a Lesson Plan for the Blacksmith Shop
THE BLACKSMITH SHOP
LESSON TOPIC: Blacksmithing TEACHER: Theodore R. Hazen
GRADE LEVEL: 4th to 6th DATE: March 1997
1. The student will understand who the blacksmith was and why he was
important to the early settlers.
2. They will recognize the basic equipment found inside the blacksmith shop.
3. They will be able to understand that the blacksmith and his apprentice
were craftsmen who deserve special recognition.
4. The student will define in special terms distinguished from other craftsman
because he worked with tools often of his own design and creation manipulating
a material called wrought iron.
The blacksmith was a professional who worked in the field of iron working,
and was a well qualified specialist in metallurgy. The blacksmith transformed
lumps of hot iron into objects of utility and grace.
Good morning/good afternoon. I want to welcome you to the Blacksmith Shop.
My name is Ted Hazen. I am currently the blacksmith at the Park.
First of all I must mention that the work of the blacksmith can be dangerous.
Please exert care and common sense while I am working for you and myself.
The forge is very hot. Often when I strike the metal, sparks fly in all
directions. The tools and the metal can remain hot for long periods of time.
Please don't throw anything in the fire or water bucket.
Does any one know what a blacksmith does? What does a blacksmith make? Why
then is this place called a blacksmith shop?
What is the Job of the Blacksmith?
Well, it depends upon the time period and location of the blacksmith.
In the 1700's when the apprenticeship program was still in effect in the
trades, the blacksmiths specialized. A blacksmith might spend his six year
as an apprentice learning how to make just one thing. A blacksmith might
spend his six years learning how to make just nails, another blacksmith
might learn how to make just hinges, door latches, and another blacksmith
might learn how to make household fireplace items. So in a colonial town
you might have a half a dozen different types of smiths. Some of them even
working in different types of metal. Like the smiths who work in white metal
are called silversmiths, and then there were also tin smiths. The blacksmiths
worked in black iron or wrought iron. Wrought iron is the main material
the blacksmiths used. The most common type of black iron the blacksmith
used was nail rod. Cast iron is too brittle and would shatter when heated
and struck with a hammer. Steel was rare and precious. They would only use
steel to make flint strikers.
When people moved into the frontier you were lucky enough to have one smith
in town let alone a half a dozen different types of smiths. So when people
spread out along the Great Wagon Road, the blacksmith had to become the
jack-of-all-trades. Whatever had metal about it the blacksmith made, fixed
or repaired. The blacksmith had to learn other trades which involved metal,
like shoeing horses. Shoeing horses was the farrier's job. It was not uncommon
to see signs hanging outside of the blacksmith shop advertising the different
trades which the blacksmith took on such as horse shoeing, fixing wagons,
making wagon wheels and even pulling teeth. How would you like to go to
the blacksmith shop to have your teeth pulled?
The Importance of Nails
When people moved from Pennsylvania, New York or New Jersey down the
Great Wagon Road, do you know one of the last things they did before they
left? After they said goodbye to all of their friends and relatives, they
burned down their houses and barns. Do you know why they did that? What
is so valuable that they would burn down their houses and barns to sift
out of the ashes to get? The nails, hinges, and hardware. The old nails
would become the new nails for their new houses. Where they were going they
were not sure they would find a blacksmith to make them new nails, so they
would use their old nails. Nails were very expensive.
When people traveled down the Great Wagon Road they would carry iron with
them in the bed of their wagons. As they traveled down the wagon road their
iron tires would stretch and slip off, or other iron parts might wear out.
So if they were lucky enough to find a blacksmith he might not have the
iron to do the job, so they carried iron to do the work and extra iron to
barter or trade with the blacksmith for doing the work. In turn the blacksmith
might make something from his iron and trade or barter with someone else.
Like with the miller, the blacksmith might make an iron candle holder or
mill part to get some flour.
There's a folk saying going back to the 15th century, if not earlier, reminding
us that a nail isn't any good if it isn't used.
2. What is the Job of the Blacksmith?
3. The Importance of Nails
4. Who worked in the Blacksmith Shop?
5. The Apprenticeship Story
6. The Iron and Tool Story
7. The Fuel Story
8. The Blacksmiths back in medieval Europe Story
9. Demonstration: Making a Nail
10. Final Test Question
The Village Blacksmith, written and illustrated by Aldren A. Watson, Thomas
Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1968.
Foxfire 5, Ironmaking, blacksmithing, flintlock rifles, bear hunting, and
other affairs of plain living, edited with an introduction by Eliot Wiggington,
Anchor Press/Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1979.
Practical Blacksmithing, Compiled and edited by M. T. Richardson, Weathervane
Books, New York, originally published in four volumes in 1889, 1890, and
Chapters: Blacksmithing & Wheelwrighting, The Forgotten
Crafts, A practical guide to traditional skills, by John Seymour, Alfred
A. Knopf, New York, 1984.
Chapters: Those Who Worked with Iron, 1. the Blacksmith Shop, 2. The
Farrier, 3. Blacksmith and The Nailer Shop, Handwrought Ancestors, by
Marion Nicholl Rawson, E. P. Dutton & Company, New York, 1936.
The Village Blacksmith, by Ronald Webber, Great Albion Books, U.K., 1971.
Virginia's Explore Park Blacksmith Shop program by master blacksmith Daniel
Young and apprentice Paul Campbell, 1996.
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