Hank Rearden

Below is an article I thought worth a discussion. Does it matter? Do you work in an industry that distinguishes a level of competence? If not; Do you wish you did? Read the article below and give it some thought.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Beginner, Intermediate,

or Advanced?

Editorial by Dan Nauman, Editor- The Hammer’s Blow

For ABANA’s The Hammer’s Blow, Volume 24 #4

 

 

Today, if you want the title of blacksmith, all you need to do is have business cards made stating your name, followed by the word "blacksmith." However, the word blacksmith is an ambiguous title. Many define a blacksmith as one who forges. Others believe electric-welding, cold-metalwork, auto-body repair and more fall under the term "blacksmith"...so essentially "blacksmith" is a wide open job title.

 

Thus, blacksmith does not pinpoint a specific discipline, because most who call themselves blacksmiths combine other metalworking disciplines in their work. However, the words "forge" and "forging" do refer to a specific discipline. Yet, defining one's level of forging experience is also ambiguous.

 

For example, if you sign up for a forging workshop, often the registration form will say the curriculum was designed for a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced blacksmith. It may even state, "Forge-welding experience helpful," or "Joinery experience required."

 

Everyone knows what a beginner is. However, when does the beginner become an intermediate blacksmith? When does the intermediate become advanced? These titles are also ambiguous, so the truth is...we really have no idea what they mean. Further, what defines "enough experience" in forge-welding or joinery?

 

Since there is nothing to measure one's forging experience, even the forging instructor might very well be under-qualified to teach the curriculum. That is a frightening thought.

Without forging guidelines, definitions of sound forging processes will vary greatly from one person to the next. So, when you register for a workshop, (unless you are a beginner), how do you know what your experience level is? Again we must answer: "We really don't know."

 

It is human nature to want to know about our personal growth. It is also our nature to better ourselves. In order to do so, we must have targets, and methods to determine whether we have achieved our goals. To satisfy this, today's K-12 schools have proven curriculums and grading systems. At this point in time, there are no such useful tools when learning to forge. For instance: What (and who) determines a sound forge-weld or a well-made tenon?

 

Concerning the thoughts above: It may be time to have a serious discussion so that those who forge have well-defined forging standards, followed by certifications of experience.

 

Standard forms of measurement and references are essential to evaluate our progress. They help us to define where we need to focus.

 

However, a curriculum without established, proven and clearly defined standards of process and workmanship is questionable. It needs something to measure student progress. In metalworking disciplines such as electric welding, sheet-metal, and metal-casting, there are industry standards, as well as certification processes. In contrast, the discipline of forging has neither.

 

Other metal-working disciplines have standards written so there are guidelines to measure the level of one's progress, also insuring that the structural designs and processes used in manufacturing produce sound products, protecting the end user from poorly made items and potential failure.

 

Over the last 20 years of discussing this topic with others, I have heard many thin arguments against establishing standards and levels of progress. I have heard it said that, "My portfolio is evidence enough of the quality of my workmanship; I don't need standards to tell me how to forge." I counter that building codes (which are different than standards) can influence style (i.e. the 4" baluster code).

 

However style (aesthetically speaking) is not the focus here. Standards are more about processes, structural design and structural integrity. Further, an image cannot prove the integrity of anything. For example, consider that you spot a nice-looking coffee table in a gallery. However, you walk over and find that it wobbles miserably. Thus, merely looking at the table (or an image of the table) cannot reveal its integrity.

 

Similarly, a guardrail with mortise and tenon joints may look great, and even appear solid when tested. However, tenons cannot be visually inspected once the railing is assembled. If the tenons have cold-shuts (laminations), the railing may weaken with use, as laminations can form into cracks. Those cracks may lead to failure, potentially putting someone's life in danger.

 

To properly develop forging standards and a certification program, they should be written by a dedicated committee of accomplished metalworkers. This will likely take years of development and refinement, however the benefits will far outweigh the time invested.

 

Both programs would mainly apply to architectural work. However, these programs would further serve to define levels of workmanship, benefitting anyone interested in increasing their skill levels...no matter if one is a hobbyist, dedicated amateur, or accomplished professional in any aspect of forging.

 

Recapping:

• Forging standards should be written before a forging curriculum, using accepted guidelines to certify levels of workmanship.

• Standards and certification will prove valuable to the craft of forging, helping to insure product integrity in architectural work.

• The standards should deal only with process and structural design; not aesthetics.

• They can provide the information needed for problem solving.

• Knowing one's level provides sound information one may need to progress to a higher standard.

• Students will better know whether their level of workmanship is applicable to a class or workshop.

• Workshop instructors would be able to post their level of workmanship to their students.

For some people, standards and certification may not be popular programs, however for many artisans and their clients, they may be very beneficial and necessary.

code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
2020 ABANA Conference in Sarasota New York. June 3rd. through June 6th. Plan now!
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Hank Rearden
Here goes a few of my thoughts.

