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The Real Poop

Blacksmiths? Do those even still exist? Believe it or not, a "blacksmith" is more than just the most coveted role in a Renaissance festival. (It's true—despite the fun hats, there aren't actually that many Renaissance performers clamoring to be jesters.)

In fact, interest in blacksmithing has risen over the last couple of years, as some people are starting to shy away from mass-produced objects in favor of finely crafted decorative art for their homes. Many are simply feeling Pottery Barn-ed half to death. There is something to be said for handiwork that is actually made by…a human.

Nervous about getting up close and personal with horses? No problem. Blacksmiths may make horseshoes, but the guys who actually perform the dangerous deed of nailing them on the horses' feet are called farriers. So what is the job market like for a modern-day Vulcan (god of smithery and fire)?

There are numerous types of jobs out there for blacksmiths. Some blacksmiths go into architectural design. These "smiths" use iron for making fences, window bars, hardware, furniture, lighting and fireplaces. People who want to add design elements to their homes or replicate historical decorations call upon these types of blacksmiths. Generally, architectural blacksmiths are able to copy historical ironwork to match a specific era.

Now if he can only learn to copy human hair.

Much like architectural blacksmiths, historical blacksmiths fabricate iron and steel works for homes, museums, and festivals. If you've ever been to a historic area or outdoor museum like Colonial Williamsburg, you've probably seen a historical blacksmith forging iron on top of one of those things Wile E. Coyote is always trying to use to crush the Roadrunner. Loving history is a must for this line of work. In fact, historical blacksmiths often use traditional tools such as forges, anvils, tongs, hammers, and vises to create iron works. Because historical blacksmiths often have to do their business in front of an audience (that may be misleading; they are allowed to go to the bathroom in privacy), it's great to be a people person as well as someone who can hammer out a candlestick.

Industrial blacksmiths reforge construction tools like jackhammer bits and parts for crankshafts. They will also fabricate wrought iron for balconies, railings, balusters, and chimney caps. Typically, industrial blacksmiths create both historical and modern ironwork pieces. They are kinda smiths-of-all-trades.

A weaponsmith, as described by the name, makes weapons. These weapons can be fashioned to match historical, modern, or fantasy weapons, but are not really used in battle these days. You might look pretty cool rushing an enemy combatant with a broadsword, but we wouldn't like your chances. Film production companies, museums, and historical parks employ weaponsmiths. Also, many weaponsmiths open up their own shops for those who like to collect. Why buy a Viking battle-axe when you can make one yourself?

Or maybe it's a doorstop. We're not sure.

Finding a forge around your neighborhood might be tough. A forge is the hearth a blacksmith uses for heating up iron or steel, so that it is pliable enough for creating objects. Luckily, there are numerous schools, community colleges, programs, and educational institutions that teach the blacksmith trade. In addition, you can learn blacksmithing skills from special art schools, craft centers, and heritage centers. Or you can learn it the old-fashioned way—by getting your Blacksmithing PhD from Stanford. (Well, they are called "The Farm" so what do you expect?)

Not all the work is done in front of a roaring fire. Blacksmiths use computer software programs for creating designs, contemporary welding systems, new cutting techniques, and power hammers. A power hammer is a large forging device that uses more force to hit an object than the weight of someone hitting iron with a regular hammer. We're sure you’re very strong, but unless you're super-human, a power hammer will often come in handy.

Want a job where you can make decorative items, tools, architectural elements, and weapons? A career as a blacksmith might be for you. Don't worry; not every blacksmith has to wear a blousy shirt with a vest. You can't believe everything you see at the "Faire."