trezMember Since 09 Apr 2008
Offline Last Active Nov 25 2014 08:19 PM
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- Active Posts 489
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- Member Title old soul
- Age 56 years old
- Birthday September 10, 1958
In 1987 while in the Marine Corps I was living in the town of Jacksonville NC. I had read every book I could find on blacksmithing. A museum in Richland, the next town over, had a great curator, Albert Potts. He would bring in folk artists on Sunday afternoons to do demonstrations. One cold and icy Sunday, I read in the paper that he was going to have a blacksmith at the museum demonstrating civil war pieces. When I arrived there were about six others who had also braved the cold. Shawn, the blacksmith was just lighting off his forge. He had a bellows and all his equipment was homemade. He did his demo in an hour then everyone else left. I didn’t. I had tons of questions. He looked at me and said I could stand there all day and you could ask questions but instead he handed me a piece of steel and commented, “you are only going to learn this by doing it”. So I started hammering and we ended up talking for two hours. He asked me why I wanted to blacksmith. That was simple. I wanted a set of ice carving chisels. I explained that I was a trained chef with a degree from Johnson and Wales University and unwilling to pay thousands of dollars for something I felt that I could make. I helped Shawn pack up and I decided to just go home and do it.
I searched flea markets for tools and found a good vice and a hammer. I built my forge and bellows. I drove to Wilmington, NC and bought my first bags of coal. So Saturday morning came I had worked to do I needed tools for the forge a shovel, poker, rake and water can. Well with in an hour the wooden arm on the bellows broke. Not giving up I made one out of steel lifting the bottom of the bellows by hand I forged my first Eye then forged welded it. Feeling good yes I can do this. So now I could start on my list.
Then something strange happened. My neighbor Derwood came over. “What do you think you’re doing”, he asked. “I am blacksmithing”. “No, you are doing it all wrong”, he said. Then he picked up my rake and started pulling my fire apart. “It’s ok. You can light it up again now get in my truck”. Now Derwood was in his 90’s and I had a lot of respect for him. He was still cutting his own fire wood to heat his house. Down the road we went, off the main road and onto a dirt road through woods which felt like forever. The woods cleared and there were thousands of acres of corn. We pulled up to an old tobacco barn. “See that stand of trees over there? That is where I was born. The house bunted down years ago”. In the barn we went. “She’s here somewhere”, he proclaimed, “If you can pick her up you can have her”! There she was in a corner under a tarp… an anvil, battered, chipped and old. I walked over and wrapped my arms around her and off we went. She was now mine and I hers. Years later I found out where the anvil had come from. Derwood told me he had received it from the great great grandson of John Ford the first blacksmith in Onslow County, NC in 1774. After a lot of research I found out it was made by Mouse Hole Forge. I tended to the abuse she had suffered over the years and to this day she still serves me well.
A few years later I moved to Chapel Hill, NC to take over as Executive Chef of UNC Hospitals. This is where I met George Berrett of Storybrook Metal Shop. We became friends and I would watch what he was producing and go home and make the elements I had seen in his shop. Every time I lit off my forge I had work for hire from fixing farm equipment to making custom pieces for people.
In 1999 I moved to Sarasota, FL. I started working for the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre as the Technical Director. I set up my shop and got my first big commission. The Venice Cathedral needed a fence for a cemetery. I installed it on the morning of 9/11. Since then I have produced pieces for collectors and worked with members of the Histicorial Society recreating and expanding existing pieces from old Sarasota. I’ve also had pieces commissioned by a Japanese cruse line and Bush Gardens of Tampa.
I blacksmith for the love of the art. Who would have thought from that cold North Carolina day I would find my self 20 years later under an old oak tree in 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity listening to that old anvil ring and boy does she sing.