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Forge Shop Workers

History

The process of making useful objects by pounding or pressing metal is an art older than recorded history. Archaeological evidence shows that ancient peoples hammered metal first into jewelry and decorative art pieces and then into weapons and hand tools. 

For a long time, metalworkers did not have practical ways of working with large, heavy metal objects. In the 13th century, people began to use water power to increase their energy capability in forging operations. By the early 18th century, steam engines were introduced in forging, again increasing the ease with which metal could be shaped.

The forgings produced in that era lacked uniformity. It was the demand for identical, interchangeable gun parts during the Civil War that hastened the evolution of the closed-contour, or impression, die. By using closed-die forging, vast numbers of metal parts could be turned out, each an exact duplicate of the others.

The same basic techniques are still in use today; however, modern forging hammers weigh as much as 50,000 pounds, and forging presses are capable of exerting thousands of tons of force. Using today's heavy power equipment and dies, a worker in a forging shop can turn out more forgings in an hour than an old-fashioned blacksmith could make in a year.

Before the advent of the automobile early in the 20th century, most forge shops manufactured machine parts for industrial use. Now, most forging production goes to the manufacturing of automobiles, airplanes, farm equipment, oil drilling equipment, engines, missiles, and hand tools.

The forge shop industry has undergone significant changes during the last 20 years. Increased use of automation, advanced technology, and methods to improve productivity have resulted in a process-driven environment that relies on fewer, but more skilled, workers than in the past.

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