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Training For Blacksmiths

Institutional Courses / Private Courses / Unconfirmed Info / Foreign Courses / Work Experience

Blacksmithing defined

Blacksmiths make products using metal, principally using forging techniques (heating the metal to incandescence and forming by impact or pressure). Traditionally the metal would have been wrought iron but these days we generally use mild steel. We will also use stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as copper, bronze and brass. Our output is varied, from small items like candlesticks to larger things like sculptural structures and agricultural machinery. We use both traditional and modern techniques.

The work of a blacksmith should not be confused with that of the farrier. Originally known as shoeing smiths, farriers use blacksmithing skills to make, shape and fit horseshoes. Their work also involves checking and clipping horses' hooves.

Do I need to get a qualification to be a professional blacksmith?

In the UK there is no formal regulation of blacksmithing. This means that anyone can set up in business and call themselves a blacksmith. The vast majority of customers will not be the least bit interested in the fact that you have passed a BTEC or Diploma, they want to see what you can make. To make saleable objects you need to learn skills and techniques. Going on a full time college or university course may be the fastest and most practical way for you to learn these but it is not the only way. If you are considering a full time course then you are likely to find a good mix of students male and female and of all ages and levels of experience who have come from all over the country to learn.

Links to detailed FAQ:

Personal Qualities and Skills

There are two basic types of blacksmith: Industrial and Artist

If I make my living as a blacksmith how much can I expect to earn?

Hours of work

Demand

Where could I work?

Self-employment

Which course should I take?

Entry routes and training

Formal training

Entry requirements for formal courses vary from place to place. An interest and some ability in metalwork and design is often more important than academic qualifications. However, it's always useful to have some GCSE’s or equivalent qualifications. Useful subjects include Manufacturing, Maths, and Design and Technology (Resistant Materials Technology).

Edexcel (BTEC) offers a National Award, Certificate and Diploma in Blacksmithing and Metalworking. For entry to National Award, Certificate and Diploma, the minimum you'll need is:

  • 4 GCSEs at grade C or above.
  • However, practical ability and enthusiasm for the subject are often as important as academic qualifications.

There is a degree in Artist Blacksmithing available at the Hereford College of Arts. For entry, the minimum you'll need is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs at grade C or above in your A level subjects.
  • A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C or above, including English and Maths. Subjects such as Design and Technology (Resistant Materials) and Chemistry can also be useful.
  • Alternative qualifications to A levels are accepted, so check the Hereford College of Arts prospectus for full entry details.

NVQ’s in Metal Processing and Allied Operations are available at levels 2 and 3. These include several units relevant to people that want to become blacksmiths.

What are the alternatives to full time education?

Full time education courses are between 1 and 3 years in length and should equip you with a range of skills and techniques. This is a great way to get a lot of knowledge very quickly but it is not possible or compulsory for everyone to become a blacksmith via this route, and if you are wiling to be flexible there are other options:

Apprenticeships

New entrants to this industry are often trained on-the-job by an experienced blacksmith, but formal apprenticeships are extremely rare in the UK. Some smiths may agree to take on an apprentice but this is a private agreement between smith and apprentice. There is no standard set of skills which you will be taught and there is no scheme to regulate your hours or pay. However, if smith and apprentice work well together this can be a great way to learn.  If you are a BABA member looking through the Members Directory will help you to narrow down your search. An initial phone-call to the smith is usually the best way to start.

Private/short courses

Your chances of getting a starter job/apprenticeship will be increased if you have some basic workshop experience. On these pages you will find a number of colleges and professional blacksmiths offering private courses.  Usually lasting a weekend or a few days these courses can provide you with either a first experience of blacksmithing in a ‘taster course’ or a specific area of blacksmithing such as toolmaking. If you are not sure whether blacksmithing is right for you then these can be a good way to find out. Prices vary and most will be on a day-attendance basis with extra charges for accommodation. Make sure you check the details for the course so that you know what is and isn’t included before you sign up.

