I don't know how many, but I have worked with metal - quite a bit of
which went on a horse's foot - for almost 50 years. I also do the artsy
fartsy thing with illustrated firescreens, gates and signage. It ain't
blacksmithing, but it pays the bills.
If you're not lazy, you can make a living, but you won't get rich.
In terms of physical labor, it's much more difficult than any sedentary
occupation; in terms of personal satisfaction - for folks like myself -
it's infinitely superior to any other occupation.
Folks who make their living fooling with hot iron range from PhD's to
elementary school dropouts - but all of us consider ourselves blessed.
I agree with Tom.
I have been a full time knifemaker for a year after my corporate job
dried up and the company closed. I decided to not look for another
job but to instead take my 12 year hobby in knifemaking and building
things out of metal, and try to make a go at it. I have never been
poorer, but I have never been happier. You have to be driven and not
procrastinate or you will fail. I think the hardest part, at least
for me, is getting people to know you are there and what you can do.
Tom has enough history to be further along than I am as a business
owner and can give more "success" advise, but I am making it and
things are getting better every day.
Tom said he makes "artsy fartsy" things in addition to his shoeing and
I think that most people in this type of work cannot dedicate to ONLY
their one favorite. I make knives (my favorite) but I also make plant
moving carts for a guy that sells nursery supplies. I also make
gates, fences, hydraulic presses and treadle hammers for sale.
If you really want to do this, try to get more than one product. When
one goes cold for a while, the others may heat up.
Good luck, be happy.
Immediately join ABANA (abana.org) and your local abana affiliate and
start asking questions. You can get a lot of answers by attending the
ABANA conference this summer. There will be about 1000 people there who
can all render you an opinion.
I think there are lots of good artist blacksmiths around this
country, a few of whom are making a decent living, many more who are
scraping by and a handful who are making a real good living at it.
The most successful of them (my opinion) have hit on unique marketing
schemes that make the difference, assuming that they all have good
general business skills and are self starters.
Read about Samuel Yellin.
ABANA is an excelent resource but you should also contact NOMMA (National
Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Assoc. 532 Forest Parkway, Ste A, Forest
Park GA 30297 404-363-009) Many of NOMMA's members make a very good living
at modern"smithing" NOMMA has a publication I believe which gives some
career information Best of luck.
Want some real advice? Get an engineering degree and do the smithing as a
money-making hobby. What we need now are engineers, because we're losing the
race to the Moon to the Pacific Rim.
Yeah, I beat hot metal. It can pay the bill$, but it's killing me slowly. It's
my Art, and one is supposed to suffer for one's Art. I have little burn scars
everywhere, yep, even there. I have a permanent sunburn on my face and neck
from the UV, it never goes away. Of course, there is an upside, finger tight is
now 10 foot pounds, cylinder heads aren't that heavy anymore, lifting weights
in a sauna is very healthful, the toxins don't have a chance to settle into the
cells, and due to the EPA, I never have to worry about black lung disease from
the coal. High tech, son... that's where the money is. We're a vanishing breed,
because the World has moved on to CAD/CAM and molecular electronics, and the
suits in Marketing make that more sparklingly desirable than hand
Charly the Bastard the Last Dworf in Ansteorra Head Metal Forger In Charge,
"DancingLavoisier" <dancinglavoisier(A-T)charter.net> wrote in message
I have been involved full-time as a metalsmith since 1974. What made
it possible for me to do this was to offer metal repair, restoration
and preservation, in addition to my original metal work. I believe
that there is a LOT of money to be made repairing metalware (go here
to read my essay about this:
If you want to know more, check out my website which has a lot of info
about this: walkermetalsmith.com.
Good luck. --James R. Walker, Metalsmith
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