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Skills associated with traditional handicraft

Overview

Blacksmithing

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Blacksmithing (also known as traditional metalworking) is a traditional handicraft and industry that plays a prominent role in many arenas.

Blacksmith shops are concentrated in the Musaffah Area in Abu Dhabi and are typically found in industrial areas on the outskirts of cities in all emirates. This is because city centres are packed with commercial institutions and companies. The craft of blacksmithing has maintained its position and originality, thanks to the efforts made to preserve it as well as the increased demand for its products, which has prompted blacksmiths to perfect their workmanship and pass it along to their children.

Blacksmithing is considered an arduous craft, as blacksmiths are in constant contact with iron and fire. As such, the traditional practice of this craft requires patience and resilience, as well as talent, technical skills, and a broad imagination, which is necessary to alter and shape various essential tools. Many handicrafts, such as construction, carpentry, agriculture, etc., depend entirely on blacksmith products. The blacksmith’s craft produces many tools that are used in traditional construction, such as hammerheads and vices. 

Blacksmiths produce anchors that are used in the ship manufacturing industry. The production process is as follows: A rod or a sheet of iron is placed inside a furnace until it turns red. The rod is taken out of the fire, then hammered and struck on an anvil until it is ready to be shaped to the desired form. This is followed by the process of polishing and scrubbing with sand and water, so that the rod acquires a silver colour. This process is utilized in the production of many other iron tools, especially household tools, such as mehmas (pan used for roasting coffee beans), coffee pots, cooking pots, trays, plates, spoons and other tools and supplies that are used in various fields.

It is worth noting that iron is essential for the work of a blacksmith, as well as fire, which is generated from charcoal. The iron is placed in a furnace, which is a special oven in which the temperature reaches the melting point of iron. This oven can be found in designated areas within the locations where the craft of blacksmithing is practised. 
Blacksmiths require special equipment to practise their craft, including the kayr, which is a manual bellows made of strong leather that they use to blow air into the fire, thereby raising the temperature. Whenever the fire begins to dwindle, the blacksmith pumps the bellows.

The blacksmith usually begins his work by placing a piece of iron on the fire until it turns red in colour, which indicates that the iron is soft, malleable, and can easily be shaped. Then, using the kalloup, which is a pair of long-handed tongs used to stir hot materials, the blacksmith picks up the piece of red-hot iron, and places it on the anvil, which consists of a block of steel firmly attached to the ground. The iron is placed on the anvil, where it is struck and hammered with a strong hammer. It is then pressed and put back in the fire. The blacksmith removes it again from the fire, cleans it and hammers it several times. If the tool needs to be thinner, it is smoothed with an iron file. A file is also used for tools that require a serrated edge, which involves pressing the iron and subjecting it to cracks, and so on. The piece of iron is soaked in water to cool, then placed in the fire again. The blacksmith blows on the flaming embers until it turns completely red, and the piece of iron is then inserted until it turns red in colour. It is then placed on the anvil, the hammering process is repeated, and with the help of a special knife and scissors, the required tool is made.

A blacksmith’s workshop usually consists of two pits, each about 3 feet deep. The blacksmith stands in front of one of the pits with his assistant facing him in front of the opposite pit. They shape the iron, sometimes stretching it, and sometimes hammering it on the anvil until the required tool is produced. The assistant is also responsible for pumping the kayr (bellows) from time to time, while holding the hot piece of iron that is to be hammered and shaped.  

 

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