Getting Started: Blacksmithing 101

At the 2021 Iron to Art Festival in Johnstown, PA.

People come to blacksmithing in many different ways.

Maybe you watched a TV show or a demonstration at a fair and now have the urge to hit hot metal.

Perhaps you have a great-grandparent who was rumored to be a blacksmith and you’re curious to try your own hand at the craft.

Regardless of how you arrived at this moment, we’re thrilled that you are here and we’re ready to help you take those first steps into the world of forging steel.

Image of a team of strikers forging.
Strikers at the 2021 Iron to Art Festival in Johnstown, PA.

Required Equipment

In its simplest form, forging metal requires at least 4 things: a forge, a hammer, tongs, and an anvil. You’ll see everything from cheap “anvil-shaped objects” such as railroad track being used for anvils to vice grips being used as tongs. Many a famous smith started off with less than stellar equipment, but they learned from others and upgraded their shop when the time was right. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but it is possible to get started at home for a few hundred dollars.

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Education & Training

There are a variety of ways to acquire the skills of a blacksmith depending on your schedule, learning style, and so on. The important thing is to ensure you receive instruction from experienced, qualified instructors. To that end, we have a variety of resources to help you get started.

  • Controlled Hand Forging Lessons – A series of 26 articles teaching the fundamentals of hand forging.
  • Subscribe to the ABANA YouTube Channel – We post lectures and tutorials for blacksmiths from beginner to advanced.
  • ABANA National Curriculum – The ABANA National Curriculum (NC) is a self-paced curriculum with 3 levels of proficiency: Beginner (Level I), Intermediate (Level II), and Advanced (Level III). Everyone is welcome to learn from the curriculum, however those who are ABANA members can have their projects evaluated by certified instructors in order to earn official certification as a blacksmith or blacksmith instructor.
  • Take an online class with ABANA – Each year we offer sessions via Zoom. Past topics have included the National Curriculum, forging animal heads, and the business side of blacksmithing.
  • Take an in-person National Curriculum Class – There are schools and shops around the country with certified National Curriculum Instructors.
  • Join your local ABANA Affiliate Organization – There are 90+ affiliate organizations all over the world. While they are separate fiscal organizations, we offer support, grants, and fellowship to these organizations. Your local blacksmith group will have a wealth of knowledge and experience with many organizations offering conferences, classes, and open forge sessions. Ask your local affiliate if they offer classes in the National Curriculum – it is a great way to learn from that very first taper to a fully completed grille.
  • Attend the ABANA Conference – This biennial conference is held in a different part of the country each time and draws tons of blacksmiths, educators, enthusiasts, vendors, tailgaters, and more!

Suggested Reading

Below is a list of reading material that you may find helpful – especially when first getting started. Everyone has different tastes and styles of learning, so sample a little bit of everything to find what works best for you. Note: As an Amazon Affiliate, ABANA may earn a small amount on qualifying purchases. Your purchase can help support our mission and programs without any additional cost to you.

Popular Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to glean valuable information from others in the community. Through interviews with other smiths, you’ll hear about forging pursuits, business challenges, personal triumphs, and more.