In villages of old, the blacksmith was one of the most important men. Why? Because he was the enabler. He made the tools that enabled everyone else to ply their crafts and trades. If the carpenter wanted a chisel, hammer or even a nail, he went to the blacksmith. If a farmer wanted a spade or a scythe, he went to the blacksmith. If anyone wanted a knife or some chain or shoes for their horse, they went to the blacksmith. And more recently, many Australian farmers had their own forge and anvil and could do rudimentary blacksmithing to “make do” around the farm. Like so many of the old crafts, blacksmithing has never died, but has taken a back stage to the Bunnings and Mitre 10s of this world.
We have a couple of passionate blacksmiths come up from Sydney, Peter and Brett. They are happiest hammering away at their anvils or with their irons in the fire. And it’s amazing how many other closet blacksmiths there are around the place. Chris, our local commercial sauerkraut (and other ferments) maker, calls herself the Iron Maiden when she has time to work at the forge. Speedy, who sometimes manages to get up to our weekends for scything and peening, was until recently the blacksmith at the Swan Hill Pioneer Village. Our neighbour Pete has his own anvil and forge, which he quietly uses whenever he has a need.
As with so many craftsmen and women who are struggling to keep their craft alive, Peter and Brett love passing on their skills to the younger generation. So if you are really keen (we’ve had people stand outside the blacksmiths’ shed most of the weekend, fascinated by the whole process), you may have a chance to take up the hammer and tongs and make a simple tool.
Brett using our anvil. It was set up for Nicki's height. Could be a bit taller for Brett. Peter heating the metal to red hot in his forge. Young Carli wielding the hammer for the first time while Pete holds the red hot metal with his tongs.