Extraordinary bespoke gates, railings & handrails. Built on a reputation we mean to protect.


What is a blacksmith?

According to the dictionary, a blacksmith is someone who makes or forges objects using iron. But that definition only tells a fraction of the story, which is why we thought we’d take a look at the blacksmith’s art. 

By using simple tools like a hammer and an anvil, a blacksmith can take a lump of molten metal and create unique and beautiful objects, including ornate gates and railings.

The process of heating metal and forging it into shape hasn’t changed much since the 12th century BC, but better grade iron and more sophisticated tools allow us to achieve some incredible results. 

Why ‘blacksmith’? 

The name blacksmith historically refers to the way iron develops a dark-coloured oxidised finish as you work it. The word smith comes from ‘smite’, so a blacksmith is literally someone who strikes black metal. 

When many of us think of a blacksmith, we think of horseshoes. And the job of a blacksmith and a farrier used to be interchangeable - the word farrier comes from the old French ferrier,or blacksmith.

However, making and fitting custom shoes that prevent horses going lame is a skill that requires detailed knowledge of equine anatomy.

Because the tools a blacksmith uses are so simple, the art lies in how well a craftsman puts them to use in producing items that combine functionality and aesthetics.

At Blake & Bull, for example, we use traditional techniques to handcraft your bespoke gates or railings so each piece is bespoke to you. 

How a blacksmith works 

A blacksmith needs four basic things: a forge to heat the metal, tongs or a vise to hold it in place, the anvil and a hammer.

With these simple tools, and a few simple techniques like drawing out (hammering the metal to create a longer shape) and peining (hammering in all directions), we can shape hot metal in an infinite number of ways. 

Best of all, there are no mistakes. So if you don’t like the look of a finished piece, it can be recycled into something else. 

A brief history of the blacksmith 

Man has been working with metal for thousands of years, right back to the 5th millennium BC. Starting with the softest metals like copper, silver and gold, the earliest smiths gradually learned to create alloys by blending metals together. 

The first alloy was bronze, a blend of tin and copper. It wasn’t long before early craftsmen realised bronze got stronger when beaten, and it was soon the material of choice for everything from jewellery and decorative bowls to weaponry. 

The history of iron begins with the Hittites in Asia Minor in 1500BC. Blacksmiths who could smelt iron became highly revered, and became vital to every community - they were even though to have magic powers, like alchemists. 

The art of the blacksmith played a key role in the Roman Empire, with the invention of the water-powered hammer mill that paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.

And as the art of working with iron evolved, so did the techniques. Soon methods like riveting, collaring and twisting allowed smiths to create even more complex pieces. 

The blacksmith reigned supreme until the Industrial Revolution where skill and craftsmanship were forced to make way for large-scale mechanisation. Ironically, blacksmiths were responsible for crafting many of the machines that put them out of business. 

The modern art of being a blacksmith 

When steel and aluminium took over as favoured materials for construction, it seemed that wrought iron might have had its day. But nobody told the blacksmith. 

Instead, wrought iron is having a moment as interior design styles like ‘country industrial’ have made it the material of choice for light fittings, furniture and accent pieces.

With our contemporary interest in sustainability, we’re turning away from mass manufactured goods towards beautiful bespoke pieces. Something as simple as a coat hook or a door hinge can make a real impact when handmade rather than commercially produced. In fact, we’re proud to say that every piece on our website is unique, and you won’t find our Blake & Bull originals anywhere else.

As far as we’re concerned, blacksmiths definitely have a place in the modern world. As artisans, we’ve evolved and adapted our skills to contemporary society creating everything from functional pieces to incredible art.

Interest in blacksmithing is growing all the time, and we’re happy to uphold its traditions while pushing the creative boundaries.


True British craftsmanship from Blake & Bull

At Blake & Bull, we have an enviable reputation for the design, manufacture and installation of bespoke gates and railings. 

Under the leadership of Marcus, our head blacksmith, we can create ornamental wrought iron pieces that add beauty, durability and security to your home. Our friendly team are waiting to hear from you, so get in touch today.