Blacksmith – Please Help a Dying Art Survive
Organized by: Russ Loader
Hi, my name is Russ. I studied and was trained in 18th century blacksmithing at Colonial Williamsburg Virginia, and have been practicing this art for over 30 years now. It has always remained a passion of mine and now close to the age of sixty, suffering from a rare form of arthritis, it seems to be the only thing that keeps me moving and healthy in my life. I really enjoy shaping the metal to the precise shape I want and gain a great sense of accomplishment when I finish the piece. I absolutely love the feeling of creating something real, something useful, and something that’s unique and beautiful. My blacksmith shop can be found on the grounds of Tyrone Mills, about an hour east of Toronto, just north of Bowmanville, Ontario. This historic 19th century mill is one of only a very few water powered saw mills producing lumber still in full time operation across Canada. I employee traditional methods, such as a coal fired forge, hand crank blower, and large open doors, a few small windows and a kerosene lamp supply me with the light I need to create small household items from towel racks, pot holders, plant hangers, coat racks, axes, tomahawks and custom knives. As I look towards the future, with a technology driven work force, there is a noticeable shortage of highly trained craftsmen, not only in the field of blacksmithing, but also in many other traditional arts and crafts. I do not know too many traditional blacksmiths left in Ontario let alone in all of Canada. Lately, I have received a great deal of interest from young people, mostly teenagers wanting to study and learn the craft. Unfortunately, I have no children of my own, and before the years catch up with me, I would cherish the opportunity to be able to pass on my knowledge and skill to the younger generation. Your generous donations will be used to help two young people on their path to learning the blacksmithing trade. Once school is finished for the year in June, they will be totally hands on, and by the end of summer, they will have gained enough knowledge to be able to forge and temper their own tomahawk. Funds will also be allocated to purchase a few additional tools and equipment, safety gear, additional insurance, a lot of extra coal (you use more when you’re teaching), and some wages for my apprentices. I have an open door policy and I welcome any and all into my shop while open. I always keep a couple of stools for visitors who just want to stop by, sit a spell, to watch and enjoy the process. Please help me to keep this valuable art alive and well for the next generation. Thank you for your time and consideration.