The Journeyman Program



    To answer the current demand for skilled blacksmiths, ABANA has developed a Journeyman Program. Traditionally, a craftsperson would learn the basics of a trade as an apprentice. After two or three years, a good master would ask the apprentice to leave and travel to other shops. The idea was to gain experience, find a shop where one would settle in permanently or to earn enough money to start in business. One Master told his apprentice, "Go to every metal shop, factory and foundry you can find and 'steal with your eyes'."

    For those of you hoping to visit the United States through this program should first become familiar with the correct visas and permits needed to travel the U.S. for extended times. Please visit www.ins.gov for more information.

    We hope this resource will help you find opportunities that provide unique and valuable learning experiences. --Bob Bergman, ABANA Member

The Focus of the Journeyman Program: To Learn, Not Earn

    In Germany, the custom was for a Journeyman to travel to a town, find the blacksmith and ask if there was any work. If there was, he would stay for as long as was needed. If there was no work, the shop owner was obliged to feed and house the man overnight and provide enough money to travel to the next town.

    I was fortunate to spend time as a Journeyman in England in 1985. I wrote to the British Artist Blacksmith Association (BABA) magazine and explained my intentions ---I was an American smith with 15 years experience and was willing to work for room and board. By mail, six responses came. I went over and attended the BABA Conference where I met other smiths and filled in the three months I planned to stay.

    Once I got started and was able to prove my competency, I was passed from shop to shop. There is a strong network of smiths in England who often work together on large projects. As I was beyond an apprentice in experience, I was able to contribute a lot. And because I asked for no pay, many of the people I stayed with really put themselves out to repay me. This was done by driving me to other shops, interesting factories or historic places. Typically, I would stay one to two weeks at each location.

    I gained a great deal from this trip; exposure to machinery I had not seen before, observations on selling and dealing with customers, measuring, site surveying, and new finishing techniques. Most important was seeing what kind of personal life the business provided for the owner.

Expect to Learn -what the Experience Offers You

    I had assumed that by going overseas, I would learn "the old ways" of doing things. Surprisingly, most of the shops I visited were better equipped than those I had been familiar with at home. 1985 was ten years after the resurgence of blacksmithing in the U.S. The 1976 bicentennial sparked tremendous interest and demand for iron work. Historical sites needed demonstrators, a lot of restoration work was happening, and craft work in general was in vogue. As a result, there was a rediscovery of traditional techniques. In Europe, the traditions had survived as did the demand for handicraft. New styles of architecture evolved after WWII and contemporary designs were well received by builders and home owners. Modern metalworking techniques such as mig welding, optical eye flame cutting, spray metalizing and other industrial processes were utilized to execute the work. I had never worked in a factory or other metal shop and had a real education in modern tooling and processes. There were some shops in small villages that did mostly hand work, but the trend seemed to be toward the "modern".

    My observations of what people got from their business, personally, was that those who had good equipment could work eight to ten hours a day and go home to pursue other interests or spend time with their families. Those who stuck to "the old ways" made a living, but were not moving forward.

How the Journeyman Program Works

    ABANA as the List Provider
    ABANA's role is to assist in connecting those looking for work, travel and experience with American and world wide smiths who need help. ABANA is not recommending either the journeyman or the shop owner, but only acting as an information center. There are many shops looking for experienced crafts people, especially blacksmiths. There have been many inquiries from ABANA and NOMMA member shops desperate for help.

    Filling out a Questionnaire
    A questionnaire, found on this site, may be printed and filled out for submission to be included on our registry list. One questionnaire is for journeymen and one is for shop owners looking for help. Once you have filled out one of these questionnaires, please forward it to:

      ABANA Central Office
      259 Muddy Fork Road
      Jonesborough, TN 37659
      Phone: (423) 913-1022
      Fax:     (423) 913-1023
      Email: centraloffice@abana.org

    If you are unsure about how to answer one of the questions, please do not call ABANA. Just fill it out as well as you can. If the reviewer has a question, s/he will contact you for clarification.

    Finding the Lists Posted on ABANA's Web Site
    The registry lists (Journeyman/Shop Owners) is posted on this web site and updated monthly. The responsibility for contact will be left to the parties themselves. Postings will be removed during the month you have noted for removal on your questionnaire. You may request an additional time for posting or request an early removal date by e-mail with your specific request.

    Requesting the List by Regular Mail
    If you are not able to retrieve the list posted on the web site, you can obtain a copy by regular postal mail. To do this, send a self addressed stamped envelope to ABANA with your request. State which list you want (journeyman or shop owner). Allow 2-1/2 weeks turn-around time from the day you drop it in the mail.

    Questions about the Journey Program
    For additional questions, comments, or suggestions about this program, you can contact Bob Bergman during the day at (608) 527-2494 CST.

