Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Back Scratcher in New York

We love to receive photos of my pieces in their new homes. 

This back scratcher now lives in New York.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Claude Moore Follow-up

One of the nicest things about doing demonstrations is meeting lots of great people.

One such family contacted Jeff prior to last weekend's Claude Moore Market Fair to verify that he was going to be demonstrating there; the father wanted to show his son the art of blacksmithing.  It was really wonderful to meet them, and they sent us the following photo of Jeff in action:

Likewise, it's also great to reconnect with folks who have bought some of Jeff's work and hear how they enjoy what he made for them.   Not only did Jeff find out that a colonial-style trivet (to be used with an open fire) worked wonderfully for this family, but he later received this photo of the piece in use:

Thanks so much!

Monday, October 17, 2011

October Market Fair at Claude Moore

We had another wonderful weekend Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm as I demonstrated non-stop and my wife interpreted.  I made decorative leaves, custom hooks, candlestick holders and various other items as we visited with the 3,000 or so people who came out for the fair. 


It is great fun to get to show the art of blacksmithing with others -- it's amazing how interested people are in the craft.  Not only do folks like to learn about what we are doing at the anvil and forge, but they also really connect with my desire to create something with my hands (you can only do so much email!). 

We wanted to thank all of you who came out to see us -- it's wonderful to look out into a crowd and see friends! Thank you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blacksmithing Social

I have taken to inviting a group of blacksmithing buddies over lately to get a bit more of the social side of the craft I love.  Today I got to spend some good solid time with Steve Walthall, who is a gifted proefessional farrier.  We know different sides of the trade and Steve always seems to be able to teach me things from a different point of view, so it is great to hang out together.

Can't wait until the next time!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Working in the Forge at Mt. Vernon

Recently, I have been spending my forge time at Mt. Vernon in their historical forge and I have been having a great time doing it.  I get to work with an amazing team and it is great to be able to share your passion with the many interested guests that visit.
On this particular day, I was forging a set of andirons similar to ones I saw Peter Ross make at a demo last year and also similar to a pair my friend Curt just made:

One of the several difficult aspects of andirons is the upset square corners at the back.  I was working with 3/4" square stock here, so it was many heats before I was happy with the bend.

I only get to spend a few hours there each time I go, so this project is one that is still "underway".

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Elected to the ABANA Board!

I was notified this week that I was elected to serve on the board of ABANA, the Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America.  I am both excited and honored to serve along some amazing smiths and I can't wait to see what this new stage of the adventure will bring!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Colonial Cooking Trivet

I recently completed a nice colonial cooking trivet for some friends we met through Claude Moore and I was glad to see it turned out so well.

It was the first time I have made one of these, so I ended up making two because I didn't like the first one, but it was a great learning experience and also a tremendous opportunity to dig into the research on how these things were used.

After much thinking while I was making the piece and a couple long conversations with a couple of colonial period cooks at Williamsburg, I was very pleased to see this come to fruition.  Like I often say, one of the reasons I love blacksmithing so much is because of the "infinite learning curve".

Can't wait to see what I will learn next!  :-)

Monday, July 18, 2011

July Market Fair

We spent a lovely weekend at the Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm, where we were privileged to demonstrate with Kelly Smyth again.  We've missed Kelly and it was great to spend some time with her. 

Jeff was ever so grateful to get Kelly's insights into how to make certain colonial items, but he had to compete with the boys for Kelly's time, which wasn't easy!  My boys were particularly thrilled to get their first chance to forge some hooks, thanks to Kelly's wonderful instruction. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 2011 Colonial Market Fair

Please join my family and myself at the next Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm on July 16 and 17.

This is a great event for adults and kids alike because there are many experienced (and often juried as well) Colonial craftspeople of all types, marvelous entertainers and period vendors as well, all in Colonial costumes.  Every one of them has a heart for education and it is an outstanding opportunity to immerse yourself in some good wholesome historical entertainment and to learn a few things at the same time!

I will be demonstrating at this event and will have a colleague there with me named Kelly Smyth who is a renowned expert in maritime blacksmithing.  Together we will be educating people on the many interesting aspects of Colonial blacksmithing.  More details and a 50% off coupon can be found on the Claude Moore Colonial Farm website.

If you happen to miss us at this Market Fair, please join us at the next one October 15th and 16th or come visit me at the Blacksmith Shop at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens (times vary from week to week).

