What Is the Difference Between a Blacksmithing and Bladesmithing?


I see many people constantly getting confused about choosing the right term for describing the person who forges various projects out of steel. Some people call him/her blacksmith while others bladesmith.

The difference between bladesmithing and blacksmithing is that blacksmithing is just a broader category that includes bladesmithing. Thus, blacksmithing is a term that describes the art and craft of forging steel, while bladesmithing refers to the making of blades that include various knives, swords, daggers, etc.

Next, we will discuss their differences in some greater detail and the reasons why people confuse these two so often.

Shall we?

Okay, moving on.

What Is Blacksmithing?

We can define blacksmithing as the craft of making various projects out of metal. This typically includes tools, knives, gates, hinges, railings, and countless more. It is done by forging technique using blacksmithing tools to draw out, bend, cut, or shape the material. The place where all of that is done is called a blacksmiths shop or a forge.

Blacksmiths typically use mild steel, wrought iron, and many types of steel for their work. Unlike bladesmithing, blacksmithing is more focused on the actual heating and beating aspect of metalwork rather than the grinding process that is so relevant in bladesmithing. A blacksmith is called a blacksmith because they mostly work with black metal. The term “metalsmith” is also frequently used for describing the same thing.

It is important to note that there are many categories found in blacksmithing. Each category is described by either the type of work or type of metal. Many people prefer to be addressed by their specialty, so this is why you will find categories like:

  • Arrowsmith – a person who forges arrowheads out of iron or steel
  • Bladesmith – a person who specializes in making various blades, including swords, knives, axes, daggers, etc. They use similar techniques that blacksmiths use. Bladesmith also must know some basic woodworking.
  • Coppersmith – a person who works with copper to make artifacts. He is also called a brazier.
  • Goldsmith – a person who primarily focuses on gold and precious metals. This person has to be skilled at producing jewelry through filing, casting, and polishing.
  • Gunsmith – a person who designs, builds, repair, and clean the guns. Gunsmith typically also work as a decorator for guns.
  • Locksmith – a person who usually works with locks and keys and locks. Locksmith also replaces locks and fix broken ones.
  • Silversmith – a person who forges ornaments and other objects out of silver. He/she uses techniques very similar to the goldsmiths.
  • Tinsmith – a person who works with tinware. He or she produces various objects from tin and other light metals.
  • Swordsmith – a person who specializes in forging swords
  • Whitesmith – a person who typically works with tin. However, he/she focuses more on finishing and polishing the metal whereas a tinsmith focuses more on forging it.

Plenty of modern blacksmiths today work with the tools and techniques utilized for many centuries. The first evidence of blacksmithing work is a knife found in Egypt which dates 1500 B.C. It was probably the product of Hittites who also invented tempering. Blacksmithing has evolved tremendously up to this day but the funny thing is that you will still find some amount of smith who works in an old-fashioned way.

The fundamental tools of every blacksmith are hammer, forge, anvil, and tongs. Note that there are many more tools which we won’t mention here.

Keep in mind that blacksmithing in today’s age is more about aesthetic and artwork than construction purposes. So, unless the blacksmith is in some pre-industrial third world country, he is typically useless. In history, blacksmithing played a vital role in construction bu today, new technology replaced them.

Recommended reading:

Is Blacksmithing a Dying Art?
Is Blacksmithing Hard to Learn?

What Is Bladesmithing?

Bladesmithing is defined as the art and craft of making various blades. This includes knives, swords, axes, daggers, and many more. So, bladesmithing is considered a sub-category of blacksmithing. Knowing that you could also say that every bladesmith is a blacksmith in some way but not every blacksmith is a bladesmith. In fact, some of the most known blacksmiths never made a knife.

Although both use similar tools and techniques, bladesmithing requires a large amount of grinding. Things like cutting in profiles, shaping handles, and establishing bevels are often done on some type of grinder. As a blacksmith, a bladesmith also uses a forge to heat their blades. The same thing is with other basic tools. However, there are tools that blacksmiths don’t typically use like a drill press, belt grinder, knife sharpener, and others.

Bladesmithing is a craft that is thousands of years old. It is also found in cultures as diverse as India, Japan, China, Germany, the Middle East, etc. As with any other craft, there are many misconceptions and myths about the process of making blades. Inside the bladesmithing community, there are traditional bladesmiths who don’t like this term so they rather called themself blacksmiths. Be as it may, there are also craftsmen referred to as bladesmiths or knifemakers.

For example, in the beginning, when I started making knives, I have always considered myself a knifemaker. That was the majority of the work I was doing at the time. After some time, I started producing various other projects like hooks and tools. One day my good friend came to my shop and said – “Oh, I see. You are not only a knifemaker anymore, you are a blacksmith now.”

Then he explained to me the differences in terminology. To be honest, I didn’t really care but I know some people who get annoyed when you called them by the wrong term.

Modern bladesmiths often use stock removing methods for making blades whereas traditional typically use forging methods. There are many overlaps between the two but the forged knives are usually considered superior.

I would also note that bladesmithing is becoming more and more popular, primarily because of the new show “Forged in Fire” that started in 2015. Since then, bladesmithing has attracted thousands of people in learning about this amazing craft. I must say that I was one of them. It also doesn’t show any signs of slowing down at any time soon. There are more and more bladesmithing courses every year in America and all around the world. It is truly amazing what a single tv show can do.

Not only that, but Youtube has played a tremendous role in the popularization of bladesmithing. Channels like Alec Steele, Black Bear Forge, Christ-Centered Ironworks attracts more and more people into this. There are also more and more blogs and forums related to bladesmithing. As you can see, the community is larger every year.

The good news is that in today’s time, you can learn almost anything you want by the use of the internet. You can also choose between many blacksmithing/bladesmithing online courses. So if you are interested in learning about these crafts but for some reason, you have been avoiding it, I’m sorry you don’t have any excuses.

Conclusion

As you can see, the confusion among the people is understandable since there are big similarities. For example, both are metalwork. A lot of blacksmiths are also bladesmiths and all bladesmiths are blacksmiths. Ok, now when you know what is what, you can make your decision much easier to pursue what you are more interested in.

Albert from Wyoming

Hi, Albert here... Forging World is the place where I share everything I've learned (and still learning) in my 20ish years of experience in forging. Hope you like the blog and #keepforging #keeplearning

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