The ancient art of blacksmithing is fascinating, especially if you want to make your own masterpiece out of metal. But before you start playing with fire, learn everything you can about the field. Take a course in welding, learn about safety and find out which kinds of blacksmithing projects are best for beginners. Starting simple will make you feel successful and build your confidence. Conversely, taking on something too complicated at first can be overwhelming and may end your blacksmithing career before it begins.
Study the basics of blacksmithing--especially the safety issues. The easiest way is to enroll in a local welding class, often offered at community colleges. Along with essential skills, you'll get an idea of projects at your level. Some popular ones include skewers, trivets, nail hooks, bookends and hat racks.
Learn about projects, processes and more from other blacksmiths. You can find them through organizations such as ABANA (Artist-Blacksmith's Association of North America). Be honest about your skill level, and ask veterans to recommend easy projects for beginners.
Find simple projects online--some websites have interactive demonstrations, as well as illustrated lists of projects (see Resources below). You'll find out how to make everything from tongs to door knockers and candleholders.
Read books such as "New Edge of the Anvil: A Resource Book for the Blacksmith," by Jack Andrews. This wonderful volume covers tools and projects in easy-to-understand language, plus the illustrations are handsome and informative.
If you get serious with the craft, consider attending a school for blacksmiths (see Resources below).
Barbara Dunlap is a freelance writer in Oregon. She was a garden editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and she currently specializes in travel and active lifestyle topics like golf and fitness. She received a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been a Knight Foundation Fellow.