Look forward to seeing you at one of these events soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scroll Candlesticks In Use

I made some scroll candlesticks for a friend from Claude Moore recently and he sent me a shot of them on his dining room table next to a trencher they got from the Mount Vernon Craft Fair, so I was pleased to see them in use in such nice company!

Jeff Joins Mount Vernon's Blacksmithing Team

I recently got an unexpected phone call from Mount Vernon to discuss "blacksmithing".

Anyone who knows me know that I am always more than ready to chat about smithing, so I returned the call lickety split.  Lo and behold, Mount Vernon's blacksmithing shop needed some extra help and wondered if I  would be willing to work as needed, on a part-time basis.

How cool is THAT?!?!

Please look for me in the shop the next time you are there!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Manassas Civil War Demonstration

It was an exhausting, but good, demonstration this weekend in Manassas.

30,000 people were expected and although we don't know the final numbers, we definitely talked to thousands of people over the 3 days of the event.  We educated people about blacksmithing and the value of doing something, anything, with your hands, whatever it is that you feel called to do.  This notion seems to resonate well with people at events like this, which is always great to see.

This was our first Civil War event and it was great to dig into the blacksmithing history of that time period and to compare it to the Colonial period we are more familiar with.  Although blacksmithing did not change all that much in the 100 or so years between these wars, the country itself changed immensely and that had a huge impact on the blacksmiths of the time.

During the Colonial period, most finished metal goods and much of the iron both came from England in ships. After the Stamp Act in 1763, however, Americans became much more reluctant to buy British goods and so the blacksmiths of the time slowly began moving from a repair-based workload to one of many more things made from scratch from iron made here in this country.  At the same time, people were moving westward and blacksmiths were among them.  Some smiths that apprenticed in the cities of the Eastern seaboard no doubt would move westward after they became Journeymen and would serve the local community they were in around their homestead.  Amidst all this change, the apprenticeship model remained firmly in place right up to the Civil War and beyond.

Shortly after the Civil War, things changed dramatically for smiths, with the advent of the railroads only 20 years after the end of the War and then mass production roughly 30 years after that.  So, despite their being not much change to the basic aspects of the blacksmithing trade for the almost 250 years before the Civil War, there was massive change in the 50 years after, leading shortly to the almost virtual extinction of them in the mid 20th century.  Thankfully, however, smithing is seeing a great revival in the last 50 years and I am glad to be a part of it!

We had a great time at the event and look forward to sharing blacksmithing history and practice in future events as well.  Hope to see you there the next time!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gearing Up for Manassas

I usually demonstrate with a wonderful, but borrowed, set-up at the Claude Moore Market Fairs.  I took quite a bit of time early on to help build that forge, vise, and other equipment.  Unfortunately, I can't be carting those things all over for other events, so lately I have had to build, buy, or otherwise make a new set of gear for the event that starts on Friday.   At times, it's felt like we were a bit in over our head, but I remain optimistic even though it seems like there is so much yet to do!

We all have our new Civil War outfits, although the clothing has been the easiest part of the equation to pull together.  Honestly, the equipment has been the challenge.  We're getting there, though, with a day before the event.

I bought a new smaller leg vise and built a stand for it.

And, after more searching than you can imagine, I finally located a stump of the right height and width; a friend chain-sawed it into a workable form.   It only needs its "supports" for the anvil (so the anvil doesn't bounce around once I start hammering on it) and it should be ready to go.

After testing it out a couple weeks ago at Claude Moore, I am confident the new anvil will work well.  The forge is freshly painted and the coal was delivered today.  I think the blower is working and will attach to the forge, although that hasn't been really tested yet.   All the pieces are falling into place, with the sole exception of a way to get all this gear out to Manassas.  We're still working on that.  Somewhere, there's a trailer or a truck just waiting to be connected to our effort.  Certainly, everyone in our circle knows we are looking for one!

The only other glitch is that the boys have school on the first day of demonstrating, and they don't want to miss a minute of class time.  While that complicates the schedule a bit, none of us can be upset about that development.   My family might just have to show up a day late....and actually I might just need that period of quiet to put the final touches on all the new equipment and iron out the new wrinkles that have developed. 

It's never dull around here, that's for sure!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lots of Hooks

I was greeted a Market Fair this year by a few familiar faces, who came with photos and measurements for items they wanted me to make for them.  I love that sort of thing and was happy to make their custom items.  I made a bunch of things during the Fair and have since made a custom hook for a tent for another demonstrator, a series of S-hooks, and drapery hooks (to hold back drapes)...

Here are some shots of these hooks: