Blacksmiths Glossary

Compiled by Tom Cloud for Ann Spiro

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Catalan forge
Term Definition
Alloy Two metals mixed together to achieve a unique characteristic (different from a compound where two chemicals combine to form a different substance). A metal alloy combines metals to obtain characteristics slightly different from the components used. Some metals are "elemental" meaning they are a unique chemical element found on the periodic table of elements. Seven of these -- gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, iron, and mercury -- were used by early metallurgists. Brass, bronze and steel are examples of alloys of those elemental metals.
Anglesmith A person who bends or joins metal to form angular shapes.
Annealing Heating a metal to remove stresses or hardening, usually to a temperature just below the metal's melting point.
Anvil A heavy metal working piece on which metal objects are hammered or forged. In ancient times anvils were made of stone.
Anvilsmith Maker of anvils and hammers for blacksmiths.
Arbor Press A hand-operated press used for small tasks, e.g. pressing pins into holes or riveting, staking, etc.
Armorer A person who makes or repairs armor or weapons.
Auger Maker Maker of carpenters' augers (drill bits).
Axle Maker Maker of axles for wagons and coaches.
Bellfounder A person who made bells in a foundry.
Bellows Maker A person who made bellows used to keep smiths' furnace fires at the proper temperature.
Bessemer Process The first inexpensive industrial process for the mass production of steel from molten pig iron, patented in 1855 by Henry Bessemer. It featured the removal of impurities from the iron by oxidizing them with air blown through the molten iron.
Blacksmith A person who creates objects from metal (typically iron or steel) by forging the metal using heat, hammers and specialized tools. The name comes from the Teutonic word "smeithan" meaning to forge and from the black color of the heated iron, so it means black metal forger.
Blacksmith's Apprentice A person who assisted the blacksmith in his job, working with iron using a furnace, anvil, and hammer.
Blacksmith's Striker A person who assisted the blacksmith in his job, working with iron using a furnace, anvil, and hammer.
Bladesmith A person who worked with blades to create tools such as swords or knives.
Blanking A machine press operation whereby a piece of metal is punched out of a larger workpiece. The resulting piece of metal is called a "blank" and often was shaped as a circle or square or or other shape.
Blast Furnace A high temperature furnace used to smelt metals from their ore. It differs from typical smelters or furnaces in that air (oxygen) is forced into the bottom of the furnace which raises the combustion temperature of the fuel and creates a reaction with the iron. Blast furnaces are found in China dating to the 1st century BC. The Catalan forge was a predecessor to the blast furnace in Europe.
Boiler A closed container in which water is heated to steam, often to power a machine e.g. a locomotive or ship.
Boiler Maker A person who makes boilers.
Brake A type of press used to bend sheet metal.
Brass An alloy of copper and zinc and often other metals.
Brass Cutter A person who engraves copper plate.
Brass Dresser A person who made finished or dressed brass.
Brass Finisher A person who worked in a foundry to remove burs and marks from brass objects using sanding, polishing or buffing techniques.
Brass Founder A person who cast brass, melting it down and making items from moulds such as bells, harnesses, coach fittings and buckles. It would have involved working with extreme heat, often giving a permanent color to the founder's face. In addition there was the extreme hazard of dealing with molten brass on a daily basis, not to mention lifting heavy metal objects.
Brass Knob Maker A person who casts brass to make door knobs.
Brass Pole Maker A person who made brass poles.
Brazier A person who made or repaired brass items.
Brazing A form of high temperature soldering using special alloys of brass as the filler or joining metal. The brass filler contains copper combined with other metals e.g. silver, nickel, zinc, phosphorus, etc. The process requires temperatures hot enough to melt the filler metal, typically above 450 C or 800 F. Because of the heat, the metal would quickly oxidize and prevent the metals from combining, so a flux was needed (see flux).
Brightsmith A person who works with bright metals such as copper, tin or brass.
Bronze A metal alloy consisting of copper mixed with tin though other metals may also be added.
