Owen Riedesel; Harvest Gap Forge; 16 years old. Member of ABANA, NCABANA, and the Appalachian Area Chapter of Blacksmiths. I consider Bristol Forge group to be my home forge.
Weaverville, NC near Asheville.
3) What type blacksmithing do you do, what do you make:
I am learning as much as I can from colonial to modern. Tools are an interest but I enjoy all types of forge work. Knives and Damascus are fun to play with, however traditional blacksmithing and welding feels like the better track for me. Later this year I am going to take two classes at John C. Campbell Folk School; tong making and lighting.
4) How and when did you get started in blacksmithing:
Boy Scout camp in the summer of 2016. I had a super fun instructor who gave me a great starting point. I was 13 at the time.
5) What object or thing did you use as your first anvil:
I bought the Harbor Freight special. For what it is, it is great for starting and I still use it as a striking anvil. Now I use a 123# Hay Buddin, which is on loan, but I am looking into a new Perun in the 250# range, probably a x2 horn but I still like the traditional London pattern.
6) Tell us about your first forge:
It was a home built coal forge. Tire rim with some cast refractory and a hot tub blower for the air. It worked, but a few months later I had bought a gas forge. Now I use gas and coal.
7) Who assisted you or encouraged you in the craft
The act of forging metal encouraged me. My parents are a huge support. My first mentor was Craig Smith a retired surgeon who taught me basic forging processes. Soon after, I met Paul Ludquist who is teaching me techniques as well as the business side of blacksmithing. In the summer of 2018 I spent over 200 hours in my shop with John Matthews. He taught me good fire control with a coal forge, and took me back to the start and refined my basic processes using the ABANA curriculum (that is ONLINE for FREE so ANYBODY can use it, AND it is BETTER than YOUTUBE!). He has also helped me with shop layout which is very important but often overlooked.
8) What event changed your attitude about blacksmithing
I met Paul Lundquist at a weekend class at Mayland Community College in the summer of 2017. Even though I was only 14 he took me seriously, loaned me a post vice and anvil, and wanted me to be accountable for my work. This was a very important event as I realized that I wanted to be serious about metal. My first hammer-in at JC Campbell Folk School in the fall of 2017 was a step forward in terms of being accepted and encouraged by established smiths. My dad and I constructed a shop in the early months of 2018. Later that year I went to AACB Murfreesboro Conference and the ABANA National Conference in Richmond VA.
9) What tool has changed or made your life easier in the shop
Getting out of the garage and building a stand alone shop was huge. Purchasing a tire hammer from Raymond Head was huge. But shop life would really suck without a band saw. They are a seriously overlooked tool.
10) What advice would you give those starting out in blacksmithing:
It doesn’t take a lot to get started, but once you are started, look out! Seek out local forge groups. Get to conferences and events – seek out transformative events. Take yourself seriously and set goals. Learn the history and traditions, but understand WHY you are doing WHAT you are doing. Always start a forging session with a habit such as make round to square, square to round, make a leaf, make a scroll, etc. Right now I am into making nails as a warm-up drill. ALWAYS have a plan or goal for the day.
11) What advice would you give those already involved in blacksmithing:
Just because you have seen 999 “kids’ wanting to “be a blacksmith” and then you spend hours with him or her, and then they quit on you, doesn’t mean that your effort is wasted. Don’t be bitter about that – you gave your time – you know the chances that you were taking. Remember that every once in a while it will stick. And for the “kid” that it sticks with, that is the future smith who will be demanding more of you and pushing your skills and making you be a better metal worker. Remember that, regardless of the age that you started smithing, you were a “kid” once too.
12) What are some of the interesting things that have happened to you in your life as a blacksmith.
The metal is an excellent teacher in its own way; it has given me the belief that I can do anything that I set out to do.
Aside from the work of blacksmithing, the people I have met, the places I have been to and hammered at, and the friendships that I have made around the forge are the real interesting things. They are priceless.
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