Points to Remember

    1) If you are focused on earning more than learning, you will limit the invitations from shop owners. Formal employment affects legal liability. A learning-friendship relationship is different. This is especially true if you are from a different country than your host. Students are more free to travel than someone looking for employment.
    Don't exaggerate your skills. Be honest
    Try to have your own health insurance and transportation.
    Keep your eyes open and mouth shut. Most employers are not looking for a debate on how to do a task. Don't exercise "creative moments" without checking with the master.
    If you are looking for a permanent position, be clear about this from the beginning.

What You Should Consider

The value of this program is to give people who want to work as a blacksmith a chance to try it out. Taking classes and working on your own project is quite different than executing commission or production work. The glory of working hot iron can become a harsh reality of hot dirty work!

The facts of being in business may be eye opening. Bidding, collecting, maintenance, overhead, taxes and bookkeeping usually aren't mentioned in universities or craft schools. Some people may decide that being in the shop as an employee is better than being in the office as an owner.

The list of techniques following the questionnaire would be what an Apprentice should have learned before traveling as a Journeyman. Look at this carefully. The people who are looking for help are not interested in teaching basics. They want qualified help who can read blueprints and work on a project with minor supervision.

Look at this program as an opportunity for learning, travel and friendship. If it results in a career as a blacksmith / metalworker, it will help the trade greatly. Many more skilled craftspeople are needed in the art of blacksmithing.


Blacksmithing Standards developed by the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association, an ABANA Affiliate, and registered with the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, United States Department of Labor.

    1. Drawing Out: Draw a bar to a point or dress an edge or point a tool.
    2. Upsetting: Upset to at least 1-1/2 times the diameter or width of a bar on the end and in the middle.
    3. Bending: Make a ring out of bar stock or flat stock; forge a square corner right angle bend in square stock.
    4. Drifting: Make a drift and use it to smooth, shape or enlarge a hole.
    6. Mortise and Tenon: Make an assembly from at least two separate pieces using this technique.
    7. Collaring: Make an assembly from at least two separate pieces using this technique.
    8. Scroll Work: Make two different types of scrolls.
    9. Splitting: Split a bar with a hot cut in the middle or at the end of the bar.
    10. Fullering, Grooving, Veining, Set Hammering: Show examples of each or if used as an intermediate technique, describe how and why the techniques are used.
    11. Riveting: Make two assemblies from at least two separate pieces for eachassembly using hot riveting and cold riveting (pop riveting is not acceptable).
    12. Forge Welding: Show at least three different techniques.
    13. Arc Welding, Brazing, Soldering, Oxyacetylene Torch Welding: Show an example of each.
    14. Hot Rasping, Filing: Hot rasp the torch cut end of a bar to reasonable straightness and evenness; show a workpiece which has been filed to a smooth, flat surface; describe the types, care and use of files.
    15. Sinking, Raising, Metal Spinning: Make or show a hemispherical or hollow object made from flat sheetusing any one technique.
    16. Grinding: Know how to use a body grinder (portable grinder), pedestal grinder, belt grinder, sharpening stones and abrasive papers; know the types of abrasives and how they are graded and classified; show an edge tool that you have sharpened.
    17. Drilling, Tapping, Die Work and Threads: Drill and tap a hole, thread the end of a bar with a die; know the common thread classifications; know the common drill size classifications and the care and use of twist drills.
    18. Heat Treating, Hardening, Tempering, Annealing, Case Hardening: Know how to properly anneal, harden and temper carbon tool steel; know how to case harden mild steel, know the colors for tempering; make or show a tool you have made that has been heat treated that will cut or forge mild steel without breaking or deformation on the working end.
    19. Heading: Head two bolts, one square headed and one hex headed; head a nail; head a rivet.
    20. Cutting and Shearing: Know how to use the hot cut, cold cut, hacksaw, tinsnips, bench or floor shear; know how to use the oxyacetylene torch for cutting and demonstrate each technique.
    21. Swaging: Swage a tenon or make the end of a square bar round using a swage.
    22. Twisting: Show two different twists in a square bar.
    23. Shop Safety: Know first aid techniques for cuts, burns, abrasion and other shop related injuries; describe methods of hearing, sight and body protection and why they are necessary; know power tool and machinery safety including welding equipment safety.
    24. Basic Metallurgy: Know the properties and use of wrought iron, mild steel, carbon and tool steels and their classifications, cast-iron, brass, copper, aluminum; know sheet and plate gauging for ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
    25. Fire and Fuel: Know the constituents of good shop coal; know the different types of coal fires and fire maintenance.
    26. Jigs and Dies: Make both a jig and a die for doing repetitive production work and show examples of work produced with them.


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