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Two Smiths selling off shops

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I was looking through Craig's List to see if anything interesting was to be found and two days ago I saw a posting for a Blacksmith's shop. Everything is included, but no price posted. Tonight, I found another posting from a town closer to me with another smith's shop for $500.00. Both of the people who posted stated they had many years, 15 plus, of experience.

Has the economy slipped so much that blacksmiths are deciding to leave the trade in your area? I have to say that the first post sounded like the seller bought out an old shop, and both say in their posts that they want the tools be be used by a smith. Does this sound to you like people are just giving up due to the lack of business?

I can't imagine that you would have to limit yourself so much that you couldn't find something to produce that people are looking for.

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cant really judge from the price, the guy i got my stuff from was gonna give it to me, i couldn't take it and had to pay him, there was over 8000$ worth of equipment, some times they do just want the stuff to be used. although it is to bad , it gives ppl who are just starting a chance. if i hadn't have found this guy i would't even have 1/4 of the things i do. its sad but thoughtfull if you ask me.

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Yeah, good for you... I think its important that real, vintage blacksmith equipment gets handed down to someone who will care for it until its time to pass the torch... Id rather give away something I care about and see it used than see it go to waste..

As for the questions, I have seen a lot of my fab shop competition fail in the last few years,, there was a time where it seemed like every auction listing I got was another fab shop... However I think it has stabilized some now, there are fewer shops so the work load for each is better... As for blacksmiths, I dont think a single full time smith that I know has failed... I think that many of the hobby guys who did side work have found it tougher to sell "trinkets" but well established shops doing high end work I think have survived... Not to say its good, just that they have managed to hold on... Personally for me its not a matter of if I'll make it, Its a matter of where I am at when I pull through... I might not be able to keep the big shop or all of my equipment, but even if it means working out of my garage or getting a part time job I will survive.... Things have been getting better though... I am back to worrying about month to month now instead of day to day.. ;)

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From some of the comments left I take it that there may be a lot of experience going to waste. How many of you older smiths are training new smiths? Has anyone looked at doing things the "old fashioned way" and actually taken on apprentices, or is that still a practical way to work with all of the regulations?

I'm trying to understand why there seems to be such a lack of training opportunities, at least in my area, for certain fields where the trainees would benefit from apprenticeships. I've taken a welding course at the local "technology" center, but without a full time opportunity to use my skills they are usable, but weak. If there were more opportunities to work with someone and develop those skills on a part time or as needed basis I think all craftsman fields would benefit.

My father was a carpenter, but it seems as though I could never pick up the right skill set to build things the way he did. I can do rough carpentry pretty well, but it always seems as though I lack something necessary to get things to fit perfectly. It's not so much the assembly as much as it is missing the subtle movement that wood tends to make while assembling the pieces. I don't know if anyone else has noticed this quality of wood that thankfully steel doesn't share.

I didn't want to open up these posts to everyone right off, but I'll take a chance that not everyone here needs a shop full of equipment. So here they are to check out yourself. http://burlington.craigslist.org/tls/2137418989.html ($500.00 shop) http://burlington.craigslist.org/tls/2135322128.html (Unknown prices)

I will say that I have seen one blacksmith shop in a very high end area close this last year. Otherwise, I really don't know of any others in the area. I'll admit that this is more a case of my ignorance of every business that is in my area more than any fact about the number of craftsman's shops that may have closed.

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I used to always have an aprentice. Some of them set up their own shops and tried to steal my customers as soon as they thought they knew enough. Some learned enough to get a better job. The last fellow I trained for 18 months joined the marines and is now in the middle-east.I didn't come close to recouping the cost of training him. I still have a striker who has worked with me for the most part since the late 80's. Often he teaches me. Between the two of us we can do most any trade, which has helped a lot this year. Right now we are rigging a work boat, but last week we did a nice ornamental job, all copper and brass. The ornamental work is way off this year, and we have done masonry, carpentry, mechanics, heavy equipment repair and drafting to stay busy. Not a good time for an aprentice, unfortunately.

