The Blacksmith began when Iron and Steel was introduced. The term describes someone who works with 'black' metals (Iron/Steel). The town smith was of great value of everyone in the town. The smith would have created and repaired every steel tool in the area. Tools for productivity such as sickles, hammers and other items like gates and locks would have been created within the smithy. Skip towards the Industrial period and traditional blacksmiths was beginning to be phased out for interchangeable parts and cheap stamped good exported from china.
The Modern Smith:
The Blacksmith still exists today in many forms. Many smiths today make a living selling artistic items, for example 'wrought iron' railings (which is more than likely mild steel than actual wrought iron). Some smiths are smiths for the historical aspect, others for a hobby.
Doing It Yourself
Blacksmiths is something one can easily start by oneself, with patience. All you require is steel to heat, source of heat, something to hit with and hit against. In theory, you could spend absolutely nothing on a project like this with enough skill in resource hunting. (Go grind examining your trashcan for points on that) Smithing today is based on a lot of self-experiments, the best way to learn is the grasp the basics and experiment from there.
Lots of heavy and hot steel will be moving around. Not to mention a potentially 100lb anvil and blazing hot forge will be running too. Keep the shoes work-safe. No synthetics since it melts to your skin. Watch the ventilation inside buildings, coal generates lots of sulfur smoke when starting. I personally don't don't wear gloves on either hand, as all metal is hot unless proven cool. First aid kits and fire extinguisher nearby, not to mention water.
There are far too many different types of steel to give a quick DIY about them all. Carbon content is what turns raw Iron to Steel, it is measured percentage by weight. Carbon is what gives the steel strength but give steel brittleness. Low amounts of carbon yield softer, ductile steel. High amounts yield harder, more brittle steel.
They can be generally placed into three groups based on carbon content.
Low Carbon: Less than .05 carbon content. True wrought iron is in this class. This is no longer mass produced and incredibly expensive, only to be found by salvaging.
Mild Carbon: .05 to .15 carbon content. This is the most common class of steels and is found pretty much everywhere. Most of your non-tools will be made from this.
High Carbon: .15 to 2.0 carbon content. Incredibly hard but brittle as well. Most tools will be of High Carbon steel. Any higher than 2.0 is Cast Iron and is far to brittle for any work.
'Forges' can be put into two groups. Gas and solid fuel. Gas forges use either propane or waste oil. Solid fuel can be a variety of things ranging from wood, charcoal, and coal.
Gas: Cheaper for the modern smith and portable. Propane is fed into a burner and is ignited, producing a jet of flame at the end. Gas forges are generally in a tube shape with rows of (or one) burners protruding.
Gas forges are cleaner and easier to maintain, but are more difficult to build. The burners need to be tweaked for every part in the design.
Post metal bucket.
Detail of my Propane Burner. Pipe from Menards. Uses MIG tips for force high pressure gas.
Solid: Easiest to build, easiest to use. Essentially you need burning material and air forced into the fire. Historically, charcoal and later coal was used for this. Only limitation is air source, electric fans need a power source but bellows or hand-cranked blowers remove that limitation.
Basic solid fuel forge.
Things to hit with
Anvil is the obvious choice and many have different opinions on what is the 'right' anvil.
If you want a traditional anvil, research trustworthy anvil companies. New anvils can cost hundreds of dollars, as used anvils can be found by as little as a dollar a pound. Try to buy locally so that you can see and try before you buy. Nothing is worse than buying a HF anvil for 100 dollars + freight charges and the anvil is just bad. A good anvil will have good rebound, meaning it will 'strike-back' at the hot steel. Tap the anvil with a hammer and feel the rebound.
Anvils don't need to be in the traditional shape to work steel. I have used the side of a 12lb sledge for the first months. Sections of rail track and forklift forks have been used as well.
All that is required is mass.
Railroad track makes for a cheap but effective anvil even if un-modified.
Hammers for general forging are 1.5lb to 2.5lb. Cross pein and ball pein hammers dominate many smiths collections.
Pro-tip, heavy hammers will only tire you out faster.
My most used hammers. Middle Ball-Pein for rivets.
Quench tank: Bucket of water for rapidly cooling steel, or cooling a fire hazard
Tongs: Moving hot metal around. Welding longer handles (reins) to pliers can be a good start. You can't have enough tongs. Ever.
Various Special Tools: Punching, Drifting, Cutting. Making holes, making bigger holes, or cutting stock off.
Get a plan together and go hunt for scrap. Find other Smiths, it's awesome to listen to their stories and pound metal. Start slow, you wont make shortswords overnight.
Obviously, I can not cover every detail for a short writeup on a long expansive trade. Ask questions, I'm happy to answer questions and add to the OP.
(WIP I will be filling this thread with my own pictures within the week)
I have built several propane forges, and settled on a large coal fired forge. The coal forge was built from mild steel plate and has wheels.
70lb Vulcan Anvil + Tree stump requiring some work. The anvil was found on craigslist for 50$. Required touch up but has served me several years now. (People who don't know what they are selling)
abana.org Artist Blacksmith Assc of N. America. Great resource and way to find other smiths at conferences.
anvilfire.com Anvilfire is the Wiki of smithing. They host the I-Forge, step by step instructions on many projects. Check out the Plans page for forge design and even anvil design.
zoellerforge.com Has plans for propane forges and their burners.