Cartwright The occupation of making and repairing carts (a wainwright).
Casting The process of pouring molten metal into a mold.
Catalan Forge A furnace used to smelt iron from its ore, also called a bloomery. It used air forced into the bottom of the furnace to raise the burning temperature of the fuel. It was invented in Catalonia, Spain in the 8th century and was a predecessor of the modern blast furnace.
Coin Die A die used to make coins, seals or medallions. They were specialty dies made by artisan engravers.
Coining The process of striking or stamping metal blanks between die faces to transfer a pattern or image from the die to the blank. See also Mint.
Coin Press A high-pressure machine press operation wherein the metal workpiece face is deformed into a pattern in the shape of the die. Developed by the Romans, it was used to produce not only coins but medals or medallions, jewelry, seals and other items with designs on their surface.
Copperbeater A person who worked with copper or brass.
Coppersmith A person who made artifacts from copper, including cookware, eating utensils, jewelry, cigarette cases, light fixtures, etc.
Crucible A container in which metals are melted, originally made of clay and later from ceramics and other materials.
Die A specially shaped part of a press, the anvil, so to speak, against which the metal workpiece is driven by the ram or hammer of the press. The die was used to form the metal into specific shapes including bending it, punching holes in it, or deforming it into shapes such as rivets, pins, or in impressing patterns upon the metal's surface as with coins, jewelry, medallions, etc.
Die Maker An person who makes the dies used in forming metal into shapes or impressing patterns upon the surface of metal.
Drawing A metalworking process wherein metal is forced or pulled through a metal die (the die can be a hole through which the metal is drawn, as used for wire drawing, or rollers, as used in sheet metal drawing). It is used to make wire, bars, tubes and sheet metal.
Engine A mechanical device which converts power into motion.
Engraver A metalworker who cut patterns into metal. Engraving was practiced by jewelers, watchmakers, coin minters and others. Engravers also made lettered or numbered punches or dies used to strike the images onto metal workpieces. They later made the lettered type dies used in printing.
Farrier A blacksmith who works with horses, caring for their feet by shoeing, trimming them, etc.
File Maker A person who makes files by cutting or chiseling grooves into a metal blank and then hardening it.
Finery Forge The furnace used to produce malleable wrought iron from pig iron.
Finisher A person who finished or polished items, usually of metal.
Fireman A person who works with furnaces and boilers ensuring their proper operation to power machinery. (see furnaceman).
Flux A substance used to keep oxygen from the surface of heated or molten metal in order to prevent its oxidation. Historically, charcoal and eventually borax compounds were used and today inert gases such as argon and helium are used to keep oxygen away from the workpiece. (Nitrogen cannot be used as it causes nitrogen embrittlement). Some fluxes are intentionally corrosive, some containing muriatic acid, for example, to aid in cleaning the areas to be joined, while some fluxes, e.g. those used in electronics, use a rosin to achieve a non-corrosive and non-conductive flux.
Forge A brick or stone-lined furnace where the smith or smithy heats the workpiece to a malleable or annealing temperature before transferring it to the anvil to work with the hammer.
Forging The shaping of metal using force (typically a hammer or press) and usually heat.
Forging Press A machine press used to hammer or forge metal into three-dimensional shapes.
Foundry A place where metal casting is performed – a process in which metal is melted and poured into molds. The resulting metal shape is called a casting. The first recorded metals to be cast were lead, silver and gold as they are easier to cast than other metals. Copper is one of the more difficult metals to cast, though adding small amounts of other metals like silver or zinc make the process easier. Iron requires much higher temperatures to melt, which made its use in casting later than for the other elemental metals. Early casting molds were probably dirt or sand, and sand is still used today for certain types of casting.
Furnaceman A person responsible for keeping a furnace at the proper temperature by fueling it with wood or coal (see also fireman).
Graver The hardened tool used by an engraver (aka burin) to cut patterns in metal.
Gunsmith A person who made firearms.
