Before coming here whenever I would show someone the Driftless Folk School website the thing people were most excited about was always blacksmithing. “Oh you NEED to take that class” “Wow they offer blacksmithing?” “I can’t wait to hear about blacksmithing”
Well friends, it was awesome.
Our class was 2 days long and held at Robert (one of the Folk School founders)’s homestead out in Hillsboro. He has 5 forges so though some of us had to share there was plenty of space for all of us. Robert is an amazing teacher and gave us the instructions in a way that it was really easy for us all to go at our own pace while still feeling supported.
The first day was spent forging out the blade from a steel rod (I’m sure there’s a fancier word but I just don’t know it!) and believe me there is a lot more involved than it sounds. I’ve never done any metal work before so at first it was a little intimidating. The steel needs to be heated until it is a bright yellow/orange before it can be worked with and with the hot coal forges it takes a lot quicker than I thought. After a couple hours a heating, hammering, heating, hammering, heating, and hammering– first to flatten the metal then to shape the blade and tang– I had someone this resembled a knife blade!
The next day I did more heating and hammering until it was exactly how I wanted it. Then I filed it to the perfect shape and buffed out some of the blackness (I wanted to keep some so it looked rustic though most of the people in the class left with a smooth silver knife). I then heat treated and hardened it. My handle was made from a white tailed deer antler. It was cut down to the size I wanted it and then I had to hollow out the inside enough to fit the tang inside. A hole was then drilled in both the handle and the tang and I drove a peg though the holes and hammered it down so they would stay together. A metal was then poured on it for the fitting to keep the neck and blade together. After a little more filing it was done! All this took about 12 hours. There are so many details that I didn’t explain here and a real blacksmith person would probably laugh at me for this explanation.
All and all I really loved the class. I learned a ton and found working with a forge to be super empowering. If you ever have the chance I definitely recommend taking a forge class!