Blacksmithing is one of the oldest making skills that will be on display at Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire this year. It’s also one of the most popular. “I’d say on an average week I get anywhere from 10 to 15 texts, emails and phone calls asking where to buy an anvil,” says Chris Daniel, a blacksmith and a founder of the Cincinnati Blacksmiths Guild.
Daniel traces blacksmithing’s recent resurgence in popularity partly back to the 2007 Great Recession. “I found that I was kind of recession-proof. I was getting more clients and more students during the recession than I had the previous two years.” It seems like economic stress is paired with a desire to make. “People are getting their hands dirty again. They want to make stuff,” says Daniel. It makes some sense. Recessions expose the fragility of the economic web we depend on, and using simple tools to make tactile, real goods may be a balm when you’re afraid your job, or your spouse’s job, or your kids’ job, could disappear without warning.
Blacksmithing is also a creatively versatile profession. Blacksmiths make utilitarian, functional tools and they make works of art, sometimes all in one piece. Guild members make weapons, especially blades, hand railings, gates, bike racks and specialty art stands, among other tools. They’re also sculptors. Daniel, for example, spent 8 months creating a 15-foot-tall steel tree for Jean Robert’s restaurant, Restaurant L, a few years ago, and Guild Members specialize in decorative pieces, from steel filigree, to metal flowers and classic sculpture. Both of these sides of blacksmithing oftentimes merge with fabricating. Blacksmithing is when you use heat to hammer and mold steel and fabricating is when you grind and use a torch to cut steel down to a desired shape.
Be it an interest in merging art and function or an interest in just getting your hands dirty, blacksmithing is blooming. The Blacksmith’s Guild was founded when Daniel and his fellow blacksmiths realized that there was interest in the community, but a lack of information about ways to get started in blacksmithing. They now regularly hold demonstrations and workshops of blacksmithing procedures. You can get involved by attending one of their workshops — they post about upcoming events on Facebook. You can also visit Daniel’s studio and school, Blue Hell Studio.
Chris Daniel and the Cincinnati Blacksmith’s Guild will be at Cincinnati Mini Maker Faire September 15-16 using a propane-powered forge to demonstrate how to make simple tools, like hooks, bottle openers, letter openers and more.