- Associated Press - Saturday, July 18, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - So, this summer getting too hot for you? Try being a blacksmith - not because you have to because it’s your job, but because it’s fun.

Members of the Chesapeake Forge Blacksmith Guild gathered at their “clubhouse” at Kinder Farm Park on Sunday, sweating over one of four 1,500 degree coal forges, tinkering with their metal projects.

The whir of a fan boosting the fire’s heat was punctuated by the loud ping from hammers hitting glowing hot steel on anvils.

“Welding!” shouted Mark Ramey, of Arnold, warning others that serious sparks were about to fly as he took his hammer to a thick piece of steel he would fold onto itself to build strength so that he could later form into a knife. About 30 whacks later, he returned the steel to the fire.

It was a slow, repetitive process: heating metal until it glowed like the bituminous coal of the fire; then taking it from the fire to the anvil to pound and bend, or twist into candleholders, a trammel hook, an iron tripod for campfire cooking, or an ambitious Damascus steel piece that will someday become a knife.

All on hand Sunday had started by taking introductory smithing lessons from Paul Wiedorn, who also serves as the guild treasurer.

Safety is first during the initiating lessons, offered four times a year, usually in the cooler winter months. “We give them a tour, and the first half of the day is all about safety, and some of the basic tools,” said Wiedorn, who got involved nine years ago when his son expressed an interest in the blacksmithing at Kinder Park.

By the end of the day, students try their hand at making something.

“Pokers. Lots of pokers, that first day,” Wiedorn said.

On Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings, the guild members show up to the forge building, a post and beam structure built with pegs - no nails.

Ramey showed up hoping to use the shop’s power hammer to quicken the pace of the pounding required to turn two pieces of high carbon steel into a Damascus knife blank.

But the hammer was taken apart in the middle of refurbishing, and he had to resort to the old ways - heating and pounding the two pieces together, then repeating until the new single piece is large enough to fold over onto itself.

He will do that at least nine times to build layers of steel. It’s similar to making puff pastry, layer after layer, fold after fold. And a super strong chunk of steel, made stronger from the layers, can be fashioned into a knife that will hold its extra sharp edge much longer than other blades.

“I will be a better blacksmith from knife-making,” Ramey said, wiping sweat from his brow. It took him nearly three hours to complete one fold.

Cliff Greene, of Crofton, was heating and pounding three 4-foot-long pieces of iron that he will stretch and taper to form a tripod.

“I’ll use camping to hang a pot over a fire,” he said, as he scooped coal over one of the pieces to heat it faster.

He joined the guild last October and said he has finished 30 or 40 projects.

“First was the poker. Then hooks. Then more hooks. They are good for teaching you how to handle the hammers.”

And there were scores of hammers for jobs hanging from the work benches in front of each chimney at opposite ends of the small-barn like building. Each chimney handles two forges.

Levi Hoover, of Glen Burnie, was fashioning a trammel hook, a long straight piece of metal with several round holes for yet another hook to slip into and hang a pot at different heights over a fire.

With help holding the hot metal in a hardy tool, Hoover drove a chisel into the glowing metal. Once through, another round, tapered chisel was driven through the hole to form a near perfect circle.

Five or six holes were punched through his piece before he turned to making the hook that will fit his creation.

Sunday was a cooperative atmosphere with young smiths dropping one thing to help another. All took time to answer questions from park visitors who wandered through the building, careful to mind the warning to stay on the asphalt walkway in the middle to keep from getting too close to the heat or sparks.

Andrew Pavlicek, of Odenton, was twisting a thin piece of rounded metal stock in concentric circles to fashion a candle holder.

“I am almost done,” he said. “Hopefully, I am not sweating in vain here.”

When his wife arrived late in the afternoon session, he showed her the piece. She mentioned the hole curled just so for a candle to rest in might be a little big.

“Uh, well I can fix that next time,” he said.

All it takes is a little heat, and a little more sweat.

___

Information from: The Capital, https://www.capitalgazette.com/

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