Blacksmithing as a trade

After discovering that blacksmith is listed as a Canadian occupational code (NOC 7266) with a typical required education of on-the-job training, I began
hoping that I might be able to work as a forging machine operator or apprentice blacksmith and learn until I'm an established and proficient blacksmith, ready to move on to being a cutler. A search of the Canada job bank turns up absolutely nothing for either of these careers though, and it raises the question - is blacksmithing still an even marginally viable trade, or am I just stupid for even hoping so? Is there -anywhere- in Canada that one can go to learn the trade for pay rather than paying to learn the trade? I've already spent far more than I can afford, and I need a realistic alternative.
-Rust
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Rust wrote:

It is still a viable trade, though not a great one for a guy that cannot stand to go hungry once in a while.
I have met a couple folks making a living at it, and rare few of them are paid employees of any company. Not as blacksmiths, in any case.
One exception to the list is a guy that I have not met personally, though friends have, is a fellow of the name Gunther, who is/was the resident blacksmith at Sandia National Laboratory, in New Mexico, if I have my facts straight. I know a couple guys that are smithing in parks or historic sites for pay.
Most of the smiths that are making a living at it, do so on commision work,decorator items, artwork, knives or tools that cannot reasonably be got any other way than to have them made to order. Some of the guys are doing piecework in their shops to stock shelves in "antique" stores. I know of one commercial forge operating in the Edmonton area, Front Step Forge, that does a lot of work in architectural fittings and the like.
Most of the guys I know working as smiths pretty much fell into it, rather than chose it as a career path. Most were hobbyists that got out of hand, and that's a tough go, as some things are not fun anymore once they are work for pay, or after you have made your two hundredth of something to fill an order.
Look into the various Blacksmith's Guilds, ABANA and the like for contacts and a better feel for what is out there.
Cheers Trevor Jones
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Thanks for the info. I'm about good enough to make a living museum 'nail' reliably at this point - though I suspect that using charcoal rather than gas or coal and having an anvil in dire need of resurfacing may be partly to blame for that. Yeah, I know - blaming your tools. I've been mucking around with this for a few years without much success, but I'd really like to take it up seriously. I guess maybe I've got the Haliburton School of Arts blacksmithing credit course in my future, if I can foot the bill (I can't). C'est la guerre. Perhaps there's a local blacksmith who's willing to take an apprentice on a work-for-training basis a few days a week.
-Rust
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Rust wrote:

You want to really look at finding your local 'smiths club, guild or whatever they call their group of like minded metalheads in your area. Join ABANA. Aside from the pure inspiration from the work that shows up in The Anvils Ring, there is a lot of localized contact information, as most of the Blacksmiths clubs are affiliated with ABANA in some way. Out west, there is the Western Canada Blacksmiths Guild, I am certain that there are organizations of a similar nature throughout the rest of Canada. Unless you go looking, most of the guys and gals smithing tend to be a bit under the radar. Go to the Hammer-In's when they are held. You can learn more from seeing something done than you can from reading about it, and you can bounce ideas back and forth to try things. Check online for the next Caniron convention. I went to Caniron 3 in North Battleford SK, a couple years back. Three days of world class smiths from around the world.
www.abana.org
Cheers Trevor Jones
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As a blacksmith one can quite easily make a small fortune -- from any large one.
If possible, it's best to target the "carriage trade," emphasizing hand made, custom, artistic, "traditional" techniques, untouched-by-power-tools, etc. and explaining the time and skill required.
Finding customers who have more money than sense is also helpful. :)
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Rust wrote:

If you're really good, if you work your arse off, if you have a place to work that doesn't have bitchy neighbors or a Fascist wannabe local government, you can get by. You won't get rich. It's damn tough to make it by hand in a CAD/CAM world. We're almost obsolete in the minds of the average consumer who wants it yesterday for chump change and demands perfection worthy of NASA. Do it because you love it, not because you're gonna make a buck. Market it as Art, that's the only way to get past breakeven. I made swords for a while, now I'm building bikes. Fortunately, I made enough to pay off the machines before the sword market was overwhelmed by buck a day labor from the Pacific Rim. Sad but true, don't give up your day job.
Charly
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M'eh. Okay, I've got a pretty clear picture of it - it's about like I thought it was before that faint, lying glimmer of hope. This is a leisure activity requiring responsible funding, not prospective investment. Taiwan has a lot to answer for.
-Rust
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Rust wrote:

Well, there were a few quarters that I actually made enough to cover the bills, nearly killed me. Fourteen hour days every day in the heat and cold can get old in a hurry. But... the fire gets into your blood if you keep after it. There are about 10,000 people worldwide that can make iron with fire and a hammer, so there's the prestige of belonging to a very small group of artisans keeping a lost art alive. And when the grid goes down for good, you'll have an essential skill that will keep you off the battle line. Blacksmiths were too valuable to risk in combat. Besides, there's something very soul satisfying about beating the crap out of hot metal and forcing it to your will. You put a piece of yourself into the iron with every stroke of the hammer. Perhaps those stories about magic swords aren't all fantasy after all...
Of course the swords glow in the dark, that's how you can tell that they're magic.
Charly
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I am one of (33) Blacksmiths for the City of New York in the civil service. We are scattered among the various municipal agencies. All are represented my the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Ironship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (http://www.boilermakers.org /).
Most of our Blacksmiths do repairs and fabrication on equipment, machines or buildings. You will find handfuls of Blacksmiths in the older cities, on railroads and power utilities. I couldn't tell you how many spots are available but they're not generally advertised. When a spot opens it's almost always filled by word of mouth.
The compensation here is among the top of any trade anywhere.
About two months ago, if I remember correctly, the City of San Francisco was hiring two or three Blacksmiths. Country blacksmithing was always a threadbare proposal and still is. There's a few high end furniture and ornamental ironwork shops who hire blacksmiths too.
If you're serious and persistent you'll find a position.

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Thanks very much. I'll have a look at the site, and keep my eyes open for opportunities.
-Rust

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You could always take the leap and go into business yourself ;-) Regards Charles
Rust wrote:

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I've been trying the artisan business with no training thing with jewellery for a while already, and I'm just beginning to get out of the red. I know that you need five things for a successful business as a craftsman; adequate equipment, adequate materials, adequate skill, notoriety and a market. For the moment I'm missing five out of five, so maybe I'll see about making a business of blacksmithing in fifteen or twenty years.
-Rust
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It was a very proud time in my life this April: I actually had to pay taxes on Lost Gypsy Forge, Inc. income. Yeehaw! and Dagnabit! Talk about your ambivalent feelings! :)
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Congratulations. Sort of.
-Rust
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LOL!
Yeah, really. :)
With my Social Security, the money I'm allowed to make each month by SS, and my wife's income, the taxes actually added up to more than LGF made, but I by golly showed a profit! Ja, sure you betcha! :)
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I did Haliburton. I had no intention of making a living though, I do it for fun and will not take the fun out of it by trying to satisfy other peoples needs which will take away the fun. Some of the students did however. This was in 2001 and of the students I am still in contact with 5 of 12 are making money at it, though not necessarily a living. It is a good start though. I was a hobbiest for 10 years at the time and still learned a lot, but more about "seeing" as opposed to forging. Doug

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