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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Hammer and tongs: Blacksmithing at Ely Folk School

David Colburn
Posted 5/27/21

ELY - Who isn’t fascinated by fire? It seems to be part of human DNA, and human history. Blacksmithing gives one the opportunity to “play” with fire, using intense heat to transform …

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Hammer and tongs: Blacksmithing at Ely Folk School

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ELY - Who isn’t fascinated by fire? It seems to be part of human DNA, and human history. Blacksmithing gives one the opportunity to “play” with fire, using intense heat to transform hard metal into a different substance that can be bent, twisted, and formed into many functional and decorative items.
The Ely Folk School recently presented a Taste of Blacksmithing class that gave students an opportunity to give this ancient art a try.
A recent all-day workshop, dubbed “Hammer and Tongs,” was conducted at EFS. Educator Paul Webster gave participants a chance to practice and expand their skills, making some tools and S-hooks that are useful around the house and shop.
Webster holds a Master’s Degree in experiential education and has been forging since 1988. He is a founder of Forging Community, a community organization and blacksmithing school in Duluth. He has also worked as the blacksmith for Duluth Pack Store and the Frost River Trading Company doing classes and demonstrations. Forging Community members give demonstrations at their home base in Duluth and teach blacksmithing skills throughout Minnesota.
EFS students learned about forge safety procedures, proper color (temperature) to start forging, and basic hammering techniques for elongating, bending and twisting metal. Everyone went home with one or more successfully executed S-hooks.
Ely native Phil Leino assisted at the class. “His donation of our first forge was responsible for the initial spark that led to the creation of the blacksmithing building and program here at the Ely Folk School,” said Program Director Betty Firth.
Leino’s grandfather served as the Ely blacksmith years ago. “Phil grew up in Ely, hearing stories about his blacksmith grandfather and worked with his Dad fabricating metal tools,” she said.
“After graduating with a Masters in Botany and Ph.D in plant sciences, he picked up more metalworking skills along the way, which he put to use making equipment needed in his research, creating a functional forge for a high school, and demonstrating blacksmithing at Living History Farms in Iowa.”
Leino added, “Transforming hard metal into a malleable substance never loses its fascination for me.”
Watch for more classes and workshops coming up this summer. If you have a project in mind you’d love to work on, give the Folk School a call, 218-235-0138
“It has been intriguing building this program and learning about blacksmithing, which I knew nothing about. I have asked advice from many different blacksmiths and have found them to be incredibly generous with their time and ideas. They all seem to be very dedicated to helping people learn about this age-old craft,” Firth said.

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