Post 396 – by Gautam Shah
Smithy is a work-place where metals are worked by heating, casting, and hammering (forging) for quality modification, shaping and joining. Copper, bronze and silver were some of the first metals handled in workshops. Smithy is called a Forge. But bronze is not as malleable as copper or silver, and it was not readily forged or chased, but cast. Copper was shaped by forging. The traditions of metals like bronze and copper helped man to deal with cast iron –a castable metal, and little later wrought iron –a workable metal. The term to wrought derives from work.
A smithy is also called a forge, as hot shaping or forming is chief the activity here. The metal workshop processes are associated with hearth, a place to hammer, chisel, punch, shear bend a piece of iron, and water or oil for quenching the item.
Metal pieces are heated to a temperature range at which work hardening does not happen. The heated metal piece is held with tongs and taken to the forge. Here the work-piece is held with tongs and other types of holders while forging. The heating and forging sequence is repeated several times, to maintain the temperature. The piece is than taken to a tub of water (or oil) for quenching or rapid cooling.
Once upon a time forging workshops were independent units, owned by a smith and serving variety of needs of a neighbourhood. These needs were cooking vessels, plates, bowls, spikes, nails, cart axles, horse shoes, agricultural implements, tools, etc. Iron smiths were employed at construction sites to produce architectural entities such as lattices, screens, partitions, fences, stairs, balcony railings, horse appointments, weapons, posts, and building hardware, etc. ‘Locksmiths’ were fine crafts persons, with capacity to devise clocks, locks and other gadgets. Their ability was to rework a smithy item to finer details and embellish it with many different materials and techniques.
Iron Smiths in later part of 18th C also began to work with rolled metal sheets, items such as trunks, cabinets, truck and other vehicles bodies, buckets, vessels, etc. These items of rolled metal sheets were cold-worked, and did not require any forging. Similarly Iron smiths began to be employed on construction work sites for cutting and rivetting rolled steel structural assemblies.
A smithy or forge has following tools and facilities. Some of these are now made from very superior materials and automated.
A Hearth is a place where coal, charcoal or other fuels are burnt. It is designed to contain and control the fire by amount of air, volume of fuel, and shape of the flame or heat spread. The hearth is aided by a Tuyere (a pipe through which air is blown into fire) and Bellows or blower (for forcing air into the tuyere). Bellows were once made of leather, and blowers are fans moved manually or by power. The hearth fire is used for effecting metallurgical changes like hardening, annealing, and tempering, etc.
An anvil is a block on which forging is done. It is placed as very steady piece and used as a support for all metal manipulations. Its size and shape vary according to the weight of work piece and nature of operations. Most anvils have a wide base for stability, a body, a flatter main work face, projection called horn, and variety of edge forms, holes and depressions.
Tongs are used for holding, carrying and turning a hot metal piece. Tongs have similar mechanisms, that is long arms but variety of holder mouths. Vices are clamping devices mounted on work bench end.
Chisels are used for cutting and chipping, but separate for hot and cold work. Punches are like chisels but blunt edged for forming holes or depressions. A drift is a large sized wide cone punch used for enlarging punched holes.
Hammers are called a smith’s hand. Hammers have different weights of heads, types of head formations such as pean, eye, cheeks, face, and lengths of handles. A crafts person on own uses lighter to medium weight hammer as other hand is used for holding the iron piece in a tong, whereas an assistant uses both hand for a heavier sledge hammer. Nowadays power hammers are used.
Modern smithy have other facilities like lathes, drilling, shearing, punching machines, cutting saws, grinders and welding equipment.