Medieval Blacksmiths Are Helping the Ukrainian War Effort

Blacksmiths used to making vambraces and pauldrons are now forging spikes to protect Ukrainian checkpoints.

On February 22, the “Art of STEEL” workshop posted a photo of medieval-style steel gauntlets on its Facebook page. Four days later, it posted a video of steel spikes connected by a long chain. “Helping to protect the city,” the post said. “Who knows how to weld, make ‘hedgehogs’ for checkpoints.”

The Art of STEEL is based in the Ukrainian city of Rivne, just two hours from the Belarusian border. Like much of the rest of Ukraine, many of its citizens are preparing for war. The Art of STEEL has spent much of the past few years churning out high quality medieval arms and suits of armor for a community of cosplayers and re-enactors. Now it’s forges are churning out caltrops meant to block chokepoints in the city


“A little help in improving the defense of our city,” a Facebook post displaying steel spikes said. “All forges in the city make barrier elements. Ukrainian armorers are famous in the amateur blacksmith community for their work. If you’ve been to a [convention] and seen someone in a steel breastplate, there’s a decent chance it came from a Ukrainian forge.”

According to Jordan Newman, an amateur blacksmith and geologist in Texas, Ukraine’s land has unique mineral properties that have made it a hotspot for smithing. 

“The country is lucky enough to have Precambrian metamorphosed sedimentary rocks rich in iron ore that are easy to refine,” Newman said. “It's mostly hematite in quartz so when you smelt it you end up with slag that is easy to remove and won't contaminate your bloom. The silica also creates a glassy flux which further protects the refined iron from oxygen in the atmosphere. If you're a blacksmith in the early iron age when metallurgy was trial and error this would have been a blessing.”

According to Newman, there’s a basin in Ukraine that’s made it a powerhouse of iron production. “It's of course a double edged sword because when you have resources someone else is going to want them. Ukrainian history is rife with these struggles,” he said. “People visit Ukraine for apprenticeships. Some seek the raw talent that comes from generational trade Others want to embrace the old ways which are preserved in a different way than the Americana nostalgia of Colonial Williamsburg.”

In nearby Kyiv, steel workers are welding together larger versions of the hedgehog spikes. According to Reuters, the factory had already produced 110 large hedgehogs after a few days of operation. "We have demands from many places for these types of blocking devices, we deliver them wherever they are needed in the area ... subcontractors and friends are providing transportation for the products and the material," Oleksandr Bodyuk, a deputy director at the company steel mill, told Reuters.

Across Ukraine, steel forges are churning out defenses to protect cities from Russia. “Such spikes are made in all cities of Ukraine, we are not the only ones,” an anonymous blacksmith told the Telegraph. “Many [forges] create anti-tank barriers, some make stoves to heat the military. All the masters who know how to work with metal are trying to help the army in some way. Such assistance is also needed for the checkpoints that have been created on roads in every city. Russia did not expect such resistance.”

Art of STEEL did not immediately return Motherboard’s request for comment.


Ukraine, Ukraine conflict, ukraine invasion, World News, Blacksmith, worldnews

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