Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blacksmith Conferences

How can someone learn more about blacksmithing? Find and join the nearest blacksmithing organization. The U.S. is fortunate to have a nationwide organization (ABANA) as well as more than 50 state and regional organizations. These are non-profit groups run by volunteers with the goal of preserving and teaching the art of blacksmithing.

I have just returned from the "6th Annual Bill Gichner Memorial Hammer In" held by the Mid Atlantic Smiths Association. It is an example of the best features of a mid-sized blacksmith’s conference. The conference was held in a huge maintenance barn on a family farm in Maryland. The conference started with a huge Friday dinner and continued until after lunch on Sunday. Meals were provided as part of the conference fee, and I have never eaten better at a conference. The shrimp boil was my particular favorite.

There were two demonstrators that demonstrated by turn in 1.5 hour stints. The demonstrators, Kim Thomas and Pat Livengood, focused on methods to make classic elements of European inspired ironwork. Their work can be seen at: http://www.mastersinwroughtiron.com/. They worked right in front of the crowd, answered questions, and even held a slide show of their work in the evening after dinner. Easygoing and skilled demonstrators, they engage the audience and shared a tremendous amount of knowledge.

Pat Livengood started smithing as a farrier, and still works with the speed and dispatch of someone working on a deadline. A horse will stand for you only so long! His work at the anvil shows how to move metal smoothly and precisely. Pat’s demonstration featured using a 10 inch metal ring as the frame for beautiful ironwork. Here is an example of his work:

Kim Thomas’s presentations focused on using modern structural iron to provide shortcuts to making accurate German inspired scrollwork. He used a number of drawings to demonstrate how to train your eye to see the simple forms within a complex form. If you are interested in Colonial American or European iron then their demonstration is worthwhile.

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