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Earlier this year after demonstrating at a craft fair I was asked by the local Purdue extension educator If I would judge the 4H Blacksmithing projects at the local county fair. I was surprised by the request and accepted the offer.
This is the first year for the program and so all entries will be at the beginner level.
I am glad to see Blacksmithing being offered at this level. Do any of you have any judging experience or advice on dealing with younger people interested in blacksmithing.
The judging will be tomorrow morning.


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Just a thought......but maybe look more at the level of their ideas/ imagination/experimentation with the metal as opposed to actual technical quality..........which can be worked on with practice but the other has to come from the heart and exist to begin with...doesn't it?

But i could be wrong........i've no experience of this, it's just my take on it if i were in your shoes!

Good luck and enjoy seeing work from a different perspective! Great to see youngsters are being taught blacksmithing....you'd almost want them all to win!

Reckon you could get some piccies up?

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Judging is a most controversial area, here in the UK the National Blacksmiths Competition Committee hold regular seminars on judging for the shows to determine the UK national champions in both live forging competitions and static competitions for individual pieces. These seminars highlight the areas to be taken into consideration. Most who forge, know good ironwork and what it is composed of, and do not need to be advised of this, it is after all a personal judgement based on experience.
Basically be honest in your decision and be prepared to justify your decision, there are certain questions to ask yourself to reach that decision.
Does it do the job it is supposed to do? That is is it Fit for purpose,
The number of skills used appropriate in producing the item.
The overall appearance and finish of the item
The suitability of the final treatment for where the item is to be used (indoor or outdoor)
The design, originality and artistic merits of the piece.

Make notes if necessary, if you are judging newcomers, be they young or old and wish to discuss any points, obviously point out the good bits, bits that could be improved and possibly why you chose the winning piece and what set it apart from the rest of the entries. Encouragement and praise for what they have presented also help to continue their interest in the craft.

Everyone has an opinion, and will let you know it, so, so long as you are fair to all, and able to justify your opinion if asked, all can learn and improve from the experience.

One incident that springs to mind was when a smith wasn't happy that he hadn't won the prize upon asking the judge why, the immediate response was "Its not good enough", this was then followed by a detailed account of what exactly was wrong (In the judges opinion) for the next ninety minutes. The smith got redder and redder, but listened, a few years down the line and he now regularly wins prizes and is an excellent smith. He obviosly listened and learnt from the experience.

Whatever you do Good Luck with it.

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From my experiences in 4-h Beef, always point out the good things about the project too. Never just say "you did this, this and this wrong". Try to put more like "The people placed above did this a bit better, but this entry has this quality over the ones below it." So often judges just explain why they didn't put the person higher and forget to reinforce the positives. Since it is 4-H, it is kids and easily discouraged. And since it is a beginer level, I'd suggest participation for the ones that didn't place rather than ranking them right down to the last kid, cause if the kid that got discouraged at being last and drops out every year, soon there will only be one left. Also, try and do a group explanation of points if you can rather than singleing people out that did it. Sometimes that seems to help because they know they did it and don't need to be embarassed. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS judge the project, don't try and make it a personal judgment. God knows I've had good projects and poor ones and so do most others and that may just be one of the bad ones that they entered.

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Are you going to give everybody the same project or are they going to make what they want?

In the first case it'll be a lot easier to judge.

In the second the kids will be able to make what they've practiced but it'll be harder to judge.

As said, be positive, especially in criticism.

Lastly, good for you for accepting the job.


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Well the judging is done. There was 9 kids in the program from 6th grade on up, 8 completed the project. This was the first year of the program so every one was in division 1.
They had to make a display board with a drawn point, twist, 90 degree bend and a scroll. Then they had to make a six inch "S" hook with a 1 1/2 twist and also attach it to the display board.
I did not meet any of the kids or the parents. The displays had numbers with the names covered up to keep things honest.
There was two boards that were tied for first as far as the forgings, One of the 2 did not put a lot of effort into the display board while the other took his time and did a nice job on the board. That individual got 1st or Grand champion the other got 2nd or reserve Champion.
The rest seemed to have the basics down . But getting the "s" hook to flow right was a problem. But they tried and they completed the project so I gave the rest Blue ribbons. I was also given comment cards for each entry and wrote down what I liked for each board and gave positive suggestions about what they could do to improve for next year.
In talking with the extension educator I did get an idea of how much (Little) forge time they had to practice and make their projects. We also discussed the direction the program was taking in the future and resources available to achive those goals.
It was a very positive experience for me and I have been suckered I mean compelled ;) to volunteer future time and resources to help the 4H program.

Hope to have pics up today sometime,


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Good for you John!

Getting yourself volunteered for this kind of job is commendable and a joy.

I'm also happy to see 4H already has some kind of blacksmithing program in place as evidenced by the required projects for the competition. I also like the blind judging system, though I shouldn't've been surprised, it's the way it's done in livestock shows.

So, are you going to get the opportunity to teach a some kids? That's super rewarding just for the look on their faces as the fire kindles in their eyes.

Again, Good job. Thanks for the doing.


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