This is the first time we have run a blacksmithing course at Assington Mill.
At 8am on a sunny morning, Nigel Barnett rolled down the track with his truck and trailer. Together with a few other early birds, he assembled his four forges (the dishes made out of plough discs), and plugged them into plumbing pipes leading to an electric bellows. Then he manoeuvred four very heavy anvils into place behind them, under cover, so that the hot work was done outside and the hammering inside a cartlodge, or open-sided garage. Using reclaimed Victorian coke, he lit one of the forges with kindling and then, when the embers were hot enough, transferred a shovel full into the next one, etc. So the eight-strong group was divided into pairs and two students had a forge and an anvil between them.
During the day, the students made a poker each, some door hooks, a leaf key ring and a paper knife. Nigel made the hammering look easy which, of course, it wasn't and there were some sore wrists by the end of the day, even though his advice is to let the hammer do the work, not your wrist. The instruction was interspersed with Nigel's tales of his work abroad as an artist-blacksmith, and as an instructor. He explained that his apparent disability of being severely dislexic means that he has extremely well-developed spacial gifts, with the ability to see things easily in 3D. Nigel has a marvellous can-do attitude, which means that he can think his way around problems. Blacksmiths are something of a race apart; often solitary beasts, they don't tend to take rules and regulations seriously.
When I have worked out how to add pics, I will!