I currently work as a professional driver. When I started driving there was no such thing as a CDL. (Commercial Drivers license). You could get your drivers permit and get behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler. Although you may have needed to be 18 unless you had a family farm. That was to many years ago to be sure. To be honest I'm not sure anything changed on the road since they started the CDL program. One of it's purposes was to improve public safety. I'm sure it took drivers off the road. What I witness  in my 2.5 million miles of driving today is, there are quite a few that should never have been put behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. What it did create was a lot of red tape and a way to track each driver. Maybe good thing maybe not. For all the CDL permit folks this is about blacksmithing. My point is the CDL fixed some problems and created new ones. Not to be debated here. Only to examine.

On a different note, I also sold Real estate for a decade and a half. There's a saying "All Realtors are real estate agents but not all real estate agent are Realtors" Again that was true but I've met my share of agents and I'm not sure you could tell the difference. A Realtor was better trained and worked by a code of ethics and work rules. This was self mandated in the real estate industry. Which is different than the CDL comments above. What I didn't mention above was the company I work for today created one of the most thorough defensive driving standards in the industry. Now try to tell someone they aren't a good driver and you can be sure you'll be rejected all day long by them. But I can tell a pro from a novice no matter how long someone's been driving. When these standards are applied to real estate the same is true. The experienced observer can distinguish the difference in talent almost immediately. 

Now, I think Dan is correct to question this in the field of blacksmithing. I tend to agree that some standards should apply to using certain terminology. After all I wouldn't consider my self a blacksmith. I do blacksmithing. I continue to learn and I strive to improve. But in doing so; can I hurt others who have become master at the craft? The answer is yes. If I present myself as a master when I'm not even close.

What is difficult to navigate is creating standards without alienating those who do this as a hobby or are just beginning. There are parts of the world where there are guilds that may be able to provide some guidance here. I don't know enough about that.

Maybe another tactic would be to educate the consumer with a public awareness or marketing campaign. This could serve two fold done correctly. Increase standards among those in the craft and draw interest from the public which would fuel higher demand from the craftsman. The free market would let the cream rise to the top.




code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
2020 ABANA Conference in Sarasota New York. June 3rd. through June 6th. Plan now!
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jmccustomknives
Pretty much what I've always said, there's a difference between a blacksmith and someone who blacksmiths.  That difference is an acquired skill set and getting paid to do it.  I use the getting paid, I don't just mean a random piece, it has to be steady income.  When people buy your work regularly that is in itself a statement of a skill set.

In the same way the ABS has set standards to have a Journeyman or Master Smith ratings.  There is testing that is involved and standards that must be met.  I am not a member, I have no interest in doing this as a living, but these standards and testing should be part of anyone skill set who wants to call themselves a bladesmith.

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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TangoCharly
As a retired machinist I agree that there is a difference between those that machine for a living and those that do so for a hobby. Getting paid to do it requires a much different skill set. Not to in any way detract from hobby machinists, they make fantastic things and are very talented. But it's a different thing to have a mechanical engineer hand you a stack of prints and expect you to bring them to life, often times requiring you to draw on all your experience to come up with a new way to go find that part inside a hunk of metal.
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mtforge
There are a lot of directions you can go in blacksmithing. If I make a living making s-hooks why would I want to study under a program geared toward architectural work? Would I not be allowed to call myself a blacksmith because I don't make the same items as the dedicated committee of accomplished metalworkers? This idea of a certification seems to come up every so often in ABANA. Like they are looking for a problem so they can be the solution to it. Now if they wanted to help me be more efficient in my business then maybe I would listen.
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Ohio Rusty
At an early time in the 20th century ... a blacksmith did do it all ... they repaired everything from buggys and wagons to automobiles, made nails, made tools, fixed household goods, etc. One online book that I have read  -- Blacksmith and Motor shop  --  https://books.google.com/books?id=17XmAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA142&lpg=PA142&dq=hand+making+a+round+ball+cutting+cherry&source=bl&ots=eY0d_tC2xS&sig=VhRQtaL96sbuOTrgtE7WLmbMziU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=s7ggU7CaJ-SOyAGHo4DwDA#v=onepage&q=hand%20making%20a%20round%20ball%20cutting%20cherry&f=false   has numerous examples of the different things a blacksmith was required to to.

