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Crafts by the way of metal, part 1


"A village without a mayor is possible, without a blacksmith it is impossible", the old Bulgarians from towns and villages wisely said

"And the flame is purple with mystical purple

stretched strong shoulders:

the blacksmith stands with a steel hammer,

the iron is ringing loudly. ”

Hristo Smirnenski, The Blacksmith

Try to imagine at least for a moment the modern everyday life without metal around us. You can't, can you! The development of a nation over the centuries can be judged by its mastery in metalworking. Whether it is agricultural tools, household items, utensils, knives, weapons or fine jewelry, they still carry the spirit of times gone by. Traditions handed down for centuries and revealing the cultural identity of the nation.

There is information about the extraction and processing of metals on the territory of our country from different epochs. Traces of smelting of copper ores from the Bronze Age have been found near Etropole. In the Ihtiman, Peshtersko and in some places in the Strandzha region iron ores were mined as early as the 6th century BC, and in the Rhodopes, Kyustendil and Vratsa regions - lead-silver and copper ores. This is what the abandoned Roman mines speak about.

Българските занаяти по пътя на метала

Българските занаяти по пътя на метала

Mining is the livelihood of the later inhabitants of today's Bulgarian lands, including the Slavs, who adopted this occupation from the Thracian tribe Bessi, who lived in the Rhodopes. The names of localities, settlements, etc. also speak of mining in the Bulgarian lands. Chiprovtsi is associated with the Latin word cuprum (honey), and the town of Madan is called a mechanical blacksmith.

During the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, iron mining increased in many places in the mountainous regions of Stara Planina, Rila, the Rhodopes, Pirin, Ograzhden, Osogovo and Strandzha (Vakarelski, 1974, 432; Primovski - Blagoeva, 1983, 94). Large mining centers are Kratovo, Samokov, Malak Samokov (Strandzha) and others.

Iron ore has been collected on the surface of the earth in areas where the soil is formed by weathered granite rocks. For this purpose the sand from the rivers and ravines is used or the excavated soil is washed. Rarely, iron ore was mined in a complete form from earth layers, to which shafts had to be dug (Devin, Peshter, Burgas). The soil was washed into the riverbed. The ore was smelted in small kilns of stone and clay on mountain slopes. One charge of such a furnace produced 80-100 kg of iron. The ore is extracted in two ways: by destroying the furnace or by a special chute.

After the iron is extracted, its processing begins. It is known in the form of various crafts: blacksmithing, knife making, nalbantstvo, hoeing, gunsmithing and others.

Българските занаяти по пътя на метала

The blacksmith's craft has been known in the Bulgarian lands since ancient times, as evidenced by archeological finds of agricultural and other tools from the time of the Thracians, Romans and Slavs. Workshops for various agricultural implements (hoes, diggers, plowshares, koshers, shovels, scythes, sickles, etc.) existed in almost all cities and larger villages in the Middle Ages. "A village without a mayor is possible, without a blacksmith it is impossible," reads an old Bulgarian proverb.

During the Renaissance, many centers were formed that produced tools. There is also a growing interest in blacksmiths' artwork. Hardware for gates, hinges, locks and handles for them, door knocks, stylish constructions for bars, candlesticks, lanterns, hearth accessories, as well as items related to the needs of the church are already being made.

The hearth, called an ojak, is located next to one of the walls of the room. By the end of the first quarter of the 20th century, the hearths in the cities were already made of stone and were raised slightly above the floor, depending on the height of the master. The hearth is plastered with refractory clay. A wide chimney takes the smoke out.

The blowing of the fire, always maintained with charcoal, is done with a simple or double bellows (also called a bellows) of two or three boards and leather. In front of the blacksmith is the iron anvil (anvil) placed on a wooden stand.

Usually the anvil is sharper on one side and with the necessary holes and notches for shaping various details on the manufactured objects. Most often there is a deep hole next to the anvil (shaft, and in the Rhodope blacksmiths - a hole or a hole), in which the blacksmith rests his legs, sitting on the floor. The workshop also has a wooden counter with a vise and a grinder.

Objects that are intended for home or cult use are subject to artistic design. Coarser agricultural tools have rarely been decorated. But the ax of a catcher, the sickle of a reaper girl, or the kosher of a vine-grower are often carefully ornamented. Some household items were provided with virtually unjustified curls, pendants, twisted handles, patterns and the like.

Real works of art are the iron hinges and hammers on the outer doors and gates of the old houses. In addition to an exquisitely and variously curved handle, often resembling a snake, additional figurines of birds, dragons and others. Exquisite iron objects include hearths, called "horses", "bears", "donkeys", because of the sculpted animal head at the front.

Author: Stefan Bonev

Sources: Hr. Vakarelski, "Ethnography of Bulgaria"

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