When I was researching my first book, Ciara's Tale, I learned a tremendous amount about blacksmithing and charcoal making.
Blacksmithing is an ancient art. One of the oldest references to blacksmithing is from the Bible, Genesis 4:22:
"...Tubal Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron..."
The word "blacksmith" comes from 2 sources: black, because iron was the "black" metal. And "smith" comes from smite, which means "to hit".
In ancient times, blacksmiths were regarded almost as gods because of the mysterious way they used earth (iron ore), water, wind and fire to produce iron.
We don't think much about this now but in other times, without a blacksmith to make the swords and knives, the plowshares and hoes, the pots and pans and hooks - there would be none of the instruments people needed to live and produce food and defend themselves.
In the time period of Ciara's Tale, which is early 5th century, the blacksmith would have had his smithy out in the open, away from other buildings. He would have used a leather apron and his clothing would have many singed holes in it. His biceps and forearms would be immense with muscle from swinging a heavy hammer all day. Burns in various stages of healing would cover his hands and arms.
I have a blackmith character in Ciara's Tale. In May of 2005, I corresponded with a blacksmith named PawPaw Wilson, who helped me get the finer points of blacksmithing correct and critiqued some of my writing.
I also corresponded with some of the fellows of an interesting website called AnvilFire. They offered lots of helpful information, even trying to help me figure out what the smell of freshly "quenched" iron was like. (That's when the hot iron is plunged into water to cool it.) Check out their website: www.anvilfire.com.