Fast forward to today, and many of the things a blacksmith did like ship building and automobile repair, buggy making, etc. has long gone by the wayside. Common blacksmithing art is architecture like gates, railings and fences, knife making, etc., but Blacksmithing goes far beyond architecture .......  There was a way to measure the standard of a blacksmith by the apprentice and journeyman ratings.  An apprentice could be a beginner or an intermediate level. Journeyman of course was a master blacksmith. With so few jobs in the blacksmith field today, it is difficult to really put a label on where a person is in their experience level.  The master craftsman is at the top of their experience level.
I'll never be a master as I don't do gate and fence architecture,  I'm not on any of the blacksmithing reality TV shows showing my knowledge and skills, nor have I made tons of Youtube videos. I do publicly demonstrate blacksmithing at a historical level for the public throughout most of the year. I have sold my wares, but I don't/can't make a living at it. I have spent many years of study of historical blacksmith made items. I feel I'm far above a beginner, but the intermediate level is very wide and could be a plethora of skill levels. I look at intermediate like being middle class .... Middle class is $25,000 a year to $250,000 a year.  That encompasses 90 percent of our society. I think the intermediate classification is the same when it comes to blacksmithing -- very wide and containing many skill levels. In conclusion,  My goods I smith are well made, pleasing to the eye and will last the owner their lifetime of use (unless abused) but I am no master smith by any stretch of the imagination. 
Ohio Rusty
Puveyor of the Ohio Frontier Forge
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Skarzs the Cave Troll
I'm not very familiar with architectural ironworking, and I'm not going to pretend to be. But I know that integrity is a necessary part to have in it, so knowing how to make a proper connection that will not wear easily is important, whether is be a mortise and tenon, rivet, or a forge-welded joint.
Mark Aspery, in a forge-welding demonstration, said that it takes 300 successful welds in a row to consider yourself a forge-welder. (This is talking about joining two bars, not Damascus.) He may have made up that standard himself, but it may be a good thing to base some things on, as forge welds can be tested much in the same way that arc welds can be tested, and thus you would have a standard.
However, this can't be done for other methods of joining like rivets and tenons. Sure, they can be tested to see if they're loose, but even if they aren't, it may take decades for them to loosen up. That may not even be the fault of the blacksmith, rather, it's where the piece resides. In that case, making a standard for something that might break in years to come would be a difficult thing to do.

There are so many variables in blacksmithing, so many more than even welding, I think. Personally, I think it must all go back to the basics of metalworking: tapering, set-downs, flattening, and the like. But of the most important are hammer control, knowing how the metal will move with a hit, and knowing how the metal will move at different temperatures. And those all really come down to experience. 

I don't really have a conclusion. . . it's a huge topic to discuss.
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Ohio Rusty
Skarzs wrote:     But of the most important are hammer control, knowing how the metal will move with a hit, and knowing how the metal will move at different temperatures.

What you wrote is truly important. I don't care how many blacksmith books you read or how many Youtube video's you watch.  You can't know or understand the basic principals of hammering hot metal or forge welding unless you are actually standing over an anvil with hammer in hand moving a hot piece of metal with every hit. Metal doesn't always do what it shows in a video ....  Folks getting into blacksmithing need to find a mentor where they can actually heat and pound on metal so they start to know and understand ....

Thanks Skarzs ...
Ohio Rusty
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Skarzs the Cave Troll
Hey, just glad a part of what I spouted off onto my post made sense. 
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Metalmelt
Sounds like a way for "So Called Experts" to make money from newbies. I've seen one day classes for over $200. How much forging technic can you learn in one day? I did pay $100 for a class, but it went on for the whole summer. Just learn a step and then practice it until I got pretty good at it and then went on to the next step. It helped to have several good smiths to help with any questions. It was still just the basics but it got me to the level I wanted.  
I have lots of pieces of paper that says I can do a lot of things. Welding, advanced welding, police officer, hydraulics, pneumatics, blah blah. It doesn't mean I can still do any of those things, but I have the paper. [smile]
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anvil
35 years a working architectural smith,,student of Turley,Whitaker,Joyce to name a few.

Never seen the need.

The people that supply us our comissions do know quality even if they have no knowledge of our craft.

They learn of us in many ways,, thru others, our "work and rep", ar hitects, to name just a few.

Do understand you will not survive this market without having madtered our craft. One miatake,,, poof no more work.

Thats far better a system than having some "comittee" decide whats proper or not.

As far as classes etc. Howabout you potential students do what i and many others have done. Take the responsibility on your own shouldwrs and do your own research. It works.
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jmccustomknives
Historically speaking, the American smith is much different from his European counterparts.  The American smith was the "do all" guy.  He was required to do everything from make a knife to shoe a horse.  While in Europe the guilds regulated what the smiths could make.  Because of that the European smith were specialized in their craft and got very good at what they did.  All one has to do is compare a simple gate hinge made by an early American and European smith of the same period.  The American ones were usually utilitarian and basic, but the other was ornate.  Those guys did one thing and did it well.  Now the European smith wouldn't be able to do the broad range of things his American counterpart could do. 
I guess what I'm saying is it's easier to classify a bladesmith than a blacksmith because the specialized nature of that craft.  I'll fall back on the statement that if one gets paid to do it then he is by definition a professional. 

Rule #10;  "I can make that" translates to; "I'm to cheap to buy it new."

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Skarzs the Cave Troll
There's a difference between professionallism and mastery, though. You might be the worst football player in the world, but if you play on a competing team, that makes you professional.
Interesting point about the American vs European smiths, there, James.
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Hank Rearden
Another thought well written. The difference between professionalism and mastery.
code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
2020 ABANA Conference in Sarasota New York. June 3rd. through June 6th. Plan now!
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anvil
I've seen that stereotype of the American Smith quite often and it is just that, a stereotype.

In truth, the closer a Smith is to the country life such as farming and ranching, or the frontier, the more valid is that stereotype.

However the closer you are to "city life" the less that stereotype applies. Then we become far more specialized and far less generalized.
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Marc
Grading and licensing for Blacksmiths would be an onerous task. There would be a need for an official school to teach or at least test like there is for welding. That is for the technical side. Then there would be the need for grading the artistic side of Blacksmithing like it is done in a conservatorium for musicians. 
And who will pay for this and for what purpose ? Without an industry requiring blacksmiths, it would be like calling for a license for portrait painters or wood carvers. 
if a school for blacksmiths opens, I am sure it would find a way to make this possible and official. In Europe may be. 
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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theengel
I'm gonna compare it to something I know a lot about.

I'm a technician by trade, for several types of machinery.  Early in my career, I attended several manufacturer cert classes.  They were long, boring, and they taught me almost nothing.  But I got certified.  After getting certified on a few machines, I kind of lost interest in it.  If my employer wanted me to go to one, I went, but I never TRIED to go.  So my list of certifications is pretty short.  The thing is, I'm a damn good tech.  I look at machines I've never seen before, and I can usually see what's wrong.  I'll put my natural talent up against guys with huge lists of certifications, and come out the better... because those guys with all the certs are often asking my advice.

But take away the talent, something you're either born with or you're not, and the certifications mean all the world.  I know techs who shouldn't go anywhere near a machine they're not certified on.  Most of the time, those techs know it.

Back to blacksmithing, I've spent hours watching youtube videos and 'learning' all kinds of stuff.  I spent quite a few hours trying these things out.  But I still suck at it.  It would be criminal for me to even think about charging someone for any service related to blacksmithing.  I would probably benefit greatly from a class, where a mentor or teacher could direct me... and then test me.  If I had money, I'd probably pay for such a thing.  But I don't, so I'm content to just keep this as a hobby.

In short, certifications are there for people who aren't naturals.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Scrambler82
This Thread started in November 2016, it has been almost a year, will it ever end... will opinions ever end !
As a novice/newbie, I do not believe Certification will achieve anything but money in the pockets of whomever makes the rules, just another way to make money, sort of the old reverse Pyramid, everything flows down to one center point... someone's pocket.

Will Certification make better "Blacksmiths", I do not believe so !  Does licensing of Electricians, Carpenters, Plumbers make better Tradesmen, I do not think so, and with all the education a doctor gets, one would think they all will be great, right..., wrong, we have a lot of bad doctors.   Remember someone who graduates at the bottom of the Medical School List , with the lowest possible qualifications, is still a doctor.  Will going to classes, spending time sitting listening and attempting studied skills, or having your work judged, make you a Blacksmith... on paper maybe but not in reality !

So, there will always be great Blacksmiths with or without certification, there will always be people that can do things great and some that can just do things, with or without a certificate but the good metal workers will raise above and people will find them for their skill level, i.e. Master Blacksmiths... just called Blacksmiths !

My conclusion is simple, "I do not believe a Certificate makes a Blacksmith be", hard-work, dedication, and love of what they are doing will make a better Blacksmith than any Certificate Program.

Remember these are comments of a Novice, a Beginner, my long experience in life... not metal working, not banging hot steel, just life.
I do have an Engineering Degree, with add-on Letters at the end of it for different disciplines, does it make me a better engineers... not, but it did get me jobs.

I will get off the Soap Box now, thanks for reading !
Do It Right The First Time !
GrevB
Location: SoCal, USA
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Marc
Hi Scrambler and Theengel, when I understand your points, I think you are mixing a few issues. 
There is learning, school, diplomas, certifications and registrations and each have a different purpose. 
Diplomas, certifications and registrations have legal purposes, school and learning should have the same purpose.

To say that a diploma or a certificate does not make for a better professional is fallacious. The certificate does not teach anything only testifies that the person has passed a series of test or attended a course. It is the calibre of the school/teachers and ultimately the person that makes for a better professional. And one could go on criticizing the testing system or the subjects thought, the curriculum and the political purpose of it however, I would rather have a Harvard graduate treating me than the ambulance driver.

Can someone learn medicine by himself? Sure. Give some talent and a lot of persistence you can. I have one brother, two brothers in law and a wife that are all doctors, and I heard so much about medicine and cases in the last 40 years that I can sometimes guess the weirdest diagnosis before my wife, and this without even trying. Does that make me a doctor? Not really. Formal learning and sitting for exams have a very high value.

What has that to do with blacksmithing? Very little. Only to do with certification. You want an electrician a plumber or a pressure pipe welder to show you they are competent to do the task at hand and the only way they can do that is by showing you they have gone through the process of learning. Have they learned? You have to trust the system there. Trust that their qualifications are not fake and that their formal learning was followed by experienced gained in the field. All in all I take my chances with a qualified tradesman or professional any day, rather than with one that is not.

Will a blacksmith ever require a certificate? No.
Why? Because there are no jobs requiring a certified blacksmith. As simple as that. There are a large number of occupations that do not have formal schools testing and diplomas and blacksmithing is one of them. 100 years ago may be thy had formal schools for blacksmithing complete with tests and certificates (?). I leave you to find out. [smile] 

 
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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Scrambler82
Thanks, I will re-read and see if I come out with a different opinion.