Teach yourself:

A few blacksmiths are self-taught. This is a popular learning route in the USA because of the vast distances between colleges and this is the reason why some in the UK take this route too. There are plenty of books available (see BABA books) to help you but please read the safety sections very carefully as forging and welding are potentially dangerous activities for the unsupervised beginner. Before you rush out and convert your garage please also consider any neighbours you have. The sound of an angle grinder at 9 am on a Sunday morning is unlikely to win you any friends!

Work experience:

Some BABA members are willing to offer work experience. Work experience is more often provided to students in the middle of a college course. By this point they know how to be safe in a workshop environment and they have some basic skills which the professional blacksmith may be able to put to use.

If you are thinking of applying for a full-time college course but are not 100% sure that blacksmithing is for you then a days ‘taster course’ or a weeks work experience in a professional forge could be what you need to help you decide.

Joining BABA:

Whatever route you are considering joining BABA will help you. The Members Directory will provide you with a list of contacts throughout the UK. BABA forge-ins are a great way to meet a whole range of student, amateur and professional smiths who will be more than happy to chat with you over a beer and share their experiences with you. Many smiths have found work experience and also permanent jobs as a result of a chat at a forge-in.



Should you be dialling any UK number from outside the country, dial your international access code, the country code for the UK (44) and then DON'T dial the initial zero in the UK phone number.

Contacts:

A comprehensive list of most courses related to art and design can be obtained online from the Universities and Colleges Admission Services We would advise anyone considering a full time course to search this site.
Address of UCAS:
Rosehill
New Barn Lane
Cheltenham
Gloucestershire
GL52 3LZ.
Applicant enquiries: +44 (0) 1242 227788
General enquiries: +44 (0) 1242 222444
Minicom: +44 (0) 1242 544942 - This service is designed for people with hearing difficulties.
Application Pack Requests: You can order application materials online or you can contact UCAS application requests:
tel: +44 (0)1242 223707

 

 

The Crafts Council can provide lists of colleges which run short courses in metalwork, and can provide contact names for makers from their National Register who may be able to run workshops or provide work placements for students and volunteers.
Crafts Council-Resource Centre
44a Pentonville Road
London N1 9B
www.craftscouncil.org.uk
Fax: 020 7833 4479
Tel: 020 7806 2501

Institutional courses:


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Courses at Herefordshire College of Technology
HCT is recognised as the foremost national centre for training Smiths who wish to work in the various areas of forged iron, ranging from traditional to contemporary design work. The following courses are available at the Rural Crafts Centre at the College's Holme Lacy campus.

* BA Honours Artist Blacksmithing
* Foundation Blacksmithing & Metalwork
* BTEC National Award in Blacksmithing & Metalwork - Level 3
* BTEC National Diploma in Blacksmithing & Metalwork - Level 3
DFS Design and Forgework Skills (replacement for NETS course)

 

 

 

West Dean College
West Dean College has been engaged in education in the visual and applied arts (including blacksmithing), music, gardening and conservation for more than 30 years. It is well known for its excellent tuition and specialist facilities, its stimulating environment and informal atmosphere. The College's programme of over 500 practical short courses runs throughout the year, enabling people to explore new subjects and ideas, develop skills and make useful and beautiful things. The College is also home to the West Dean Tapestry Studio, which designs and weaves tapestries to commission.
Enquiries to:
West Dean College
West Dean
Chichester
West Sussex
P018 OQZ.
01243 811301
fax 01243 811343.

 

 

Newham College of Further education
Each student will develop skill in handling metal in the fire, and forming it to planned shapes using a variety of skills. Safety in the workshop is part of the course. No previous skills are essential to get on the course, though skills from other crafts are often transferable and enable faster progress . Those who come with skills are enabled to develop more, including heat treatment of steel, and hone their skills to a higher level. By the end of the course trainees will have increased their skills with hammers and other tools, learned which tools to use for different effects and started to design their own work. After completing a one term course, further terms at this class will develop more skills and understanding of steel forming processes. This is a good preliminary to courses at other centres in Blacksmithing, Farriery and welding and fabrication. Participants should wear strong shoes to protect their feet, and clothes that are warm and will not matter getting dirty. The work is physical and ‘hands on’! Length of course – 10 weeks at 3 hours per week Mondays; 1-3 pm and 6-9 pm
Enquiries to:
Newham Adult Education
1 Woodford Road Forest Gate
E7 0DH.
020 8257 4680

