Looking at a blacksmith apprenticeshipPosted: 26th of March 2013 by NGtU
NotGoingToUni looks into an apprenticeship in blacksmithing to see where you can start, what you can expect, and where it could take you.
Essentially, a blacksmith is a metalsmith who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by casting and forging the metal. It is a highly skilled trade that requires many hours of training to understand the properties of metals, to master the tools to hammer, bend, and cut, and to develop the skills (and strength!) needed to create objects of beauty and / or functional precision.
As an aside; if you’ve always had a hankering to make and fit horseshoes as a career, then you’ll need training as a blacksmith. But blacksmiths don’t fit horseshoes – that’s the job of the farrier. Just to make that clear!.
What do you need to become a blacksmith apprentice?
Since blacksmithing is a combination of almost all the metal working trades you will be learning how different metals behave at different temperatures - so you'll need an appreciation of physics and chemistry. However, formal certification (i.e. GCSEs or A levels) is not required.
You will need excellent hand/eye coordination (and be happy wearing eye and hand protection much of the working day). It's a vocation that requires design and layout skills allied with cutting, drilling and joining abilities. And then there’s the tempering, welding and brazing and so much more.
Physical strength. Parts of the work require lifting and manipulating heavy (and sometimes hot) instruments. You will naturally develop strength over the course of your work but just be aware that of the physical challenges that await.
And, of course, since you’re going to be dealing directly with customers in your professional life, you’re going to have to have good people skills.
What to expect during your apprenticeship in blacksmithing?
A blacksmithing apprenticeship isn’t just twelve months of grunt work while watching and learning, so if you think it’s a short step into the profession, think again – a full apprenticeship, we’ve discovered, lasts for four years and two months, and that’s just the start of your journey to become a 'Master Craftsman'.
You will be learning a broad range of skills - from he initial commissioning process throigh to designing and ultimately of course the making of objects - anything from gates, railings and furniture through to bespoke pieces and precision tools.
So if you love the idea of working with white-hot metals of all kinds, and forming them into all kinds of shapes, then you really do need proper training.
Where to find training
There aren’t that many apprenticeship opportunities in this field, and nor are there many formal qualifications on offer. Fully accredited Modern Apprenticeships in blacksmithing are expected to become available in the near future - and when they are we will publish the details here - but for now the options are limited.
There are some colleges that offer specialist Blacksmith training:
- The Centre for Rural Crafts based at Herefordshire & Ludlow College - also offers farrier, welding and metalwork qualifications at BTEC to degree level
- Kingston Maurward College based in Dorset, offers courses in the 'Blacksmithing Craft' in its Welding and Fabrication and Blacksmithing department
- Plumpton College in Sussex, has Level 2 and Level 3 courses in Blacksmithing and Metalwork plus a Creative Metalworking Foundation degree course
Related qualifications include:
- City&Guilds offer one particularly pertinent certification – Forgework (7485).
- Toolmaking certifications can be relevant, particularly in terms of design preparation.
- A skill like welding, which is used in many vocations, is an important part of blacksmithing and there are quite a few certifications available for this.
If you want to find out more about getting started in a blacksmithing career, here are some further useful links and resources:
- The website of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths a City of London Livery company that supports smithing with educational grants and bursaries
- The website of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association - http://www.baba.org.uk
- Mastercrafts (part III) - Blacksmithing in the UK - Video
- Some important things to know about welding apprenticeships
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