Glossary of Blacksmith Terms

Here are some words that we used on some of the pages in the blacksmithing section of the site that may not be familiar to everyone. If you find other words that are not on this list, and would like to see them here, contact us with the word. Thanks!


Mild Steel
Tool Steel


Cusp: We call the finial or ornament on the top and sometimes the bottom of a grip, latch, latch bar, etc. a “cusp.” There are three main styles we do — bean, heart and ball and spear.


Illustration of Drifting from Plain and Ornamental Forging by Ernst Schwarzkopf, 1916

Drift: A tool used in blacksmithing to make holes the correct size and shape. A hole is punched or cut in the material and a drift is forced through that hole to enlarge it to a particular size and/or to change its shape (make a round hole square, for example). The drift is tapered at both ends so that it starts easily in the hole and when the final size/shape is reached will then fall out of the hole after a few more blows of the hammer without getting stuck. Drifting is done while the metal is hot so that the metal will stretch to fit the intended shape.


Fuller: A process of shaping hot metal using a special tool or the long, narrow peen of a hammer to force metal to each side of the blow. A number of fullering blows spread the metal much like a rolling pin on dough — only it is a slower and harder process in metal.


Iron, Mild Steel, Tool Steel: Iron exists in two forms, wrought or cast. Formerly blacksmiths worked with low carbon wrought iron. Cast iron is cast in molds at a foundry. Little wrought iron is made today. What the blacksmith has to work with is mild steel which has more carbon and alloys than wrought iron. It is generally tougher — harder to work — and stronger. Tool steel is a high carbon (plus alloys) material that is used for surfaces that must hold an edge or have wearing qualities. It is harder still to work than mild steel, and must usually be hardened and tempered.


Swage: A swage is a tool that shapes metal into a particular form: flat to round, or round to diamond shape for example. The swage can be driven into the metal, the metal can be driven into a swage, or hot metal can be placed between top and bottom swages to be shaped overall.


Tuyere: Websters defines this as “a nozzle through which an air blast is delivered to a forge.” Generally, in modern forges, the tuyere is that area below the fire pot where the air enters the forge and strikes the burning coke. The tuyere can also be considered the whole fire pot, with the clinker breaker, intake fitting and pot itself.


Upset: The process of driving metal back onto itself to create a bulge or increase the mass. When upsetting metal for the latch cusps it becomes thicker and wider while becoming shorter from the hammer blows.



Making a Latch
is a description, with photos, of the steps we go through to make a Suffolk Latch.

Making a Hinge
is a description, like Making a Latch, that shows the steps we go through to make a Butterfly Hinge.

Making a Grip
shows the process for making a Cabinet Grip.

Blacksmith's Blog Posts
collects posts we created for the Horton Brasses blog in 2010 and 2011. There's information about the shop, what we make and how we make it, including links to two videos.

Tools of the Trade
shows some of the tools in Molly’s blacksmith shop.

Making a Living
describes how we became blacksmiths.

Glossary of Blacksmithing Terms
is linked to various words that are not commonly known by non-smiths throughout this section of the site.