Do It Right The First Time !
GrevB
Location: SoCal, USA
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theengel
I disagree that a certificate makes a better professional.  Again, I can only talk from my own experience--repairing machinery.  And perhaps some computer work.  There might be some industries where the ability to troubleshoot and repair something is actually tested in the certifying process, but in my industry it is not.  The certificates are only there for show.  Sometimes for legality, but usually not.  The certificates simply don't matter when it comes to the reliability of a technician.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Marc
You are comparing apples with oranges in my opinion. An update course on a specific machine does not compare to a trade.
 
Blacksmithing is a trade, like welding electrician or plumbing.  A trade to be learned needs a process that involves a teacher and a program and work experience. 
If the tradesman needs employment he must show competence. The employer has no time to waste in testing the candidate's proficiency. Employer needs a paper that says he is competent and a licensing system that shows experience and insurance. 
No employer, no license required. 

Is a licensed tradesman better than one that does not have a license? Yes.
Is a professional with formal qualification better than one that is ... well not even a professional since by definition you need a profession to be a professional? Yes.

Why? We can speculate as to why a licensed electrician is better than a non licensed electrician ... let's see ... he was keen to sit for 3 or 4 years in a trade school to learn what he needs to know to do his work. 
In Australia only a licensed plumber or electrician can do plumbing/electrical work, and the home owner can not do that on his own house. 

I did a blacksmithing apprenticeship with an Italian Blacksmith when I was 15, and worked in his smithy and later in our own smithy. I don't have proof of my 'formal' learning because no one ever asked for it because for blacksmithing it is not required, not here not anywhere that I know of. 
No requirement, no licensing.

If an industry does not have a requirement for a license, introducing a licensing system is redundant and will not happen and of course will not "make" for better blacksmith.

However this is a fallacious argument.
Introducing a license will not make for better tradesman therefore a licensed tradesman is not better than one that is not licensed? Wrong! [smile]

 

The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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theengel
If licenses and certificates were introduced to blacksmithing, I believe it would be according to skills, as opposed to an overall license, the way it is in plumbing.  Actually, I don't know how it is with plumbing and electricians.

In places where the almighty government can decide who practices and who doesn't perhaps a cert program is necessary.  But in your own examples (say, welding) any individual can demonstrate, pretty quickly, his own skill level.  An employer doesn't have to see a certificate.  

I know people who work as plumbers who don't have certificates.  I believe, in my state, a plumber's certificate is required.  So here's how companies get around it.  They hire "apprentices."  These apprentices, as long as they're working under a licensed plumber, can do all the work a plumber can do.  They can even go to house calls on their own, as long as their employer puts them under the 'supervision' of a licensed plumber.  What this boils down to is cheap labor.  The 'apprentice' who often is better at his job that his 'supervisor' gets paid minimum wage.  He works for this wage almost until he's ready to get his own certificate.  Then he gets dumped, because the employer would then have to pay him more.

In my experience, that's what licensing systems often do--they enable usury by keeping someone out, while claiming to protect people from hacks and amateurs.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Hank Rearden
License is a whole separate topic. Let's get into politics here. Skill and license are two separate things. I know licensed people I can run rings around in their own discipline. I'm remember watching the government saying it was to benefit the public welfare as why certain areas needed to be licensed. I was in my 20's then. I didn't have much knowledge of the way thing were then. But in my gut it didn't seem right. Today I understand the reason as the train stop of socialism on the way to full blown communism. *%#%$

That said I simple skills standard inside a group without outside influences (ie. Gov. types with out real knowledge) can help with communication  when conversations need to be better explained to the novice or layman. Skill demonstration speaks for itself. I'm and amateur and growing. LOL.
code[Maglio.gif]  Keep the fires burning hot!
2020 ABANA Conference in Sarasota New York. June 3rd. through June 6th. Plan now!
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Yves
Why do I feel I have to say something, I'm a little late (little?) and a lot has been said … Here goes.

Having in mind guys and girls like me who cannot have and did not have access to an apprenticeship under the hard but benevolent rule of a master, the following question comes about : “How do we know we can claim to be a blacksmith” ?

I have seen work botched out by a guy that shamelessly advertises himself as a "Blacksmith". He sells his stuff to the point where he presently earns a living doing only that. So he says. He even has students ! He has cornered a market by comforting the people in his area in their prejudice that hammer marks and sloppy joinery, I do mean sloppy, are the hallmarks of  a traditional blacksmith’s products. You can see where I disagree with you Hank Rearden when you say "When people buy your work regularly that is in itself a statement of a skill set." Selling your stuff regularly does not make you a blacksmith. You may be catering to a market of ignorance.  So I should say that I disagree "somewhat".

Then I also agree “somewhat”.

May I propose a criteria. Blacksmithing is the action of turning a cheap, easily available resource (mild steel)  into a precious metal. For instance, the mild steel necessary to forge the humble "S" hook I sell at fairs for 6$, costs me 0,09$. The value of the material is multiplied by 66.

We sell precious metal.

If we make it precious.

