Career Corner: Iron Smelting vs. Blacksmithing

Big sparks mean big hipster cred.
Big sparks mean big hipster cred.

Okay, this is going to be awesome. Imagine this: Your friends Theo and Matilda are unwinding after their day of drudgery as corporate drones over some hemp sodas down at the vegan bistro. They are quietly reflecting on what utter tools they have become and pining for something more raw, something more real. Just then you confidently stride in donning a decked-out iron-smelting apron, complete with authentic sear marks and ore dust! “Brah! What are you wearing!?” Theo will exclaim wildly. “Oh this? It’s just my protective clothing for working with molten metal,” you can counter flatly.

After that the questions will start oozing in faster than 3000F iron ore, which you’ll love. “I just feel like we’ve all gotten away from trades and crafts that produce something tangible, something real,” you can remark in a blasé, yet matter-of-fact tone. “Today I pummeled pig iron using mechanically driven hammers, thereby preparing it for heating and forging to the desired wrought iron designs and shapes. What did you do, program a widget for a web app?” Their jaws will be on the floor.

If the machinery of modern metallurgy is a bit too “corporate” for you still, fear not, you can go right for straight-up medieval blacksmithing. This will provide at least 37 hours of subject matter for you to talk about to astonished underlings. The first order of business will be to get your hands on the oldest (and therefore most endearing) anvil you can find. Don’t even consider a feeble hobby anvil off of Amazon. You can try the rural and farm section of craigslist, but it would be preferable for you to go door-to-door to old homesteads with the intent to trade your soon-to-be-crafted wares for your rusty gold. Offer to shoe the livestock of befuddled old farmers. If they have an old anvil lying around they will likely send you on your way with it right away, requesting none of your would-be services. No matter though, your real passion is art, not forging oxen yokes. Speaking of forging, that’s next on the list, a self-built forge. This will require some reading, which you love. I’d recommend picking up “Building an Atmospheric Forge & Heat Treat Oven” and reading it on some sort of public transportation.

Smelting or smithing, you can’t go wrong with either of these intensely hipster careers. The silicone age is OVER and we’re going back to the innocent days of the iron age. You might as well be ahead of the curve (per usu) and get out there and do it! Suggestions for your first project include: scythe, back-axe, or dagger.