HOW IS IRON FORGED?
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Blacksmiths in Africa, as elsewhere in the world, need four basic tools and a hearth for a fire in order to forge iron. With hammers, anvils, tongs, and bellows, blacksmiths can safely model iron like clay at near molten temperatures. Indeed, many blacksmiths today practice sculpting clay using the same techniques they would employ with iron. It is an ideal way to practice without the risk of being burned!

Watch the video below to learn about the different tools and techniques used in iron forging by Tom Joyce. Joyce is an artist, and has studied iron forging for over three decades across the African continent in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and the Republic of Bénin.

 

Exploring a Blacksmith’s Tools After watching the above video, create a diagram explaining how blacksmiths use bellows, hammers, anvils, and tongs in iron forging. A sample diagram is provided below to help you get started. Click the images to get a closer look at each tool.

Artist Unknown (Dogon peoples, Mali). Bellows, early to mid-20th century. Iron, wood, leather. Fowler Museum at UCLA X73.630; Gift of Mr. W. Thomas Davis

Bellows

                • Direct rhythmic blasts of air into the hearth so that iron remains hot.

 

                • Designed to preheat the incoming air to save time, labor, and fuel.

               

Artist unknown (Yorùbá peoples, Nigeria). Hammer (owú), late 19th to early 20th century. Iron. Private Collection. Image © courtesy Fowler Museum at UCLA. Photography by Don Cole, 2018

Hammer

 

 

       

       

 

 

 

       

       

 

Artist Unknown (Sonike peoples, Gambia). Anvil (simbo), late 19th to early 20th centuries. Iron. Private Collection
Artist Unknown (Sonike peoples, Gambia). Anvil (simbo), late 19th to early 20th centuries. Iron. Private Collection

Anvil

 

 

       

       

 

 

 

       

       

 

Artist Unknown (Senufo peoples, Côte d’Ivoire). Tong, (kampa), 20th century. Iron. Private Collection
Artist Unknown (Senufo peoples, Côte d’Ivoire). Tongs (kampa), 20th century. Iron. Private Collection

Tongs

 

 

       

       

 

 

 

       

       

 

*video credits
Forging: The Blacksmith’s Tools.
Narrated by lead curator Tom Joyce. Photograph by Tom Joyce, Yohohou, Togo, 2008, © Tom Joyce; video by Peter Kirby © Fowler Museum at UCLA; video by Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, Kunima, Burkina Faso, 2012, and Indieli-Na and Konko, Mali, 2011, © Anne-Marie Bouttiaux, courtesy of Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium; excerpt from Dokwaza: Last of the African Iron Masters, 1988, video by D. Paul Morris, Nicholas David, and Yves Le Bleis, courtesy of Nicholas David; excerpt from Black Hephaistos: Exploring Culture and Science in African Iron Working, 1995, video by Nicholas David, courtesy of Nicholas David

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