How do we know our output is precious? This part is, I believe, simple : by comparing what we turn out with the precious metal that is out there forged by the likes of Habermann, Whitaker, Yellin, Edgar Brandt, Donald Streeter and presently, blacksmiths like Kim Thomas, Peter Ross, Jymm Hofmann (misspelled?) ; by looking into books, a lot of books on the work accomplished in the world ; by looking at WEB pages of blacksmiths that forge the stuff you want to forge : architectural, sculptural, historical reproductions, blades and whatever. Precious is out there for us to look at and dream of and think of when we forge on.

When we do that, we see that we are on a learning curve. We, at least in my case, quickly find out that we are not there yet. Our work, my work with perseverance and dedication, will get there one day, maybe, somewhat. In the meantime we have to be able to answer “Yes” to the question : “Am I on the way to getting there ?” One cannot expect rightfully to sell, gain a value that has not been added to the iron. If your main question is “Will I make money from this ?” you might never get “there” and wherever you are might not last very long.

So, we ought not ask the question “Can I sell this to whomever?” Rather, we should ask “Is this what knowledgeable people (people who know about precious iron, people who know about Yellin and the others or and generally, people who search for beauty … and not for a price) would ask me to make?

I earn some money (more and more and proud of it) forging products that bring me a little further up the ladder in blacksmithing by adding difficulties to the designs. It does make me more proficient ; by adding difficulties and ,yes, loosing money on the commission because I do not get it at first, because some time is spent in anguish in front of drawings rather than in the forge … because I do not always know where I’m going. But when I deliver, I do have the satisfaction that, though still far, I’m getting closer to becoming a blacksmith, to offering more and more precious metal. In the meantime, I forge. “C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron” we say in French. Roughly translated : It is by forging that one becomes a blacksmith, that one turns a cheap commodity in a precious metal. So I forge. I am becoming and will probably always be “becoming” a blacksmith. My metal gets to be more precious every day … or is it every year.

When people say "Ah, you are a blacksmith". I say "I forge", they look at my production and I let them decide. 

 
The alternative to getting old is not interesting.
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Marc
You are getting a tad esoteric. There is nothing mystical in the trade of blacksmithing like there isn't in carpentry.
We make stuff with steel or copper or aluminium. Some make nice stuff, some make not so nice stuff. Who decides? 
Answer, the buyer.

Cubism was just rubbish but is now considered art. ( to me it is still rubbish like Prokofiev music) Same with junk sculptures, modern music that was considered just noise ... and so on.
Even low level craft that will never be art, has it's market and requires some low level skill. Nothing wrong with that. Even when the added value to the metal is not much. I wouldn't volunteer to judge. 

The renewed interest in blacksmithing prompted mainly by TV programs, seems to have returned to the trade an aura of mysticism that was never warranted. To me, blacksmithing is old fashion metalwork. Not more not less. 
You can make a gate a window grill or a railing. It can be plain or elaborate depending on the customer or your taste or limited abilities. Both the plane and the elaborate need a blacksmith to do it. 
Sculpture, wind chimes or bottle openers are all made of metal and are in the realm of metal work. 

To your question when do you know you are a real blacksmith ... what is a real blacksmith? Real as opposed to what?
If you can answer that, then you will know. [smile]
PS
In Australia the general public does not make a distinction between a blacksmith, a farrier or a blade smith. Can the real blacksmith stand up? [smile]

The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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anvil
A different view.

First, there is a blacksmith union. Never forget we are still in the iron age. Literally everything relies at some stage on the blacksmith craft. From all those knives and forks in your kitchen to drive shafts for huge electrical generators, ships etc.

So don't think there is no market.

Now my belief. We are one of the blessed "crafts", not trades, that has no structure. A perfect example of "let the buyer be aware". Capitalism at its best.

We are not organization driven, we are driven by our market,,,. The people who buy our product.

We start small selling "s" hooks, trivets, and fire tools at crafts fairs. This market knows nothing of our craft. But they know what they want for their funky decor. Those who make a crappy s hook either learn and continue, or quit. The client knows what they want. Even if they don't know about blacksmithing. Do you make what they want? Absolutely not! You push your skills at this level to the max and make a dollar for your time,,, and invest 10 dollars in your own hard earned education. That shortcut guy next to you will not "make the cut"and will be gone and replaced by another. You may have 2 hours in that"s" hook, but it's still only worth a buck and a half. With the rest of the time being called learning time. Education is never free, no matter what certain contempor?ary garbage wants you to believe. [wink] Correct mr Reardon?

Next perhaps our path takes us to the realm of craft shop, gallery, work. Commission is the name of the game. All the above applies here so no repeat. Other than the "grow or go" curve is shorter and sweeter. Do it or lose it. Til they want more of your money than they ought to be after. [wink]

Next level may be interior decorators, general contractors, designers, perhaps a hardware company looking for an "in house" blacksmith to do custom hardware. Here it is cut throat and"snooze ya lose" can happen in an instant. Again they don't know blacksmithing, but you can bet they know quality and how to sell it! Push yourself and seek and create your own version of quality,,, or fail. Give them your quality and keep pursue g that illusive cncept and they will be estatic.

Then that special moment,,,. You start working for private persons. Restoration,new construction,furniture, lighting, gates and fabulous railings! One on one! No middleman,, no commission!

