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Master Blacksmiths

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Robb Gunter, Chad Gunter, and Brad Gunter.... A whole family of masters that have contributed an immesurable amount to the art of smithing. Moriarty NM http://www.g3blacksmithing.com/index.html

Frank Turley... A master who has taught smithing since 1970 and never misses a chance to share what he knows and loves. Chama NM (Frequent IFI contributer)

Ward Brinegar...Santa Fe Blacksmith

Helmut Hillenkamp...In 2007 Helmut Hillenkamp received the Alex Bealer Award, the highest recognition by ABANA (Artists Blacksmiths Association of North America) for his merits on behalf of the craft of blacksmithing. Santa Fe NM

Christopher Thompson...Award winning Sculptor, Rowe New Mexico.

Jim Pepperl... Silver city NM Master Smith

LeRoy Simmons...Endlessly humble but undoubtedly a master. Mountainaire NM

New Mexico has a high concentration of absolutely brilliant and award winning smiths (Including Tom Joyce) and I haven't even touched Arizona or Colorado!

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Voltaire said, "If you wish to converse with me, define your terms."

"Master" is oft misunderstood. You have the European style of apprenticeship which is formal and may last 6 to 8 years. Keith Austin served his apprenticeship under two master bladesmiths in Japan. He told me that it took nine years, but whoa! There are no weekends in Japan, so that means nine solid years. Keith was the only Anglo to receive an honorable mention for a sword in the big annual Tokyo show. I would add Keith to the list.

Then in the U.S., the apprenticeship system is almost nil, unless you can find someone to take you under his/her wing. If so, it would be informal, not politically sanctioned. Again, in the U.S., a guy will sometimes call himself a master, because it looks good promotionally. I think this is legit in most cases.

Francis Whitaker went to Germany as a young man, returned and worked at Yellin's for a while, and then set out on his own in California and Colorado. He has declared publicly that he did not complete his German apprenticeship, but nevertheless, I would consider him a master (in terms of skill).

An exception to the apprenticeship program in the U.S. may be with the bladesmith's guild. One can become a master, albeit a specialist in knife making.

Again, "master" may mean a shop proprietor. I think that this is one of the meanings in early English usage. In terms of skill, the proprietor may be ha ha "Captain Cob Job." However, his name went with the work that came out of his shop. That is not to say that all shop owners cobbled their work; some were super-skilled.

I'm submitting this information for your consideration; the usage of "master" appears to be a gray area rather than black & white.

http://www.turleyforge.com Granddaddy of Blacksmith Schools

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Who do you think are the best of the best?

Again, what type blacksmithing, Industrial, traditional, modern techniques, sculpture, teaching, demos, etc. You comparing the full time blacksmith to the hobbyist, or does it matter? What criteria are we to use to choose? We need some guide lines.
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As far as I know historically master had more to do with being accepted as fully qualifyed to work on your own as well as teach and start your own apprentices.

so therefore if you do not teach you cannot become a master you could but you would never practice your mastery :)

in germany they still have this system in my metal design international 2008 it states that norbert finke had to get his master certification suddenly, as he father passed away

I dont know why the book does not explain that, but it may have to do with tradition or the ability to teach and train others

In England they have medal's of sorts does gold make you a master? or just of the highest reguard?
I know bronze is journeyman and silver is an esteemed journeyman of sorts.

but once you are a journeyman you can have an apprentice like how a days

I dont think any terms really matter technically everyone is a fabricator, because we use welding, if your taking parts and welding them together your fabricating it doesnt matter if you made them yourself or bought them its the same process.

all the terms and controversy over small things might make me give up and work on wood exclusively :P

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all the terms and controversy over small things might make me give up and work on wood exclusively

Bryce you do realize that in Germany one needs to serve an apprenticeship and to have a certificate to work as a woodcarver?

