I am a blacksmith. I earn my living through the strength of my arm and the sweat of my brow, hammering out tools and works of art as our ancestors did for two-thousand generations until the steam-engine sealed our fate and liberated humanity from a life of constant toil. Make that “The rest of humanity”. The hours for a modern blacksmith are as long as ever.
There is iron in our blood, for blacksmiths doubly so. Some, like me, know that it is the greater part of their being, the source of an all-consuming quest to be followed wherever it leads. I keep telling my friends to ditch that silly Ph.D. and come pound steel, but have no takers as of yet. To call yourself a Blacksmith and mean it – to be an honest artist of any kind – takes a kind of dedication that is almost a lost quality in this age of distraction and self-doubt. A dedication that chooses steel to work with over food to eat. A dedication that works through meals and into the early morning hours, and is found by the apprentice next day, asleep on the layout table.
Ours is an ancient and noble craft. One with much to be proud of and much to answer for: The noble Knight’s sword and the axe of the tyrant’s executioner; The surgeon’s scalpel and the Inquisitors thumb-screws; Shackles for the guilty rapist and the innocent slave, all were forged by my forefather-smiths.
Don’t ask why I do it, I’m not sure I even know. I can give you a list of the steps I took in pursuit of knowledge, masters studied with and schools attended after being thrown out of a third and final college; but what drives me on in my quest is hidden even from me.
The blacksmith’s is not an easy path. The hours are ridiculous, the labour often grueling, the pay is low or lacking entirely and the only retirement plan involves a deep hole and a long, narrow box. Still, I have not seen any life that I would trade it for. The black creases in my leather apron, the dozens of burn-scars on my arms and hands, the smell of a coal fire through the damp morning air and the searing heat of a half-finished, yellow-hot forging – Any of these mean more to me than all of the precious stones I’ve set into gold rings or silver sword-hilts.
It is a deep, indescribable, atavistic satisfaction to forge hot iron. Some call it a fulfillment of purpose, or a connection to the lost ages of the ancient past. Myself, in the midst of a swinging hammer and a roaring forge, gritty and dripping sweat, I have known moments of peace and contentment without compare, equaled only by the release of coitus, or a long stalk in the evening woods.
Metal-working pre-dates the written word, so there’s tremendous depth. As a blacksmith, your creativity will never be limited by material, style or even technique.
Ours is the King of Crafts, bearing the ancient motto: “By hammer and hand, all art doth stand”.