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In many of the questions I've asked and read, venerable smiths have answered questions with facts/statistics that aren't found anywhere else on the internet (at least as far as I've found). My question is how these smiths came to find these oft quoted facts, especially that relating to blacksmithing in the past. Many smiths talk about how blacksmiths would work historically, but I've seen little to no facts online about it. How do they find thee things out? Is it books? Other smiths? Something else? I'm very interested in history, so I'd quite like to know of any sources I could use to learn about blacksmithing in the past. Any help is appreciated, and recommendations especially so. Thanks!

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Mr. Steven511,

Blacksmithing was around long before the internet and computers.

Some good sources for information, are books, magazine articles, scientific literature,  and archeological reports. etc. etc.

And then there is Mr. Thomas Powers,  an I.F.I. stalwart who posts regularly here. 

He is knowledgeable and probably could add many more sources to the ones I mentioned above. 

There are at least hundreds of different blacksmith books. Some very good, relevant books are a hundred years old and older.

(I have collected half a wall full, & it barely scratches the surface of what is available).


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With members from over 150 world wide countries, the resource of information on IForgeIron is tremendous. The membership has other interests which only adds to the knowledge base.

The information base that has been written down in books is huge. You just need to find the right book, or read many books, to start uncovering information. The internet is a wonderful resource but you MUST learn how to search for information. You type in a search string, read what is suggested, then redefine your search string or questions.  Each new search gets you closer to the answer, and opens new information to explore. It is an ongoing challenge.

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How far do you want to go back??? What Areas of the craft???

"Practical Blacksmithing" Richardson, easily found, published 1889, 1890 and 1891

Diderot's Encyclopedia 1751-1766

Moxon's "Mechanicks Exercises" was published in 1703

Agricola's  De Re Metallica, mid 16th century  (Dover)

Biringuccio's Pirotechnia which predated it slightly but doesn't have the tremendous woodcuts of DRM  (Dover)

"Divers Arts" Theophilus, written around 1120 in a Dover edition translated by C.S.Smith

A lot of these are not focused on smithing but contain a log of good information on how it was done at the time(s)

Sources for the History of the Science of Steel" Modern published by excerpts in translation going back to 1532

"Egyptian Metalworking and Tools" Shire pub.

"The Mastery and Uses of Fire in Antiquity" Rehder

"Cathedral Forge and Waterwheel" Gies & Gies (medieval technology)

"Metallurgy in Archeology"

"Steelmaking before Bessemer"  vol 1 Blister steel, vol 2 Crucible steel.

The Cementation of Iron and steel"

Medieval Iron in Society

The knight and the Blast Furnace *******Williams is probably the best of the new research on the metallurgy of medieval/Renaissance armour*****************

The Sword and the Crucible Williams again on swords

The Celtic Sword, Radomir Pleiner

Maybe a tenth of the books I can read the title of from my chair

Also the Archeological metallurgy mailing list on the net.

Various Theses ("Crucible Steel in Central Asia",  Dr Feuerbach for example)

I also only listed ones in English.

If you start search some of them out USE ILL!   I've been plugging money into books since I was young and some of these are quite expensive nowadays.  NOTE pretty much all of these have bibliographies so you can dig out other sources.

Got any specific areas we can open a thread on?---Except it will have to be after Quad-State as I leave Tuesday for it and other stops along the way, (Kids, Grandkids, Old friends,...)

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Learning how to research is a valuable skill in of itself.  How do you tell if what was written say 1000 years ago is real or just an "urban legend"?  How do you tell if it's complete or only "mostly there"?  (Theophilus is one of the best sources from that time but he includes at least one UL and some of his instructions, like many medieval recipes, lacks a critical ingredient that was so commonly used nobody needed to mention it...(argh!) (I won't even begin to discuss how alchemical works were written to *hide* information from folks not in the know---like me!)

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Thanks Thomas! I'll be sure to check out my library very soon for some of those texts. How many of these have you read? Just the list of titles makes my head spin a bit, so I'll be sure to get started right away! Maybe I'll finish by the time I'm 200, if I'm lucky :D 

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As I own all but Diderot's Encyclopedia; I've read most of them totally and all of them some and am rereading them as I had a TBI incident and my memory keeps running into gaps...Been interested in historical aspects of smithing around 37 years now---it builds up!

If you can narrow down your interests I can suggest ones more aligned to those. (Looks like I forgot "Knives and Scabbards, Museum of London" 300+ examples of knives; dated, archaeologically drawn, metallographic info on some and of course the information on leather stamping on the scabbards!)

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What a collection! Sincerest apologies about your injury, I think I speak for everyone on this forum when I say that it is a shame that an individual as admirable as your self had to be so unlucky.

As to my specific interests, they are focused mainly on the relationship between different cultures and blacksmithing, especially cultural influence on the style of  blackmithing tools.


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So the Swedish crosspeen vs the German crosspeen vs the French crosspeen or asian cultures forging sitting on the ground and using their feet to hold the workpiece? Or how pretty much every culture that used the bloomery method of smelting also used pattern welding?

Compared to some here I'm durn lucky!  I mean being able to read such great books all over again!

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