From the fire to the finish: Blacksmithing workshop harkens back to old-timey professions

By Chandler Holland
Times-News correspondent 

Peter Ross' “Introduction to Blacksmithing” workshop takes place at The Woodwright's School in Pittsboro. Cost is $155 per person. To register, visit www.woodwrightschool.com. / Chandler Holland, Times-News correspondent

Alamance County is full of makers; people who love to make things with their hands. As a result, the maker movement is quickly gaining ground in our community. Though modern day “makers” often include programmers, tech geeks, and arts and crafts enthusiasts, the movement also harkens back to a time when “old-timey” professions such as blacksmithing represented a hard-earned, well-respected trade.
The term blacksmith itself is old. “Black” comes from the fire scale; a colored layer that forms on metal while heating. The root of “smith” is slightly less clear and was likely derived from either old English “smythe” (strike) or proto-German “smithaz” (skilled).
From dwarves of Norse legend, Hephaestus of the Greeks, and even John Henry and the 20-pound hammer from our own American Tall Tales, blacksmithing is deeply rooted within our myths and legends. The practical art of blacksmithing was central to producing much needed items in the Bronze, Iron and Medieval ages, but still holds a profound power in today’s industrialized age.
Have you ever been curious about what it would be like to try out blacksmithing, but didn’t know where to begin? Does the thought of pounding hot metal on a forge to create something new sound intriguing? A great starting place is the full day “Introduction to Blacksmithing” workshop with Peter Ross, a former master of the Anderson Forge at Colonial Williamsburg. The program is offered through Roy Underhill’s Pittsboro-based The Woodright’s School. The workshop is $155 per person, and fills up pretty fast — so sign up soon if you want to attend. To register, visit www.woodwrightschool.com.
   Ross offers blacksmithing classes in his personal shop, in the Silk Hope community of Chatham County. Our class was composed of approximately 12 students, mostly adults, though the material was set up in a way so that a teenager could easily understand and execute the day’s project at his or her own forge.
At the workshop, you will learn quite a bit about choosing and setting up equipment, and hear an overall survey of blacksmithing technique. Ross spends much of the day demonstrating from “the fire to the finish” on projects including welding hinges, upsetting holdfasts, and laminating chisels.
By the end of a long day, you will have made a beautiful wall hook. You also will gain the hands-on knowledge and inspiration to start a homemade forge of your own.

Chandler Holland is a senior home-schooler and a Teens & 20s writer. She was lead intern at C’est si bon! Cooking School, and co-teaches the Kitchen Capers kid’s cooking classes at Alamance Arts.

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