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I for one am very thankful to those retiring smiths who want things passed down to someone who will use them.I have been fortunate to be on the receiving end of one of those situations.I have gentleman who has helped me get started and has taught me things that only someone of 48 years experience can.He has sold me equipment for half of what he could have gotten for it because he told me he wants to see it used.On my end that makes it even more special to me because I think of him when I use it and will be forever grateful to know that he took an interest in me and was willing to share that knowledge.So to all you smiths willing to pass things down to us beginners I say thank you and I am glad you share your skills to help us keep the trade going!

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I like the way this thread has gone in the direction of honering great craftsmen who have given or sold tools cheep to the next generation. Collectors have traditionally driven the price of good old tools to the point that "Real" chraftman, making a living at the trade can't afford them. Speeking as a wood worker in the 80's I couldn't touch some of the old WW tools in needed as part of my kit. When I bought my spinning lathe last year the guy I bought it from was retiring. As part of the deal he reduced the price $500.00 and gave me a complete set of wheel tools. those run new about $700.00. He made that great deal for me because he new I would use and care for a machine he cared for and had made him alot of money. He also sold me a circle shear for 1/3 less than he had it advertised.... even after he had someone say they wanted it a full price :D

A prayer for the oldtimers- May you always be remebered and share your wisdom before you go.

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Just an update. The person selling the outfit for $500.00 has sold it. I too hope that someone who is going to put it to good use bought it. There are plenty of collectors around here who would leave the anvil in their entryway as a unique dust collector.

I haven't heard from the other seller who had more to sell but didn't list a price.

Fe-wood, as I've said my father was a carpenter and I ended up trying to sell his entire shop for a quarter of what you'd have to pay for anything close to the quality of his tools if they were new. I ended up giving most of them to a charity that helps repair people's houses. The rest of the tools I sold for pennies on the dollar and the buyers were not looking to pay anything.

I tried several times to sell the entire shop at a fair price, but people would rather buy cheap portable tools that will be toast in a couple years. That's mainly due to the tax structure around here that makes "contracting" from a trailer more profitable than working from a shop business.

I'm glad that there are people out there who would do what I did. If people won't or can't take advantage of a deal then find someone who will use the tools and give them away.

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GSM and everyone- Blacksmithing in Vermont is alive and well. The guy with the $500 kit sounds like he's either moving on or just selling extra gear, hard to say from his brief CL listing. I've sold similar kits for similar prices several times and judging from the responses I've gotten lots of folks are interested in smithing. The other guy is getting divorced, here is an excerpt from the email I received from him (names edited for privacy).


Sorry for the mass reply. I have gotten many inquiries about the blacksmith tools and do not have time to respond to all of you. Here is a little information.

The tools and equipment are from my blacksmith shop, formerly the Swanton Forge. I apprenticed to Percy XXXX from Ascutney, Vt back in the early 1970's and then bought Gagnes Welding Shop on 1st St in Swanton in the late 70's. Adrian XXXXX was a French Canadian smith who came from multiple generations of blacksmiths and he lived over the shop while I ran it in Swanton. A wealth of knowledge. I operated a blacksmith and fabricating shop for about 14 years and made spiral stairs, railings ornamental ironwork, traditional ironwork, furniture, small syrup evaporators, horse drawn equipment and basically anything else anyone would pay me for so I could support my family. That is where my tools come from.

I am going through a divorce and not living at the property where the shop is so it is going to take a little time, but my plan is to inventory everything I have and take a bunch of pictures. I will keep all your contact information and let you know when I have completed the above task. My preference is to have the entire contents of the shop sold as one lot and have it all removed by the purchaser. There is a fair amount of scrap metal that a blacksmith is likely to save and there was a lot of boxes of old fasteners and wagon and carriage parts that I moved from the shop in Swanton when I built my shop in Fairfield. Someone may or may not want this stuff. I couldn't bring myself to throw it away.

