What did a medieval blacksmith do? Did he only make swords?
While I’m sure that there were some who made swords specifically, most blacksmiths would have crafted whatever a paying customer wanted, be that door latches, hinges, horseshoes, pokers, pitchforks, tools, bakeware, nails, swords, weapons, shackles, chain, wire, sconces, and toys. If they were good at their art, blacksmiths were valuable members of their village. Over time, blacksmithing would become more specialized with smiths focusing only on horseshoes, or nails, or swords, etc. Today blacksmiths are artists or hobbyists who create items for reenactments.
The Etymology dictionary says that a “smith” is one who works with metals and that a “blacksmith” was one who worked in heated, heavy metals, opposed to one who beat gold, silver, tin, or pewter (whitesmith). Most blacksmiths were called “smithys” back then.
Smiths used many tools in their trade. The forge heated the iron. Tongs were used to grip and hold hot metal. An anvil was used to pound the iron on. Hammers were used to pound. Bellows blew air into the fire to make it burn hotter. Smiths used chisels to cut the metal. Fullers of all shapes and sizes were used to form grooves, hollows, and holes in hot metal. And a slack tub was a container filled with water, brine, or oil so that the smith could quench the hot metal.
Pounding the iron removed oxygen and made it stronger so that it would not rust or break as easily. There were many more processes a smith might use to produce different qualities in the iron: quenching, annealing, and damasking. A good smith could sort the iron by quality, knowing which would make the best swords and armor and which would be better used for tools and toys.
Apprentices would tend the fire, fetch water and charcoal, work the bellows, wield tongs, and maybe sometimes do simple forging.
In my third book, From Darkness Won, Harnu works with his father, the blacksmith of Sitna Manor. Harnu is a blacksmith himself and has made many updates to Gren and Riga’s cottage, including shutters, a chandelier, and toys for Gren’s coming child.
It is believed by many archaeologists that iron toys were popular in medieval times. Cast-iron toys were very prevalent in the early 1900s. My father-in-law played with a beloved set of cast-iron farm animals when he was a boy in the late 40s. I imagine that my father-in-law’s toys were not all that different than what medieval children played with and what Harnu made for Gren’s child.