I like old stuff. Always have. I like old stuff that was made by hand, made by non- industrial processes. They carry their maker's fingerprints. Studying and copying the old work, I connect with men and women who came before and laid the foundation for the comfortable life I live.
I've spent my working life studying the ironwork of Colonial America. I began working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation gunsmith shop as a summer employee while at college. Three years later, a position opened at the Deane Forge blacksmith shop under master Peter Ross. That began an almost 14 year career as an historical blacksmith. Within a year the operations moved to a much larger shop, the Anderson Blacksmith shop, and in February 1994 I was promoted to journeyman. I worked for Colonial Williamsburg until 1999 when I moved near Charlotte, NC and set up my own business.
Along with the other smiths at Williamsburg, I've demonstrated at three ABANA Conferences. Last year at Richmond, I manned the ABANA teaching station with Peter Ross and Dan Nauman. I've recently demonstrated at the Quad State Roundup and the Bighorn Forge Conference. And I'm a member of the ABANA education committee. Teaching, I think, is my talent. None of this forge work has come particularly easy for me so I retain a sensitivity to the needs of the beginner for a clear, step-by-step presentation of the processes.
While I make money as a smith and teaching smith's work, I'm really an amateur. I say I have a very expensive hobby that manages to support itself. Don't expect to learn how to make "hot selling gallery items" from me.
I'll be showing you how to make some old stuff. This has advantages for the amateur smith of modern America. The old stuff was designed to make use of very simple tools. No need for a treadle hammer, power hammer, belt grinder, exotic tool steel, or guillotine tool. This puts these projects into the "doable" category for people with modest shops.
Second, the products demand mastery of the basics of hand forged work. The tools, approaches and skills that have been used in this trade for 2500 years are still effective for those who take the time to practice them. Once mastered, they open up wide vistas for other work.
I'll teach historical work in a couple of categories: "Ironwork of the Home" (kitchen utensils and building hardware mostly) and "Ironwork of the Shop" (period style tradesman tools). In so doing I'll cover all the traditional skills of the forge and anvil. If time allows I'll show some gun hardware appropriate to the longrifles built in the Appalachian mountains in the early 19th century. That should keep us busy.
---- Jay Close