Although there are numerous legendary accounts of the important position occupied by the blacksmith, and the honors accorded him even at a period as remote in the world’s history as the tie of King Solomon, strange to relate there is no single work in the language devoted solely to the practice of the blacksmith’s art. Occasional chapters on the subject may be found, however, in mechanical books, as well as brief essays in encyclopedias. While fragmentary allusions to this important trade have from time to time appeared in newspapers and magazines, no one has ever attempted anything like an exhaustive work on the subject; perhaps none is possible. This paucity of literature concerning a branch of the mechanic arts, without which other trades would cease to exist from lack of proper tools, cannot be attributed to a want of intelligence on the part of the disciples of Vulcan. It is perfectly safe to assert, that in this respect blacksmiths can hold their own with mechanics in any other branch of industry. From their ranks have sprung many distinguished men. Among the number may be mentioned Elihu Burritt, known far and wide as the “learned blacksmith.” The Rev. Robt. Colyer, pastor of the leading Unitarian Church in New York City, started in life as a blacksmith, and while laboring at the forge, began the studies which have since made him famous.
Exactly why no attempt has ever been made to write a book on blacksmithing, it would be difficult to explain. It is not contended that in the following pages anything like a complete consideration of the subject will be undertaken. For the most part the matter has been taken from the columns of The Blacksmith and Wheelwright, to which it was contributed by practical men from all parts of the American continent. The Blacksmith and Wheelwright, it might be observed, is at present the only journal in the world which makes the art of blacksmithing an essential feature.
In the nature of things, the most that can be done by the editor and compiler of these fragmentary articles, is to group the different subjects together and present them with as much system as possible. The editor does not hold himself responsible for the subject matter, or the treatment which each tool receives at the hands of its author. There may be, sometimes, a better way of doing a job of work than the one described herein, but it is believed that the average blacksmith may obtain much information from these pages, even if occasionally some of the methods given are inferior to those with which he is familiar. The editor has endeavored, so far as possible, to preserve the exact language of each contributor.
While a skillful blacksmith of extended experience, with a turn for literature, might be able to write a book arranged more systematically, and possibly treating of more subject, certain it is that no one up to the present time has ever made the attempt, and it is doubtful if such a work would contain the same variety of practical information that will be found in these pages, formed of contributions from hundreds of able workmen scattered over a wide area.