For those curious about blacksmithing, you’ve probably heard some of the jargon that gets thrown around the workshop or forums online. When you’re just starting out in the hobby or profession, it can be hard to wrap your head around all the terminology. All you need to do is break down these terms and concepts and start familiarizing yourself with them little by little. To start, we’re here to break down one of these often-confused concepts: the difference between smelting and melting.
Melting is a process where a material transforms from its solid phase to a liquid phase. Melting occurs under specific circumstances, at a certain temperature known as the substance’s melting point. If a pure substance is heated to this temperature, it will melt into a liquid form—this is all it takes to trigger a melting reaction.
Smelting is the process of heating a material beyond its melting point. When ore is smelted, you are left with the purest form of that ore for blacksmithing and other purposes. Smelting requires a furnace that can reach very high temperatures to surpass each material’s melting point. The furnace and type of fuel you use to heat it vary in temperature ranges, so make sure you choose a smelting furnace kit that is the right fit for your blacksmithing shop.
Differences and Applications
The main difference between melting and smelting is that melting an ore converts it from a solid into a liquid state, whereas smelting involves heating a substance beyond its melting point to convert the ore to its purest form. In this way, melting is just a step along the way to the final smelting process. Smelting requires very high temperatures to turn ore and other materials into a useable, pure state. Many blacksmiths often smelt iron, copper, lead, silver, and other ores for their pure metal states to be used in smithing.
We hope this helps clear up the difference between smelting and melting for beginner blacksmiths and those looking to get into the practice. The glossary of different blacksmithing terms may seem like a never-ending list at first, but once you start practicing and familiarizing yourself with the terms, you’ll have them down in no time.