So, lesson one as a blacksmith is this:
Fire is hot.
This is both a warning and a lure. Who hasn't started throwing things in a fire just to see what happens? Fire is hot.........but how hot? Can it burn this plastic army guy? Caaaan it burn a tin can? A recliner?
Now imagine it's the Stone Age, and all you have for entertainment is a story about what happened at the last hunt, or you can play the throw-things-in-the-fire-and-see-what-happens game. It's the best thing going. Mind you, there is no fire marshal to stop you from making a fire as big as you wanted. Of course if it gets too big it may get out of control, but that's how we learn. So humans are learning a few things here, how to control fire, how to make it burn hotter, and what happens to stuff that gets thrown in. Over the course of human history LOTS of things got thrown in.
Some things that probably shouldn't have.
One thing that was thrown in, but initially didn't seem like alot of fun, was rocks. Except some rocks melted, that was kinda cool. This is the first step on the road to blacksmithing. The guys that like melting rocks.
Okay I am really over simplifying things here. I know the march of human progress was a lot more involved than all that, but look at how many of our most basic crafts involve transforming substances through the use of fire. Cooking, Pottery, Glass Blowing, Metal Working.
Now when learning the art of blacksmithing tending the forge fire is the most important skill. The word for Forge is used to refer to the workshop as a whole.
Here's a picture of the Crooked Path Forge.
Or it can mean the actual hearth in which the heating of metal occurs.
This is my forge. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My forge is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.
I was apprentice to this dude in Hawthorne named Yaw Owusu Shangofemi. The guy was a great teacher. He came straight from the old school of Charleston SC smithing. He himself was an apprentice to Phillip Simmons, a real master. Anyway, learning from him was pretty intense, real wax on wax off stuff, you know work. The thing he made me learn first and best was how to tend the fire. Here is a sampling of the tidbits I learned:
A : Metal can burn!
B: Just because it isn't glowing any more doesn't mean it won't turn your hand into crispy bacon!
C: Don't stare into the fire, it will hurt your eyes
D: Don't stare into the fire, you'll blink and come to an hour later
E: Don't stare into the fire, it will suck you in.
I stared at the fire a little too much.