The Most Interesting Metal-Working Occupations

The Most Interesting Metal-Working Occupations

02nd February 2021

People have been working with metals for centuries but do you know what types of jobs are associated with this type of material? By looking at some of the most interesting metal-related jobs, we can see the different ways that it is used.

Blacksmith

If you try and picture a blacksmith working then the image of him shaping a horseshoe is quite possibly the first thing that you see. Yet, these highly skilled workers also produce a huge range of metal goods such as furniture, railings and tools.

A blacksmith deals with heavy types of metal, while a whitesmith works on more delicate projects with the likes of gold and silver. The blacksmith’s assistant would hit the hot metal with a heavy sledgehammer, but modern technology has made this role pretty much superfluous.

The first blacksmiths were mentioned in different mythologies around the world, from Nordic legends to ancient Hindu and Greek culture. While the job has become increasingly redundant in developed nations due to the use of materials such as CE marked fabrications, there are still many blacksmiths operating in a traditional way in developing countries.

Damascening

This technique involves inlaying different metals to produce a beautiful pattern or image. It is typically done using gold, copper or silver, which is then laid into a dark steel background. It is perhaps most associated with Japan, where damascening was widely used to decorate jewellery and armoury.

The earliest use of this technique may have been in ancient Greece, where extremely old examples have been found. Elsewhere in Europe, Eibar and Toledo in Spain both have a strong tradition of producing intricate artwork, often done while repairing pieces of armoury.

Egypt and Iran are among the few countries where this traditional way of working with metals is still carried out by skilled craftsmen. In fact, Egypt is one of the countries where it may have first began to gain popularity, before knowledge of how to create these wonderful items passed to China and other parts of Asia, where artisans improved upon the original methods used.

Farrier

You might have wondered at some point what the difference is between a blacksmith and a farrier. In truth these two jobs have a lot in common, but a farrier specialises in fitting horseshoes and looking after horse’s hooves, rather than producing a wide range of iron goods.

A farrier would have some of the skills employed by a blacksmith in terms of making metal horseshoes, together with a range of veterinary skills to help him deal with the animals.

Millwright

This person is a highly skilled tradesman who looks after the machinery in factories, power stations and other places where they are used. The millwright fits machines, maintains them, fixes and ultimately dismantles them when needed.

This job began in the various mills that used to populate the landscape, from paper to flour mills and sawmills, before being incorporated into factories during the Industrial Revolution. While they originally worked mainly with wood, this changed once metal machinery began to dominate the scene.