The art of forging and shaping iron is rich in tradition; the basics of blacksmithing haven’t changed in about a thousand years. New technology, new materials and mechanization have nearly caused the extinction of this once vital occupation.
But a new generation is keeping the art form from being lost completely, with students such as Emma Ferrie, 11, and Max Ferrie, 9, learning the craft from family friend Jim Newgord in Pillager.
Emma was the first of the siblings to try her hand at blacksmithing. She was hanging out by the smithy after church one day and it sparked her interest.
“I came in and he (Jim) was blacksmithing and it looked like fun. He helped me make a leaf once and I still have it,” said Emma.
She’s been at it for two years now. Although she had to take a few months off when she broke her arm not too long ago.
“That’s how I had time to catch up with her,” chimed in her brother Max, who has been smithing since last spring. When asked why he wanted to take up smithing, Max smiled. “I saw Emma making money doing it so I wanted to start.”
Replied Emma: “I got $20 dollars for some miniature swords.”
The kids make their own forge tools, such as water can holders, pokers and center punches. Lessons are on Sundays and they know that if they don’t get their homework done there will be no blacksmithing. The kids start the session with a classroom segment and safety lessons, then they get to work on their projects, usually spending two to three hours hammering away on their work.
“They got here about one and when they get tired it’s time to stop ‘cause it’s not safe to be tired. You only have so many hits in your arm and then you’re done,” said Newgord of the time frame for lessons.
The siblings are serious enough about their hobby that it’s even made it onto their Christmas lists. Emma wants earmuffs to replace the earplugs she currently wears and Max said he wanted a particular Wii game that has a blacksmith in it and his very own forge.