Hammer A heavy tool used by the smith to beat metal objects into shape or to join them together (weld them).
Hammerman (Smith) A person who worked with metal, literally hammering it.
Hardening The process of making a metal harder through beating it (work hardening), quenching and tempering or adding proprietary chemicals or alloys to it.
Heat Treating A metalworking process used to alter the properties of the metal, e.g. Annealing, case hardening, quenching, tempering, etc.
Horseshoe A U-shaped piece of metal nailed to the hooves of horses and other animals to protect their hooves from damage.
Iron A metal, a basic chemical element existing in the earth in ores as iron oxides. It is extracted from the iron ore at high temperatures in a smelter and is hardened with the addition of carbon. Modern extraction uses blast furnaces. Iron has magnetic properties (is ferromagnetic) and can be magnetized or attracted to a magnetized object.
Machine Press See "Press".
Machine Shop A place where powered tools cut and form materials e.g. Metal, etc.
Machinist A person who worked or "machined" metal typically using a lathe or milling machine.
Malleable The ability of a metal to be deformed under compressive stress -- hammering by the smithy.
Matchet or Machete Forger A knifemaker, or machete maker; a heavy axe-like knife used as a chopping tool.
Mechanic A person who repaired machines, typically engines.
Metals of Antiquity The seven elemental metals -- gold, copper, silver, lead, tin, iron, and mercury -- are called the metals of antiquity.
Metalwork The process of forming metal into objects. Early metal work involved smelting the elemental metal ore to obtain the metal workpiece and then either hammering it or casting it into shapes.
Mint A specialized foundry where coins are made.
Piercing A press operation producing a hole in the workpiece. The hole could be circular, square or other shapes.
Pig Iron A brittle, high carbon content form of iron from a blast furnace. It was poured into sand molds and resembled a pig, hence its name. It was typically worked into wrought iron in finery forges.
Press The press was a natural evolution from the hammer to a more sophisticated method of working metal. As with the hammer, it is used to shape metal or make impressions on it, to force metal pieces together, to make holes in metal or to punch shapes from metal sheets. It allowed more control over the process, along with more force, and allowed for a wider variety of shapes and impressions. Originally, the press ram was driven against the press anvil by a hammer blow and later by a lever or screw mechanism. Modern presses typically use hydraulic pistons to drive the ram. Different functions are performed by different types of presses — e.g. Arbor Press, Brake, Coin Press, Forging Press, Machine Press, Punch Press, Rolling Press, Screw Press, Stamping Press, etc.
Punch A metal tool used with a hammer to drive pins or set rivets. The term can also refer to a type of press used to punch holes in metal.
Punch Press A machine press used to punch holes in metal.
Puddler A person who worked in the metallurgy industry making wrought iron by melting pig iron, slowly removing the carbon and then hammering out the slag before being rolled into bars or sheets.
Quenching The rapid cooling of the metal workpiece to change its properties -- typically to harden steel.
Rolling Press A type of press made of rollers through which sheet metal was forced in order to impress a pattern onto the metal or to make the metal thinner, wider and longer.
Saw Maker A person who made and repaired saws.
Screw Maker A person who made screws by using a mould, usually with iron.
Screw Press A press where the ram is driven by a screw.
Sheet Metal Metal formed into thin, flat sheets.
Shipsmith A blacksmith who forged parts for building ships.
Slag A by-product of smelting ore -- the unwanted remainder of the smelting process. Also called dross or tailings.
Smelter A high temperature furnace used to extract metals from their ores.
Smelting The process of extracting a metal from its ore through heat and the addition of certain reducing agents.
Smith A person who worked in the metallurgy industry with metals such as iron using a furnace, anvil, and hammer. Iron is a so-called 'black' metal as it turns black when heated, hence the term "blacksmith". They also work with steel and tin. The metals were heated using furnaces driven by wood or coal until malleable enough to shape with tools. This was known as forging. The origin of the term is ancient and unknown, but may be from the Norse "smithr" or early Greek "smile" (carving knife) and can be found in Old English "smithian" and early German "Schmied".
