A smith, or metalsmith, is a person involved in the shaping of metal objects.
In pre-industrialized times, smiths held high or special social standing since they supplied the metal tools needed for farming (especially the plough) and warfare. This social standing might be a reason for the prevalence of "Smith" as an English family name (and similar names in other languages, such as German "Schmidt").
Etymology of smith
The word smith is cognate with the somewhat archaic English word, "smite", meaning "to hit" or "to strike". Originally, smiths practiced their crafts by forming metal with hammer blows.
As an English suffix, -smith connotes a meaning of specialized craftsmen — for example, wordsmith and tunesmith are nouns synonymous with writer or songwriter, respectively.
Types of smiths
Types of smiths include:
- a blacksmith works with iron and steel; (this is what is usually meant when referring just to "Smith")
- an arrowsmith forges arrow heads;
- a bladesmith forges knives, swords, and other blades;
- a coppersmith, or brownsmith, works with copper;
- a fendersmith makes and repairs the metal fender before fireplaces, protecting rugs and furniture in mansions and fine estates, and frequently cares for the fires as well;
- a goldsmith works with gold;
- a gunsmith works with guns;
- a locksmith works with locks;
- a pewtersmith works with pewter;
- a silversmith, or brightsmith, works with silver;
- a tinsmith, tinner, or tinker works with light metal (such as tinware) and can refer to someone who deals in tinware;
- a swordsmith is a bladesmith who forges only swords;
- a whitesmith works with white metal (tin) and can refer to someone who polishes or finishes the metal rather than forging it.
Sometimes, terms similar to the above are created metaphorically, for categories of people not working with metal at all - for example, "songsmith".
Artisans and Craftpeople
The ancient traditional tool of the smith is a forge or smithy, which is a furnace designed to allow compressed air (through a bellows) to superheat the inside, allowing for efficient melting, soldering and annealing of metals. Today, this tool is still widely used by blacksmiths as it was traditionally.
The term, metalsmith, often refers to artisans and craftpersons who practice their craft in many different metals, including gold, copper and silver. Jewelers often refer to their craft as metalsmithing, and many universities offer degree programs in metalsmithing, jewelry and blacksmithing under the auspices of their fine arts programs.
Machinists are metalsmiths who produce high-precision parts and tools. The most advanced of these tools, CNC machines, are computer controlled and largely automated.