Blacksmiths use modern mechanical tools and other machinery to manufacture decorative and everyday items from metals such as steel, brass, iron, copper and bronze, e.g. architectural steel structures, crowbars and pickaxes.
They forge metal parts together, first heating the metal to soften it and then placing it on an anvil where it is hammered, bent, cut or pressed into the desired shape before it cools again. Traditional hand tools such as hammers, punches and tongs or anvils may be used, or power tools, such as power hammers, drills, grinders, air chisels and hydraulic presses. Sometimes engineering machinery such as pillar drills, centre lathes, milling machines and welding equipment is used.
Broken parts are rejoined by hammering them together. Blacksmiths often have to reheat objects to keep them workable while being shaped, repaired or finished. This process is used to sharpen metal or hand tools. Metal is tempered or hardened by heating to high temperatures and then cooling. Where necessary, 'finishings' are applied to the metal or product.
Some blacksmiths specialise in industrial work, making specialist tools, fire escapes or security grills, while others do artistic or architectural metalwork, such as decorative ironwork, wrought-iron gates, sculptures and furniture. Some blacksmiths, called farriers, repair horseshoes using ready-made or custom-designed shoes. Farriers usually travel to stables to shoe horses and thus have somewhat more work variety than blacksmiths.
Other aspects of the work include making and interpreting detailed drawings. Blacksmiths need to be able to estimate material requirements from the drawings. They are also responsible for preparing, lighting and using open hearth, gas or oil-fired furnaces.
They usually work in hot, noisy workshops. Metal fabricating shops may provide power tools and the latest welding equipment, while local, small shops might use older equipment and methods. Blacksmiths do a lot of standing either upright or stooped, over their work. Sometimes the work involves lifting heavy metal objects.