Monday, May 23, 2011

Market Fair Wrap-Up

We had a wonderful weekend at Market Fair -- I did a lot of fun blacksmithing and my wife interpreted right alongside me.   We were so pleased to be able to share the craft with so many people, especially children.  

While we talked to the visitors, the boys had their own version of a wonderful weekend as they had a never-ending playdate with my mom and all their friends who came to the Fair.  Just as some friends left, another group entered -- the boys hadn't had that much fun in ages.   

The only glitch was that the colonial bake oven got so hot after days of cooking that it burned through its base (2 layers of brick and wood underneath).  At the end of the fair, someone from the bake staff came up and said that they were dousing the fire and they were discussing whether it could be moved onto a new base or whether the whole oven would have to be rebuilt.   At least it was the end of the fair and, before then, the oven worked perfectly!

We want to say a huge "thank you" to everyone who came out to support us -- it was incredible to see so many friends!   We'll be back at Claude Moore for the next Market Fair on July 16-17th.

In the meantime, we need to get ready for our first ever Civil War demonstration June 4-5 in Manassas -- we're looking forward to it and will have details to share soon.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Rooker

Even as we were loading the cars with all sorts of tools, colonial-style clothing, and everything else needed for tomorrow's Market Fair, I was finishing up the "rooker" (sort of a fire poker) for the new colonial bake oven we made at Claude Moore.

We'll test all these tools this weekend, so I will likely have revisions to make for July's Market Fair. No one we know has ever actually used tools exactly like this, so we are all expecting to learn some things as we try them out.  But, for now, we've run out of time in the forge, so these will have to do for this weekend.

Tools for the Colonial Bake Oven

With a covering of mud, clay, sand, lime and dung over the bricks (and plans to put another layer of the same materials, plus some straw, on top of the 1st layer), the oven is pretty much finished....just in time for this weekend's Market Fair where it will be put to work baking bread.  It looks pretty amazing.

Final details still remain, though, and I have been hustling to forge some tools for the baking process using colonial-era drawings and photos.  I made a "scuffle" (which I keep calling a "kerfluffle" for some strange reason), which seems to be basically a colonial-style mop - a rag will go through the iron hole and a wooden handle will go on the other end.  We have some doubts about how well it will work.

I've also made a sort of a hoe to rake ashes out of the oven:

And, now I am headed into the forge to make a "rooker", which is similar to a fire poker.  Other folks are fashioning the wooden handles, building a peal, and various other implements.  In the meantime, a fire has been lit in the oven and the mud covering is drying out. 

There are still two days before Market Fair....plenty of time!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Campfire Tripod

About Us

Jeff Dunkelberger started blacksmithing after catching the bug in early 2008.  The idea of having his own forge came in time and now Black Forest Iron Works is a home-based forge that operates on small projects for sale at several outlets carrying his work.

Jeff has studied under notable blacksmiths Elmer Roush, Doug Merkel, Mark Aspery, Gerald Boggs, Mike Tanner, George Anderton and Albin “Albie” Drzewianowski and continues studying and practicing his craft.

Jeff actively participates in several local blacksmith guilds, but the area of his trade that currently gives him the most satisfaction is working as a living-history re-enactor.  He was chosen in 2009 as the primary blacksmith for the Claude Moore Colonial Farm’s Market Fair events, held three times per year in McLean, Virginia.  During these events, Jeff demonstrates the craft to several thousand people in a typical weekend while dressed appropriately in 1771 attire and using Colonial tools and methods.  In this regard, blacksmithing is a creative outlet Jeff can share with his family since Jeff’s wife and 2 young sons also attend the fairs in period attire.

Jeff was recently asked to join the staff of the Blacksmith Shop at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens as a part-time smith demonstrating to many of the 40,000 people per week that visit the historic estate.  In August 2011, Jeff was elected to serve on the board of ABANA, the Artist Blacksmith's Association of North America, where he hopes to make a positive impact for the benefit of the wider blacksmithing community.

Jeff and his wife also recently built a log cabin in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, working weekends and vacations for nearly three years.  They now rent Chestnut Oak Lodge so others may enjoy it also.  When not blacksmithing or building, Jeff is a Services Account Executive with Dell.  He lives with his wife, their two sons and two cats in Alexandria, VA.

As anyone who knows Jeff will attest, he has a strong desire to see the growth of the trade as together all current smiths "rediscover" what the blacksmiths of old faced each day and, in the process, serve the common good by educating people about the important role blacksmiths played in the development of our country and our shared culture.  

Jeff can be reached at 703-765-3000 or at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A New, "Portable" Anvil

Perhaps, we should bake some cookies for the delivery person since this package couldn't have been easy or pleasant to bring to our front door!

We now have a "portable" anvil (in blacksmithing, portability is definitely relative!) for my upcoming demos.  We're looking forward to seeing some of you this coming weekend at the Market Fair!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Back Scratchers & Candlestick Mast

I have been busily working on items for the quickly approaching May Market Fair.  I finally completed a new candlestick mast for a great customer that wanted another one and I also took the opportunity to make a couple of backscratchers for a bit of warmup.

I did something new with these two - I hammered a flat spot on the handle to make room for my touchmark.  I really like this idea and I think it adds a special charm to the piece.