Art of the Bamana Blacksmith

by Patrick McNaughton
Indiana University

Sedu Traore working iron, Mali. Photo by Patrick McNaughton. 

Learning the techniques of ironworking come after training in wood. Ironwork is considerably harder. It takes more strength, but also a tremendous amount of exacting control. Smiths typically use a personal collection of hammers that range in size from very large two-handed affairs, to very small and delicate ones. Exact placement and pressure with the bellows of these hammers is critical, and the skills involved can take years to master.