Saturday, May 18

How Much Do Blacksmiths Make?



Have you ever wondered how much blacksmiths actually make?

Or if it's possible to make a living as a blacksmith?

In this post, I've gathered research and first-hand experience to answer these questions.

Quick Note: I realize that many people consider it poor taste to talk about money. If this makes you uncomfortable, I understand.

I personally enjoy talking about salaries and job growth rates (one of my favorite websites is the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

So for those of you who want to know the answer, let's get into it!

Blacksmith Pay Varies...A Lot

The blacksmithing industry is very very small. And the people who populate it range from small hobbyists who make enough to support their hobby to full-scale metalworking shops with welding equipment and CNC machines who do millions in revenue each year. 

Not to mention the celebrity blacksmiths on shows like Forged in Fire: Judges David Baker and J. Neilson, in particular.

With that kind of exposure, it gets increasingly easy to parlay it into big paydays. 

So, blacksmiths can make anything from $1 to millions depending on their notoriety, their marketing, and their skills.

One Blacksmith's Opinion: To be considered a professional blacksmith, or a professional at anything, you need to have gotten paid to do it at the very least. Strictly speaking, it needs to be your main paid occupation. 

Professional Blacksmith Examples

Farriers

According to thefarrierguide.com, the average annual salary for Full-Time farriers in 2012 was $92,623. For part-time farriers it was $21,153. 

The thing to keep in mind is that this is the average. It's the sum of all salaries divided by the number of farriers working. 

Farriers for farm horses are going to be paid differently than farriers for racing horses.

Architectural Blacksmiths

There aren't a whole lot of these around, but they do exist. Blacksmithing isn't typically their only source of income, but they can earn a considerable amount from the fabrication of indoor railings, iron gates, etc.

With the right clientele, a single very large gate and fence job (think mansion or estate) can fetch upwards of $50,000 or more. 

Teaching Blacksmiths

Some blacksmiths make a portion of their income by teaching others. 

Class rates depend on location and the market for classes in that area. 

If it's a one-person shop and they charge around $100 per person per class and they're able to stay booked, they have a chance at earning a living by sharing the craft. 

The downside is that, outside of its own world, blacksmithing can seem a little obscure. The teaching blacksmith has to compete with ALL of the other options people have for spending their entertainment dollars - vacations, theme parks, really nice dinners out, etc.

Final Verdict

The final answer to "How Much Do Blacksmiths Make?" isn't cut-and-dried.

It's not an in-demand profession since we have machines to make so many of the products a smith would normally make. 

We have more than enough knives. 

We have plenty of hooks.

We don't need any more fantasy weapons. 

BUT people like these things and they like being able to find things that are still handmade. 

If you're looking to pick up blacksmithing as a potential income-earning pastime, it's important to have a few things to rely on:

  • Patience - You won't find success overnight.
  • Desire - Some days will suck. A lot. If you don't have a strong desire to keep making things and talking about it, it probably won't work. 
  • Another source of income - It's hard to scrape out a living as a blacksmith due to the demand issues mentioned above. (Not to mention the current competition that has been ignited with shows like Forged in Fire. Everybody is suddenly a knifemaker.)
  • Verbal Skills - Both spoken and written. It's important to be able to communicate with people.
Skills to pick up and develop (if you don't already have them):

  • Marketing - If you can't find your market (the people who want to buy your thing), you're out.
  • Business Basics - Like budgeting, managing overhead and materials costs, simple accounting, etc. You need to know how much you're investing for the return you're getting.  
You only have one life to try this stuff out. If you're into it, go for it. Just be ready to call it quits before the lights get turned off. 

Cheers!

Friday, May 17

Options for Blacksmith Training in (Almost) Every State



When it comes to blacksmith training it can be difficult to find the resources you need.

In this post, we'll lay out:


  • What types of training are available.
  • Where the closest blacksmith school is to you (in the U.S.).
  • How much you can expect to spend.

What types of training are available?

While there are many different sub-categories of blacksmithing, people usually focus on just a handful.

In my experience, this handful consists of farrier work, artistic/architectural, and knife making. 

Farrier Work

Of the blacksmiths working today, the most common type with the steadiest incomes are farriers or horseshoers. 

You'll find them in areas known for horse breeding, farming, Amish country, etc.

If there are horses around, a farrier won't be far behind. 

Here is a thorough list of Farrier Schools in the United States from California to New York and everywhere in between: 


Artistic/Architectural Blacksmithing

If you're not so keen on working with horses, you might be more interested in learning traditional blacksmithing or what we consider more artistic blacksmithing.

These are the folks who create sculptures, forge iron gates, restore historic ironwork, and keep some of the more obscure parts of the tradition alive. 

On this website you can find a clickable U.S. map of all of the blacksmith schools in the nation (that we've found or have provided their information to us). 


Knife Making

Due to the popularity of knife making, many of the schools on the U.S. schools map also offer it as part of their course catalog.

If you want to dive deep into knife making, I recommend taking a look at your state on that map and any schools in states that border yours/are within a reasonable drive.

How much does blacksmith training cost?

Farrier schools will range in price, but let's use Kentucky Horseshoeing School as an example:

Their 12-week survey course is $9,500.
Their 36-week career course is $25,000.

Financial assistance is available.

Artistic/Architectural/Craft Blacksmithing classes and courses are much shorter in duration and will cost quite a bit less.

Here are a few current examples of what you can expect to spend:

The wide variation in timeframe and class costs are related to a few things:

  • Customer demand and availability - Some groups of people have the time to take an entire week off to go to rural North Carolina for an amazing experience at John C. Campbell. Other people only have a few hours on a weekend to learn some tips and tricks. It varies a lot.
  • Location - You can expect to pay more in larger cities since the cost of living is higher.
  • Notoriety - If the shop is well-known you may experience premium pricing. For example, there's a Forged in Fire champion who works in Pigeon Forge, TN in an open air shop. He and his staff are able to cycle multiple people per hour through a $75/person RR spike knife class due to his fame and the system he set up. Pretty impressive.

What are your blacksmithing goals?

The goals you set for yourself when it comes to blacksmithing will dictate what type of training you pursue. 

If you just want to give it a shot, a weekend class could be the ticket.

If you know you want to devote your life to it and want to secure a stable income, I recommend pursuing farrier school. 

There are very few professional blacksmiths who make a good living at it full-time. It can be a very difficult road to take, but not impossible if you have tenacity, a sociable personality, and some marketing skills (more on the importance of these attributes in a future post). 

If you're serious about giving it a shot, check out these resources:


Wednesday, May 15

Buying Blacksmithing Hammers - What to Consider

What should you look for when it's time to buy your blacksmithing hammer?

Is head shape the most important factor?

What about weight?

In this short video, we'll talk about how to keep it very simple and what to focus on.


Summary:


  • Your first blacksmithing hammer should be between 2 and 3 pounds. This will allow you to swing it for a solid chunk of time without wearing yourself out too much. If the hammer is too light, you'll be swinging more times and be less effective. If it's VERY heavy, you'll only be able to swing it a few times before you're toast.

  • I like Nordic Style 2.5 Pound Cross Peen Hammers. The hammer I use every day in the shop is this style because, of the styles I tried when I was learning, I liked the feel of it the best. It comes down to personal preference.

  • Wooden handles over plastic, rubber, etc. While some rubberized handles can help with shock absorption, they can also burn more easily and cause worse blisters from added rubbing. Plus, wood handles are classic. 
Do You Have a Favorite Hammer Style?

Leave a comment below with your favorite blacksmithing hammer.