Why you need a blacksmith but don’t know it.
Some say that self-praise is no praise, but sometimes you have to blow your own horn in order to be heard.
We can employ work methods that have fallen out of use because of changes in technology. Because of this we might see easy solutions where other tradesmen don’t. It’s amazing how the work methods you learn for your trade effect your approaches to problem solving; having a different perspective can make all the difference.
Conventionally trained welders and fabricators will cut, and weld pieces together to make shapes they need; shaping is also be done by simple bending and stock removal by grinding or arc-air gouging. A blacksmith can easily form the work; shape it how he sees fit. Depending on what needs to be done it can be quicker and cheaper than conventional methods.
Example: For a shape such as the flange on an access hole of a tank, a blacksmith can quickly bend a flat bar “the hard way around” while a conventionally trained fabricator will either cut the shape out of a plate or cut several pieces from a flat bar to be welded together in order to create the desired shape; costing more in materials, depending on the method used, and potentially more in labour to clean up the cut edges and weld parts together.
Tool repair: You probably made a cold chisel in shop class so you know that differential heat treating is not witchcraft, but we’re old hands at it. We’re not as precise as metallurgists with their heat-treatment ovens but we might just be able to take that stack of worn air hammer or breaker bits and make them nearly as good as new for a fraction of the cost.
Let’s get something straight: I’m not an anachronist, in fact my formal training is as a pipe welder. I’ve noticed that a lot of people with a background like mine, emphasizing hand work, often forget they live in the 21st century. Knowing archaic work methods can be helpful at times but is counter-productive if more modern, efficient methods are being overlooked; usually because of misguided, romantic notions.
Here’s a perfect example: My forge currently burns propane and will soon be using waste vegetable oil; you won’t see me burning coal unless I’m getting it for free. Coal might seem charming but it’s not so magical to the guy tending the fire. I’m sure propane doesn’t give anybody nostalgic feelings, but there are other things it doesn’t give either: sulphurous smoke or the need for regular tending; it can be turned on or off as easily as the lights.
Another point: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Why do fine filing and hand scraping when machine shops are plentiful and cheap. There is a time and place for this sort of hand work but in the real world, outside of apprentice exercises, they are few and far between.
What I’m trying to say, in a nutshell: We offer conventional skills in addition to a different point of view gained from uncommon talents; resulting in the capability of offering creative, custom solutions for your problems.