Blacksmithing, the forging of iron, likely originated in Syria around 1500 BCE. It is thought to have been started by European Hittites. The Hittites were ancient Anatolian peoples who established an empire throughout Asia Minor and the area now known as Syria from around 1700 BCE to 1200 BCE. Their time is divided into two periods – the Old Kingdom from 1700 – 1500 BCE and the New Kingdom from 1400 – 1200 BCE, about the time the Iron Age gained momentum. Hittites recorded their history on thousands of clay tablets, which is where most of what we know about them comes from. Other evidence of their lives can be found in the Bible.
When iron smelting (metallurgy) was first discovered, bronze weapons were currently in use. The superiority of iron was not yet understood and iron weapons took around 500 years to become preferred over bronze. It was not uncommon for tools such as sickles , axes and other farming equipment to be made. Iron fasteners such as nails were also commonly used. The term “blacksmith” derives from iron’s former name - “black metal” -and “smith”, a person who works metal. Iron was originally found in black meteorites in the deserts of Syria and was referred to as “black metal” because of the black iron oxide which develops on the metal naturally.
During the Middle Ages, iron was starting to be used for domestic needs such as ironclad doors – which is what a lot of OWI products are used for. Ironclad doors were more sturdy and offered more protection but it also gave an opportunity for decoration. Chests were also decorated similarly using strapping to wrap corners and clavos. Iron latches added a security measure as well as ornate decoration that could not be replicated, as every hand forged item differs. Iron gates, window grilles, hand railing offered functional purposes that was stronger and more durable than wood.
In the 16th century artisans developed extremely ornate, scrolled designs that featured leaves, flowers, and laced patterns which was often used in architectural decoration. Household use also became more common with fireplace tools, pans, locks, candles, and lanterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, blacksmithing was a very valuable profession. It was something that took skill and years of practice, apprenticeships were not uncommon, as with most professional trades. By the late 18th and 19th centuries, the profession was in decline.
The industrial revolution lead to inexpensive casting processes and much of the work was done in factories. This was not an uncommon practice, many professions went into decline during the Industrial Revolution to do advancements in machinery and the introduction of factories. Today it is a much less common profession but it requires just as much skill. Old West Iron’s goal is historical reproductions of metalwork from all over the world to allow this art to be viewed and appreciated by everyone.