And they have no clue as to what a blacksmith does. BUT,,, they know what they want and that is quality,,, top quality. They have already heard of you thru the grapevine,, and they are willing to give you a chance. Are you ready? Because you are in for the ride of your life.

So we don't need no steenking guild, no effing body of burocrats,,, Our system already works. It allows anyone to jump in, and seek their own level. We automatically and forever separate the wheat from the chaff, and those who pursue their own version of quality will have more work, challenge, and expanding creativity than they could ever imagine .

To quote a great Smith

"There's plenty of room at the top!"


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Marc
Hi Anvil ... not much different from my view.
You describe the trajectory of a blacksmith but omitted the best part.
I never had to sell hooks in a local market since I worked full time in a smithy to supply a vintage and nostalgia shop. We had a catalogue and also did some custom work, but the custom work was a real pain. There is no money in custom work unless you have a name as an artist and can charge like a roaring bull or your customer lets you do the way you want and there is no changes or misunderstandings
Which takes me to the next step you ignored. 

Sculptures and artwork. The only way to make money without killing yourself in my view. The bigger the better. If for a public space even much more betterer ... the betterest ... [smile] pardon my pidgin ... [smile]


The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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anvil
Sorry Marc,,, not taking the bate... Other than to say there is no similarity between your views and mine.
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Marc
Sorry Anvil ... the last thing I wanted is to get you into a bate [smile]

Only kidding, this whole thread is just a lot of personal opinions and hypothetical situations about non existing qualifying courses for never heard of titles for non existing employers. 

So despite your reluctance, I do agree with most of what you say, particularly that it is the customer... that is the market, that qualifies the blacksmith just like any other artist.

There are no qualifications for a landscape or portrait painter, and even if he or she can show they have done a 5 year long art course, the potential customer that want's to buy that painting will only buy if they like it and not based on the painter's qualifications. 

Only results count if you work for yourself. If you work for others, the speed to achieve said result will also matter. otherwise, not even that. In fact it may count against you. Imagine you go to the market and state that you have done that lamp in one hour, or that clothes rack in 1/2. 


The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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anvil
To repeat we have nothing in common. There are too many full time Smith's out there making a good living to even begin to validate your opinion,,. Including me.

"Only kidding, this whole thread is just a lot of personal opinions and hypothetical situations about non existing qualifying courses for never heard of titles for non existing employers"

In 35 + years I've never been without work. I've worked with people. I've hired people. I've worked alone. I've learned from the best, worked with the best and passed my knowledge, free more times than not, to some pretty fine contemporary Smith's.

"So despite your reluctance, I do agree with most of what you say, particularly that it is the customer... that is the market, that qualifies the blacksmith just like any other artist"

I'm confused,,, what other market is there besides "the customer?" Isn't it the same market as for any other businessman?

I'm assuming that you have had no luck finding a market? So either you have found a market, and your opinion is false, or you haven't and your extending your opinion, falsly, to many others, including me. [wink]

So please, lol, I've said this before, you shouldn't make assumptions about others based on your experiences. If it applies to you then it is true for you. It doesn't apply to me,,, thus it's false. Such a dichotomy.

I will be so bold as to extend this bit of logic to the rest of the rather negative beliefs you have concerning this craft as well and stand as the example. Do you stand as an example for your opinions?

I have never understood why when there is a place like this forum with people who have one thing in common,,, the love for and a passion for blacksmithing,,,
Amongst us are those who are just curious, those who are hobbiests, serious hobbiests getting ready for their next step, part timers adding to their income and full time Smith's. And then along comes someone for whatever reason, being so negative.

Do you understand now why we have nothing in common?
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Marc
This discussion was about the need or not for formal qualifications.
I say there is no such thing nor a need for it since there is no formal employment market.
As far as the market for the finished product, I say the buyer decides if the quality is there and no amount of qualifications, if there was such thing would change that.
I say black smithing is metal work and there is nothing mythical about it.
Art or craft or trade? The difference is subjective. In the times when virtuous painters were plentiful they were seen a bit like interior decorators. It is the scarcity of the tradesman that elevates it to craft or art..

As far as the personal comments, they are uncalled for.
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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theengel
There's a weird undertone of a conflict in this discussion... but for the life of me, I can't figure out what the argument is.
Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Scrambler82
I agree, theengal, but it is all opinion as is the opinions of customers that will either use you as a blacksmith or not... based on your abilities and the quality of your work.

That is an opinion of a Newbie/Novice !

An as I have read on this site and others...  for their time a Blacksmiths were a jack of all trades, they did what was necessary to get a job done; so the question really is "What do you base your qualifications on" ?

Is it just the Smiths ability to form metal, maybe their ability to fix a Wagon wheel or better yet to replace an axle, I am not sure what will determine a qualified Blacksmith.

I think it needs to be as it was, "If you are a good Blacksmith then the customers will come " !  (I think I heard that in a film).

Good Luck on the final discision, it will be interesting !

