Blacksmiths make products using metal. They make lots of different things, from candlestick holders to gates. Both traditional and modern techniques are used in this work.
The work of a Blacksmith should not be confused with that of a farrier. Farriers use smithing skills to make and shape horse shoes. Their work also involves checking and clipping horses' hooves.
Also known as
- Artist Blacksmith
- Industrial Blacksmith
Video: - Hayley: Artist Blacksmith
As a Blacksmith, you will work with metal. The majority of your work is done using very hot metal, as it is then easier to bend and shape. However, there are some tasks where the metal can be shaped whilst it is still cold using powerful tools. As well as making new products, you will often repair and renovate metal items.
There are two types of Blacksmith: Industrial and Artist:
Industrial Blacksmiths can be divided up into a variety of trades, such as edge tool makers, forge-masters and certain types of toolmaker.
In heavy and repetitive work, large powerful tools are used, such as power hammers, drop hammers and presses. Industrial blacksmiths are employed in a wide range of industries, like mining, quarrying, agricultural engineering, shipbuilding and repair.
As an Artist Blacksmith, you will use both hand and power tools to make lots of different things. Some of the objects you might make include:
- gates and railings
- furniture, such as fireplaces and chairs
- balconies and staircases
Before starting a job, you'll need to prepare a sketch or plan of what you want to make. Using the sketch, you will then work out the amount of materials needed to complete the job. After working out materials, you then need to estimate how many working hours it will take to finish the job.
Usually you will wear some form of protective clothing, for example, leather aprons and gloves, safety glasses or goggles. The working environment can be noisy, dirty and hot. When welding you'll use tinted goggles to protect your eyes from the ultra-violet light.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Blacksmith, you'll need:
- good practical skills
- to be reasonably fit as much of a blacksmith's work involves physical strength
- good hand-eye co-ordination
- an eye for design, if you're working in the craft side of blacksmithing
- people skills, if you come into contact with customers as part of your job
- some maths ability for carrying out measurements and making calculations
Working conditions may be dusty, so the job may not be suited to you if you have allergies or conditions such as asthma.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
As a Blacksmith, you can expect to earn in the range of:
- Starting: £13,000 - £16,000
- With experience: £20,000 - £25,000
Hours of work
Blacksmiths work around 39 hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional overtime and weekend work, as required.
Where could I work?
Employers are firms involved in engineering maintenance, repair and production work. There may be opportunities in the Army, which trains and employs soldier Blacksmiths. In the armed forces, Blacksmiths are usually known as Metalsmiths.
Opportunities for Blacksmiths occur in workshops in towns and cities throughout the UK.
A large proportion of Blacksmiths are self-employed. Artist Blacksmiths may be self-employed working full-time, or work part-time until they have enough commissions to earn a full-time living from the work.
Where are vacancies advertised?
acancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
Entrants to this career either apply directly to Blacksmith firms and train under the Blacksmith, or attend relevant college courses.
The British Artist Blacksmiths' Association (BABA) produces a list of suitable courses. Many of the courses listed are only of relevance to Artist Blacksmiths, but there are some which are suitable for people wanting to work in all types of metal trade.
An Advanced Level Apprenticeship will also help you to get into this job. Take a look at our general information article
Training will be on-the-job with an experienced Blacksmith.
There is a degree in artist blacksmithing available at the Hereford College of Arts.
Craft Courses also offer blacksmithing courses. There are many options for you to choose from, which could include:
- weekend blacksmithing courses
- blacksmithing taster days
- blacksmithing and metal craft
- one to one blacksmithing courses
- blacksmithing for beginners
- blacksmithing hammer skills
Check the website for dates and availability.
Other courses could be available in your area.
Previous experience working in metalwork and technical drawing can be useful for this career.
It is very common for Blacksmiths to become self-employed.
For employed Blacksmiths, progression is usually to supervisory positions.
Entry requirements for courses vary from place to place. An interest and some ability in metalwork and design is often more important than academic qualifications. However, it's always useful to have some GCSEs or equivalent qualifications. Useful subjects include manufacturing, maths, and design and technology (resistant materials).
Some people enter the job by working as an Apprentice to an experienced Blacksmith. This will often mean no academic qualifications are needed, but a strong interest in the work and a good level of practical ability are essential.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship
For entry to the degree course in artist blacksmithing at the Hereford College of Arts, the minimum you'll need is:
- 2/3 A levels.
- GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and maths
Subjects such as design and technology (resistant materials) and chemistry can also be useful.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC Level 2 and Level 3 qualification in blacksmithing and metalworking
- The International Baccalaureate Diploma.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some people enter this job after gaining skills in other areas that involve metalworking. Knowledge of and/or qualifications in metalwork and technical drawing can be an advantage.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course could be the way in. No formal qualifications are usually required, but you should check individual course details.
Some people enter this career via an Intermediate Level or Advanced Level Apprenticeship. Subjects such as Metal Processing, or Farriery are available.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
City & Guilds Land Based Services
Address: Building 500, Abbey Park, Stareton, Warwickshire CV8 2LY
Tel: 02476 857300
National Heritage Training Group (NHTG)
Address: Carthusian Court, 12 Carthusian Street, London EC1M 6EZ
Tel: 01342 326171
Skills for the creative industries
Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills
Creative & Cultural Skills
Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts
Address: 44a Pentonville Road, Islington, London N1 9BY
Tel: 020 7806 2500
South Square Trust
Address: PO Box 67, Dallington, Heathfield, East Sussex TN21 9ZR
Tel: 01435 830778
British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA)
Tel: 01526 830303
Hereford College of Arts
Address: Folly Lane, Hereford HR1 1LT
Tel: 01432 273359
Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths
Address: 9 Little Trinity Lane, London EC4V 2AD
Tel: 020 7248 1861
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844