In America we are considerably looser and we can call anyone we want a master whatever! We can even decide to claim such title for ourselves! I have no qualms about calling myself a woodcarver though I would not claim to be a master smith. I do have some areas which I think I could be fairly said to be exceptionally skilled at, and I can easily say that I consider myself a master artisan who does some serious smithing (NOT the same thing as being a master smith though). IMO it is best to avoid such titles as they can be controversial and this thread is a perfect example. Let us call these men "great" smiths or "inspirational" smiths then, whatever. I understood immediately that the OP did NOT mean an official apprenticed and titled smith.
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I`d like to share a thought from a discussion elsewhere about how someone might define either themselves or one of their peers.
After much philosophy and many paragraphs of type thrown back and forth on the subject one person came along and hit it dead on with two sentences;"No single title or collection of words can define me.My actions define me."

In my opinion that`s the answer to many questions like this.

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in germany they still have this system in my metal design international 2008 it states that norbert finke had to get his master certification suddenly, as he father passed away

Reference = click here In Germany you cannot have a Blacksmith business unless you are a Master Blacksmith registered with the government.

To be fair to this list
Mark Asbury - Has a Joruneyman Certificate from UK
Hofi - Has a Masters Certificate from Germany

I am sure there are others with certification, as well as those that have great skill and expertise.
Farriers, Bladesmiths etc
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For several years at the Calgary Canada world blacksmithing championships the winners many times had a common thread. They had spent some time and studied with Jim Keith. Jim Has Really set a high mark for spending time to help folks along with forging skill at any level.
Consider him for your list also.

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Mr. Dereck Glaser, Runs the New England School of Metal Work along with his own personla forge and studio. His resume is extensive and his work is flawless in the European style. Friend, teacher and mentor to many Derek has both supported the arts and the skills of the traditional and ornamental smith. Not just a instructor but a man actively involved in promoting the craft and improving the expertise of all those he meets.


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I agree with you 100%. I have taken a few classes at the New England School of Metalwork and Dereck Glaser is definitely on the list. Some others that will be on it are: Doug Wilson, Caleb Kullman, Elizabeth Brim, Megan Crowley, Darryl Nelson, and Bob Alexander.


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I wrote this a wile back on another thread.

To me a master blacksmith has mastered the trade. They may be a specialist such as a tool making or ornamental ironwork or artist. But that person could walk into any forge shop and get to work being productive. They have a true grasp of how hot metal moves. They could make a wrench or forge a acanthus leaf or understand how to replicate an old piece of hardware that walks in their door. It may not be the best wrench or leaf ever made but it looks good and works well. They may have never made a wrench before but they can do it. They should be able to make modify and maintain their own tools. When looking at old work they should know full well the how the original was made what kinds of materials and processes were used. This person could tell you reasonably off the top of their head how much metal and time would be needed to do the job. Their work should be well proportioned and well finished and free from defects. They should be able to make a reasonably good drawing of the work they are going to make, one that can be understood by helpers and assistants. They should know two or even three ways of doing a job. This day and age they should have a good working knowledge of electric welding ARC MIG and TIG as well as forge welding, and know what is appropriate for what kind of work they are working on. They should be able to direct other workers in a complex task to finish understanding the ability's and limits of each worker. They should be able to any job of a worker under them perhaps not as well but do a respectable job.

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That`s a pretty good description there Southy.

I think one of the problems we encounter asking questions like this is trying to apply old titles or terminology to what we are doing today.Very few of the people running medium to larger companies today have come up thru the ranks and actually have a working knowledge of the work their company produces.They went to college and learned how to manage people rather than learn a trade.
Many of the primary products once made by blacksmiths have passed from our daily lives.How many blacksmiths today can make up proper plows or fit out a wagon or buggy?How many of the blacksmiths today work primarily in true wrought iron and can consistently forge weld a cast steel edge to a wrought tool body?
How many operate their own bloomery or refine their own material?

I would hope that before we ask questions like this we would first take the time to sort out what does and does not apply in this world we operate in and if that particular title like much of the work produced under it during it`s zenith has passed into history and been replaced to the point where it doesn`t really have a practical application in the here and now.

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I think southshore and mainly bob have Said , it all, many of the old ways are gone , forgotten, and/ or lost. my mentors have all passed, and with them went at least one hundred years of things I still wanted to learn. Many of the techniques are not needed
( mostly ) but when a job stops because of mech. Failure and a smith does it by hand,
People stand there with their jaws hanging. South shore was right when he said a master smith could work in any shop, but he left out the part where the rest of us are embarrassed for thinking we were good smiths. I've seen some amazing things

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