended meaning.

Which is only possible if there is substantial agreement on what the standard meaning of the word is, which is not something the person using it gets to decide.

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Words that are loaded enough to be used in this way usually has several meanings. Of course some meanings are more common than others but since we are talking about spoken languages mot programming languages all meanings can be valid in certain contexts. The speaker really has the right to choose. What would happen to literature if the author must chose his words after a standard. 1984 is long past but the era may still be in front of us.

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