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I Forge Iron

Shop Teacher from Dayton, OH

C.D. Mitchell

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Name: Collin Mitchell
Location: Dayton, OH
Occupation: High School Industrial Arts teacher
What type of blacksmithing do I do? Currently tool making, and generally anything I have a need for at the time.
How and when did I get started in blacksmithing? About two years ago I needed a new belt, so instead of buying one a forged a buckle, stitched some leather, and made myself a new belt. Then, while I was at college I met a fella who'd been welding and forging for a few decades and he showed me the ropes of blacksmithing and welding.
My first anvil? A foot long piece of railroad track that I used to make a belt buckle. By a stroke of luck the lady who I bought my leather from had a 105 lb. Trenton anvil in beautiful condition sitting unused in her shop, and she sold it to me for $80. I've never laid down $80 so fast in my life.
My first forge? With the help of the gentlemen I met in college, I built a propane forge out of a piece of 10" square steel tubing. With his experience and know-how and a little research I was able to build a heck of a forge that I still use to this day.
Who assisted or encouraged me in the craft? Richard McDonald, the retired shop teacher, blacksmith, and welder that helped me get started in metal working.
What event changed my attitude about blacksmithing? It didn't take much...from the first time I beat on a piece of glowing steel I was hooked.
What tool has made my life easier in the shop? 1. A real anvil 2. A real forge 3. A real shop
What advice would I give to those starting out in blacksmithing? Learn everything you can, use your head, don't give up, and when you don't know how to do something just do it and figure it out as you go.
What advice would I give to those already involved in blacksmithing? Don't knock the new guys too hard, we all started somewhere. Also, never stop learning. The day we stop learning is the day we stop growing and becoming better at what we do.
What are some interesting things that have happened to me in my life as a blacksmith? A few months after being hired as a first year teacher I was given an opportunity to develop a welding and blacksmithing class from the ground up. Needless to say, it was an awesome opportunity and I ran with it. I've been in the process of gathering and fabricating equipment, designing modifications to the facilities, and writing an official course of study that could one day become the Ohio Department of Education state standard for a high school metal working course. To my knowledge there's no other high school in Ohio that offers a course on welding, much less blacksmithing. I've been doing tons of researching and learning everything I can in preparation for teaching this course for the first time. Any advice/input/resources would be more than welcome!

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Hi Collin, Seems to me teaching High School Industrial Arts is more of a 'dying' breed than Blacksmithing these days I'm sad to say......Many young people still need and want to work with their hands and analog skills such as welding/metalwork, the arts, music, wood working, etc,etc are being dropped by so many curriculums. I for one can remember in the early 60's my parents were aghast when I told them I wanted a career in the trades......Welcome aboard, MB

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Thanks for the welcome macbruce. I think the need to continue teaching industrial arts is evidenced in the amount of over-educated and under-experienced college graduates who can't find a job in their field and have no skills to pick up the slack. College is great, but it's not for everybody. The world will always need people who can work with their hands. I'd be just as proud of a student who enters a trade and does quality work as I would be of a student who goes on to get a Phd. I'm beyond fortunate to be able to teach these types of skills, and even more fortunate to work at a school that is wanting to build and expand this type of program rather than shut it down.

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Hello. Met my shop teacher back in 1970. He quickly became one of my best friends and I saw him a lot after I got out of school. How he always knew the answers to my questions, I'll never know, and I had a lot of questions. I too think of him often when I pick up a tool.

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