Friday, January 11, 2019

Blacksmithing vs. Bladesmithing

Guest Post by Andrew Mitchell of Anuron Ironworks

Contrary to what some people believe, not all blacksmiths are bladesmiths. Blacksmithing is a wider category than bladesmithing, encompassing architectural and artistic work, bladesmithing and toolmaking, and a couple other categories. In fact some of the best blacksmiths in the world have never made a knife in their lives.

Bladesmithing is the art and craft of making blades, specifically, using heated metal to shape bladed objects. Despite this, making a blade usually requires a large amount of grinding. Establishing bevels, cutting in profiles, and shaping handles are often done on the grinder. There are many types of blades that the bladesmith can forge. Beyond just knives there are axes, chisels, swords, and many other tools and weapons to be made. Bladesmithing is versatile and has many purposes but is still only one subset of the expansive craft of blacksmithing.

Blacksmithing is the art and craft of shaping hot steel. Most forging is done with a hammer and anvil, beating the steel into the desired shape. Rivets, tongs, firepokers, gates, and all the blades mentioned before are made by blacksmiths. Blacksmithing tends to be more focused on the heat-and-beat aspect of metal work rather than all the grinding that goes into bladesmithing, but it’s not uncommon for blacksmiths to expand their knowledge to cover many crafts. The category of blacksmithing contains bladesmithing but is not limited to it.

The confusion among the layfolk is understandable. There are similarities. Both, for example, are metalwork. Blades are forged using techniques of blacksmithing, hot steel and hammers. Many blacksmiths are also bladesmiths and all bladesmiths are blacksmiths. If that’s confusing enough. Alec Steele, the premier blacksmith on YouTube, is known for forging everything from shelf brackets to claymores. Confusing the craft(s?) is easy. And some aspects of them are actually the same thing, and therefore can correctly be lumped under that same label.

Not all blacksmiths are bladesmiths. It may be accurate to say that someone is blacksmithing when they are making a blade, but please don’t assume that all blacksmiths also makes knives. It won’t hurt anyone to use the wrong word, but maintaining correct terminology can be important if you want to avoid ridicule and not annoy the blacksmith.


Editor's note: This article was originally a brief compare and contrast writing assignment. I enjoyed the cranky-old-man feel of it so much I got permission to publish it here. For more about my son the blacksmith and his work, check out his YouTube Channel and popular Etsy shop. He is both a blacksmith and a bladesmith! In this video, he makes the "Toucan" Knife pictured above.