As with any craft, one of the best things about being a blacksmith is being able to pass on techniques and skills to new people. It is a wonderful feeling to see someone leave after a day of work with a set of tongs made with their own hands, especially if they have come in thinking they couldn’t even lift a hammer.
I remember my first day of forging – I was in my second year of university in Brighton, and we were moving on from ‘light’ metal (copper) to ‘heavy’ metal. This meant a whole new workshop room which was around the corner and had a giant coal forge fire. I couldn’t believe the array of hammers, anvils, and tools. We watched as our tutor Avril effortlessly draw down a piece of steel, and then had a go ourselves. It was so much harder than she had made it look, I just couldn’t make it do what we had been taught. In one of my first attempts, the hammer missed the steel, bounced off the anvil and flew straight towards my head. Thankfully I was wearing goggles – they cracked and my forehead was saved. I practised all day, and by the end day I could shift the metal and had started to understand how to make it do what I wanted. I learnt how to bend it, fold it and hammer it down to a point, how to drift it, upset it, split it. I realised how fun and magical steel is, how using it made me feel like an alchemist. This is what I want to show to other people – to show how exciting it is to be able to turn something so solid and structural into something so pliable you can tie it in knots, just using heat, how easy it is to make it into something completely different.
Lessons are £150 a day for one on one teaching, or £100 a day per person for two or three people. This includes materials, gas for the forge and tea or coffee.