 

 

Warwickshire College
New from Sept 2006
A range of full-time courses, all including the essential skills of forgework, welding and fabrication, drawing and design, plus business management awareness. Our emphasis is on artistic blacksmithing skills, with students encouraged to develop their own style and compete at major events.
  • BTEC National Award – one year
  • BTEC National Certificate – one year, for people with significant prior experience
  • BTEC National Diploma – two years
Entry onto courses requires some relevant prior experience in forgework, metalworking or related crafts. A sound academic background is desirable but commitment and aptitude to the craft are more important.
For more details visit the website, or contact Richard Bacon (01926 318260).
We also offer evening classes, or bespoke courses for groups.
Warwickshire College,
Moreton Morrell
Warwick
CV35 9BL

Private Courses:

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Peat Oberon runs courses from his forge in Stockton-on-Tees.
Peat is an inspiring teacher who will have you comfortable with forging in short order.
Contact Peat on 01642 879690 (home) 01642 785543 (work)
Website: www.school-of-blacksmithing.co.uk

 

 

Weekend courses run by The Blacksmith's Guild (previously the Guild of Wrought Iron Craftsmen of Wessex).
Contact: John Bellamy
c/o The Forge
Eastdon Farmhouse
Eastdon
Starcross EX68RJ
01626-890503
Website: www.blacksmithsguild.com

 

Richard Bent runs Saturday courses from his forge in Devon 0789 9797 699
See Richard's Website for details

 

 

Petersen Studios near Carmarthen have blacksmithing weekends for 8 students per class at irregular intervals. Contact; David Petersen 01994 230318

 

 

The Centre for Alternative Technology runs weekend Blacksmithing courses.
INFO:
C.A.T.
Machynlleth
Powys SY2O 9AZ.
016544703743.

 

 

Hector Cole offers short courses from his forge in Wiltshire. Contact him on 01666 825794

 

 

Melissa Cole F.W.C.B. has been running sculpture forging and traditional blacksmithing day courses for 5 years from her forge and studio on the edge of Savernake Forest in Wiltshire.
The course will suit beginners and experienced learners that want to develop their sculpture ideas through the medium of forged metal.  Visit The Shed Space Gallery on site showing examples of Melissa’s forged contemporary sculpture.
Contact her on 01672 519322 or at www.melissacole.co.uk

 

 

The Quinnell School of Blacksmithing at Leatherhead, Surrey,
run by Pauline and Richard Quinnell, offers weekend courses in basic blacksmithing for beginners, male or female, from about 15 years old upwards, from spring to autumn; also suitable for those with some experience of basic forging who wish to improve
Tutors are Peat Oberon and Peter Parkinson; the classes are limited to 8 students. Spectacular achievement is the norm, with many students signing up for second-stage courses. Very comfortable bed, breakfast and evening meal are available for those living too far away to commute.
For full details see our website www.blacksmithing-school.co.uk or phone 01372-374791, or drop in to Fire and Iron Gallery Rowhurst Forge Oxshott Road Leatherhead Surrey KT22 0EN

Unconfirmed Courses:

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  Please note this information is very out of date, please contact the appropriate bodies before setting your sights on a particular course - We will be contacting each of the following locations as soon as we can to confirm next years placements - please bear with us.

 

 

Bridgewater College

 

  • Metal Craft OCN
    Entry requirements: Unknown
    Notes: Cutting, forming, shaping and joining metal including some forge work. Design and make your own projects.
  • The Metal and Glass Course OCN
    Entry requirements: Unknown
    Notes:Essentially a practical course but with some theory. Covering stained glass work, etching, forging, casting, forming, joining and design. Three days per week
  • Advanced Metal Design OCN
    Entry requirements: Unknown
    Notes:Covering theory and practical forging, casting, furniture design and making, joining, drawing and design plus various metal forming techniques from spinning to colouring. Three days a week.
Bath Road
Bridgewater
Somerset TA6 4PZ
phone 01278 455464 or 441234
fax 01278 444363

 

 