One last point, as I stated above, "The only thing to be gained from Certification within a system is the money that is made by the Certification Process.  Will that be an Individual or a School, or both, a Blacksmith will be as here is and make things to fit the needs at the time.

OK Im rattling and repeating myself here...  have a great day, I have an axle to change !
Do It Right The First Time !
GrevB
Location: SoCal, USA
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anvil
Marc, to be clear, I understand the topic. However, you have introduced a very negative view of this craft beyond the topic. And as you have stated is your opinion.

So I'm responding to that. The difference between our ways of presenting this is, I'm coming from a position of fact, represented here by me and the path I took.

Yours is coming from your opinion. Opinion is derived basically from observation, not experience. Certainly one can see many drop by the wayside and come to accept your opinion.

However, if you observe those who continue, study their technique, be inspired by the magic of their products, go to workshops and demonstrations, very quickly you will see that your opinion just doesn't cut it.

For instance, to not believe we need licencing is not the same as stating we need no licensing because there is no established market.

The one is open, the other strongly implies our craft is anachronistic, not needed, and simply tools of a contemporary Luddite.

I don't believe we need any form of licensing. I explained it above. This craft is amongst the hardest, dirtiest, hottest work you can ever find. [wink] People try it and many leave for those reasons.

The learning curve from the most simple to the most sublime is long, hard, disciplined, and drought with failure.

Take the simple "s" hook. It may take 2-3 years to be able to make more than 1-2 an hour. Yet a "good Smith" can make 6-8 an hour. The first guy wants the same wage as the second. Oops, no can do! The first guy is paying for his education, the other has already paid.

Quality:. The clients does not determine quality or anything about your work.

The one who determines this is the man behind the hammer. The first time you decide to do your work and meet the "quality" quotient of the client, you have dun lost the game. Why in the world would you do this knowing your client knows nothing about our craft?

Too many attempt both of the above, then leave with such remarks as too elite, no market, a non viable lifesource. In actuality, it does what no licensing can do,, gets rid of those who think they can make much from too little dedication. And supports those who recurve a paper from those who are not longer doing.

And, no licensing program will improve this.


I've watched our craft change from "badly bent" to a viable business with many ways of creating a living by hammer in hand. I sincerely suggest, Marc, that you "check your premice" concerning the viability of contemporary blacksmithing, and do understand the magic and mysticism that is present within every hammer blow I make.

Consider that if the "best" work is the piece in your fire, be it a nail, s hook or an element for a railing, you will be a very good"Blacksmith"/Craftsman/applied artists or an artist in metal/fine artist. Anything else and you will be at best, a very skilled tradesman.
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Marc
Personal comments are uncalled for. Which part of that sentence is hard to understand?

Your very long post, are patronising and assume knowing who I am or what I do or have done. Not a way to conduct a friendly chat.

If you want to take the role of the defender of ... something out there ... you can do so without any reference to myself.

I can see that most of your contention is based on missing the point, at lest the point I make, misinterpreting and assuming. A bit dissapouinting considering I learned English as my 4 th language whilst you must have been born there ... Well presumably so I will not replicate your mistake.

A character that always intrigued me was Don Quixote, attacking imaginary foe and defending causes that did not exist. His real motivation was to fit in a role he liked even when it was not warranted. Let us not do the same here,there is no cause to defend, religion to preach nor deity to proclaim, and let us be clear ... I am not a windmill.

I look forward to draw on your knowledge if I get in a technical predicament, but discussions about marketing, economics or esoterica will remain unanswered ... 👍
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
Adrian Pierce Rogers
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theengel

See, that's what I mean: I can't figure out what you two disagree on.  

Except maybe the way anvil described the craft and that Marc perhaps thought he had made too much of it.  But it seems like an odd thing to allow a conflict that borders on personal insult to bloom out of that.

Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?
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Metalmelt
I'm with you Theengel, not sure what the argument is. Either you can bend a piece of metal or you can't. If you bend it and someone buys it... your a blacksmith. If you can bend enough and sell them all your a "professional". Sell enough and make a living.

Just watch Forged in Fire. Usually the ones that come out and say they are the greatest knifemaker in the country, 10th generation bladesmith, study under Vulcar the Great in the fires of Hades...etc. They are almost always the first one out and some 18 year old kid wins the whole thing.
There are people that can pick up a hammer and beat some metal on a rock for the first time and create something beautiful and useful, sell it for $100. Others study for years under great smiths and can't make 2 S hooks the same.

To some it's a hobby(me), to some it's a craft to make a little extra money, and others it's a profession. But, if you can't make something anyone wants to buy, then it doesn't matter how much training or fancy tools you have.

If you want to make a million dollars at Blacksmithing, you need to start with 2 million.
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anvil
I am a bit protective of my craft. Ive watched it grow from a time when we were truly badly bent,so to speak, to now where one can establish a business within a few years if you so desire like most anyother business.

So when i hear the opposite, especially the negative, I do like to present the other side. If that offends anyone especially when using their beliefs to comment against, than someone does have a problem. Isnt that why we have these discussions?

As far as what makes a "blacksmith", well thats easy. Thats anyone who has the passion and desire to pick up a hammer and beat hot iron. [wink]
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