By 1900, factories in Canada and elsewhere can produce large quantities of metal implements much more cheaply than a village blacksmith. As a result, he relies on his particular skills to provide the essential service of shoeing horses, which sometimes accounts for more than half his time. In addition, he repairs a wide variety of iron and steel products his customers bring him. While most of his clients are farmers, the blacksmith may also undertake more specialized tasks, for example, completing the metal work for a local carriage maker or refurbishing logging gear for a lumber shanty. To do repairs or an occasional custom project, he uses scrap metal in his shop or fresh material that has been shipped from Montréal or Québec City.
The blacksmith's work varies over the course of the years and seasons in response to the needs of the surrounding population. Where the land is newly settled, he maintains the axes, saws, chains, hooks and other tools that farmers use to clear the land. As farms become established, the blacksmith's services turn to repairing ploughs, harrows, wagons and hitches. His work also follows a seasonal rhythm. The demand for shoeing horses is particularly intense in the spring when horses need to be ready to work in the fields and in the late fall when they have to be reshod for winter. Likewise, farm equipment has to be repaired for planting in the spring and harvesting in the summer. The regular traffic of clients, some of whom are forced to wait when a job takes longer than expected, makes the smithy a natural meeting place where local news and gossip is exchanged.