Soldering Joining metal objects using a molten filler metal heated with a hot iron or a torch or flame. Soldering differs from gluing objects together in that the metals form an alloy at the joint, a molecular bond that prevents the encroachment of oxygen or moisture. Soft soldering used a tin-lead alloy as the filler metal. It requires the least amount of heat and is the weakest of the soldering techniques. Silver soldering melted at higher temperatures and used a silver alloy. Brazing was the strongest and required the most heat to melt the brass filler metal. The temperature of the flame and the workpiece produced light such that darkened goggles were required to braze.
Soldering Iron A tool used to perform soft soldering, usually a copper-plated metal rod heated in a furnace and later heated by an electric current.
Stamping Refers to metal forming operations performed by presses, including blanking, embossing, bending, flanging, punching and coining.
Steel An alloy of iron and carbon and other metals which was stronger and easier to work than iron. Like iron, it has magnetic properties.
Stoker A person who was in charge of a furnace, keeping it at the appropriate temperature by feeding wood or coal into it. Some furnaces were used to drive steam machinery, but they were also used in foundries. Fireman is the designation for a person whose job is to tend the fire for the running of a steam engine, typically a steam locomotive. In other places where steam engines are employed, such as steamships and saw mills, the designation stoker is used.
Striker / Stryker A person who assisted the blacksmith in his job, working with iron using a furnace, anvil, and hammer.
Swaging The process of forcing metal into or through a cavity or hole in a die using a hammer or press in order to deform the metal into a smaller or different shape.
Tempering A process to make metal "tougher" by heating and quenching it through various steps.
Tilt Hammer A water driven hammer which could weigh several hundred pounds. It allowed the smith to hammer much larger pieces of iron. They existed in Europe during the Middle Ages but did not appear in England until the late fifteenth or early sixteenth centuries.
Tinker An itinerant worker who travelled about working as a tinsmith.
Tinman A person who worked with "white" or light-colored metals such as tin and pewter, making items like cups, plates, cutlery. Also a person who finished or polished iron.
Tinner A person who worked extracting tin ore or who worked as a tinsmith with "white" or light-colored metals such as tin and pewter, making items like cups, plates, cutlery.
Tinsmith A person who worked with "white" or light-colored metals such as tin and pewter, making items like cups, plates, cutlery.
Tongs Tools used to grip and hold the smith's metal workpiece in the furnace and while hammering it.
Tool Helver A person who made tool handles.
Toolsmith A person who makes tools from metal by forging and hammering.
Traveling Forge A blacksmith shop on wheels often used to service the military, to shoe horses, repair wagons, artillery, etc.
Vulcan A person who worked in the metallurgy industry with iron using a furnace, anvil, and hammer.
Wainwright A person who made and repaired wheels for carts, wagons and horse-drawn carriages, also known as a Cartwright. The term comes from the old English "wain" meaning a large wagon for farm use and "wryhta" meaning a worker or maker.
Welding The process of joining metal objects by melting them together.
Wheel Making See wheelwright.
Wheelwright A person who builds or repairs wheels.
Wire Drawer A person who made wire by forcing metal through holes in a die.
Wire Pulling The process of pulling metal through a hole (a wire-making die) to turn it into wire. This is a progressive operation as the wire is incrementally made smaller and longer.
Work Hardening Hardening a metal by forming it, often by hammering, but any flexing or compression of the metal, e.g. bending, vibration, stamping, shearing, drawing, rolling, etc. will cause hardening. Work hardening is not always desirable, as in the eventual breakage of a metal wire or strap which is bent too many times. (Annealing was used to remove the stresses caused by work hardening.)
Wright A worker or maker, e.g. A carpenter or metal smith.
Wrought Iron A common form of malleable iron that is easily welded by forging and was historically used to make most iron implements, including pipes, chains, nails, rivets, horseshoes.
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