London Institute
BA(Hons) Silversmithing & Metalwork
65 Davies Street
London W1Y 2DA.
0171 514 6000
Entry requirements: Successful completion of a foundation course
Notes: A wide ranging workshop based course Students can specialise in blacksmithing and architectural metalwork

 

 

Plymouth College of Art and Design

 

  • HND Design Metals
    Entry requirements: BTEC National Diploma or Advanced GNVQ in art and design or a related craft area, National Diploma in Foundation Studies, relevant A Level passes or an equivalent qualification. Applications from mature students with no formal qualifications who are able to provide evidence of their creative abilities are welcomed.
    Notes: The course details do not specifically mention blacksmithing but "the modular programme of study includes working with metals in the widest possible sense from jewellery to mid-scale domestic objects to large-scale metalwork".
  • BA (Hons) Applied Arts: Ceramics, Glass, Metals
    Entry requirements: Applicants should have already obtained a Higher National Diploma or completed the first and second years of a Degree in a related craft area and be able to undertake critical analysis and research.
    Notes: The course details do not specifically mention blacksmithing but "the programme will provide lieu with time to critically reflect on your work and the work of others and includes small, medium and large-scale metalwork".
  • BTEC National Diploma in Design Crafts
    Entry requirements: Four GCSE's at grade C or above or an appropriate First Certificate or GNVQ Intermediate plus evidence of your creative skills. Applications from mature students who can demonstrate their creative abilities are also welcome.
    Notes: The course details do not specifically mention blacksmithing but "the programme will enable students to explore the fields of ceramics and jewelry before specialising in one of these areas and includes piercing, soldering, casting, metal colouring and stone setting".
  • Access to Higher Education - 3D Art and Design
    Entry requirements: There are no formal entry requirements for this programme although you must be aged 21 or over.
    Notes: The course details do not specifically mention blacksmithing but "the programme provides mature students with an accelerated route in to Higher Education and includes jewelry and metalwork"
  • Hot Metals - NCFE Stage 1
    Entry requirements: There are no formal entry requirements for this course.
    Notes: The course details do not specifically mention blacksmithing but "the course will give you an opportunity to develop your own workshop and practice skills, and will cover basic forging techniques such as twisting, splitting, punching, bending and tapering, as well as welding, texturing and finishing techniques".
Admissions Office
Tavistock Place
Plymouth
Devon, P14 8AT.
01752 385959, fax 01752 385977

 

 

Myerscough College
BTEC First Diploma in Rural Blacksmithing
Myerscough Hall
Bilsborrow
Preston
Lancashire PR30RY
01995 640611.

 

 

Plumpton College
BTEC First Diploma in Blacksmithing
Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 3AE, 01273 890454, fax 01273 890071

 

 

The Camelia Botnar Foundation, Maplehurst Road, Cowfold, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 8DQ. For young persons with no family assistance or with other disadvantages. Live-in community with training in blacksmithing and other skills. (No fees). 01403 864556

 

 

Rycotewood College, Priest End, Thame, Oxfordshire, 0X9 2AF. Evening Courses. 01844 212501, fax 01844 218809

Other Courses not in the UK

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International College of French Wrought Ironwork, Maison des Compagnons du Devoir, Chemin de Reims, 51140 Muizon, France. 01033 26020931, fax 01033 26029639. For people with at least 2 years experience.

 

 

The Venice European Centre for the Skills of Architectural Heritage Conservation. This institution is running 2 week and 3 month courses in wrought ironwork. Apply to: AI DIRETTORE, Del Centro Europeo di Venezia per i Mestieri, della Conservazione, del Patrimonio Architettonico, Isola di San Servolo, Casella Postale 676, I-30100 VENEZI

Work Experience:

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Use the search engine on the left of the page to find smiths who provide work experience to students. The "Scope" box has a category called "Offers work experience to students". You can narrow your search by also typing in a location.

 

Top of page
Updated May 2011

Upcoming Events

 

New Website Coming

Over the past twelve months we have quietly been creating a new state of the art, world class website for the Association.

The new website launch has been planned in three phases:

Phase 1 – New BABA Membership System – Live now!
 
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Phase 3 – Main website – Launch TBC

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