Here is a summary of some of the items I have (from memory)

2 anvils
1 one large cone mandrel
1 caulking vice
2 stand up post vices
1 swage block
1 Bantam Ironworker with various punches and dies
1 lever operated shear/punch
1 post drill hand crank
1 post drill set up for pulley and motor
1 tap and die machine and various tap and dies
a couple motorized forge blowers
a couple hand crank blowers
a couple forge pots and tuyeres
a large wheelwrights ring (for mounting in floor)
a tire shrinker
1 hand crank adjustable tire roller/bender
a wheel wrights wheel stand
several axle spoon or pod reamers
old electric motor and shaft and pulley set uo for the tap and ie machine and drill press
various benches including one bench with a ½"x4'x8' table top for welding and layout.
Hand shear that cuts to 1/8"
Cut off saw
Dozens of tongs, boxes of punches and chisels
A lot of hammers and hardy tools
A small sheet metal roll
Homemade sheet metal brake
Homemade bender
Homemade hydraulic press with dies
A lot of hand tools and some old farrier tools

end quote

Anyone interested in finding blacksmiths in VT please drop me a line, there are a good number of us. Probably 20 or so full time professionals that I know of, perhaps more, and lots of semi-pro and hobby smiths. I had a hammer-in at my shop last October, the mailing list was just over 100 folks and even with short (2 week) notice we had about 25 attendees. Not bad for a state with only 600,000 people.

As Glen mentioned in another thread, one nearby teaching center is the Brentwood facility, owned and operated by New England Blacksmiths, our regional group. Brentwood is about 2 1/2 hours from Montpellier. http://newenglandblacksmiths.org/brentwood_teaching_facility.htm NEB also has spring and fall meets around New England, a year ago we had one at Jim Fecteau's shop in Huntington that had almost 200 attendees. Note that in some parts of the country people will have to drive up to 6 hours one way to attend a one day "local" meet.

There are several nearby groups with occasional striking distance meets, google NYSDesigner Blacksmiths, NE Blacksmiths, and the New Jersey group, I forget their exact name right now.

There is also the New England School of Mealwork in Auburn Maine http://www.newenglandschoolofmetalwork.com/ 4 or so hours from Montpieller and pay to play, but worth it in my opinion.

The most local resource for Vermont blacksmiths is the Green Mtn. Blacksmiths' Assn. No website yet. In the best Vermont tradition decentralized and occasional meets, but we average about 3 per year. Often at one of the pro's shops, but usually every spring we have one at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum http://www.lcmm.org/ where there is the great shop of a retired professional, a historic replica shop, and a 4 station teaching shop equipped by donations and tool making workshops sponsored by GMBA. We have also had hammer-ins at Ben's Mill http://www.bensmill.com/ owned by a historical society up in the Northeast Kingdom. GMBA also has demos at various fairs and farmer's markets during the good weather, catch as catch can. And there is almost always some art smith or another opening or closing their shop in Burlington.

Blacksmithing is NOT in decline in Vermont. Anyone who is interested please send me a PM and I'll have your contact info put onto our GMBA mailing list.

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i think this thread is amazing an i see so many good points and i wish as a starting smith that it could be done like before, father passes it down to a son or a master smith passes down to apprentice, THAT is how it was meant to be, That is how it needs to be to keep things as they should be, you earn every last tool, peice of coal, peice of steel, every moment of experience, every grain of knowledge it CAN NOT be handed to you you must earn it

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Arftist I just was rereading the posts on this thread and you said you trained a guy for 18 months and he left and joined the Marines and you didn't come close to recouping your cost.I hope you can look at that a different way and I am sure you didn't mean that in a bad way ,but in a way he paid you great compliment and all of us who live in this country.He went and is willing to put his life on the line so we can enjoy freedom and keep doing the things we enjoy.The financial loss is great but the loss of freedom is greater.Having not served myself I am thankful to those who do.Thanks to all who fight and have fought so I can enjoy freedom.Who knows how many others he has influenced because of your willingness to teach him.Keep up the good work Arftist your willingness to take someone on is keeping the trade alive and your legacy as well.

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