Blacksmithing

Watching hot, glowing metal take shape under the pounding force of your hammer is a powerful experience. The Folk School’s Blacksmithing program is one of the best in the country, with the foremost instructors teaching both weeklong and weekend classes for those at every skill level.

Explore The Studio

Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop

Named in honor of Clay Spencer, renowned blacksmith, teacher and supporter of the Folk School, this shop opened in 2000. Handcrafted by volunteers and students from the Timber Frames Guild of North America, it is not only an inspiring place within which to study, but it also provides a safer and more comfortable workspace than before. It even has an air-conditioned classroom and resource library for when you need to take a break! A large instructor demo forge is the focal point of the shop, surrounded by 12 spacious forging stations. The studio features a generous supply of hand tools, power hammers, saws, shears, grinders, drills, welders, and other equipment and supplies for a full learning experience.

News & Stories: What's Happening In Blacksmithing

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Welcome to Our New Website

Our new website is here!...

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Elizabeth Belz Reflects on Creative Catalyst Fellowship

Blacksmith and Metalworker Elizabeth Belz...

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REACH at the Forge: Piloting Blacksmithing Classes for the Future

In December of 2020, Lynda Metcalfe and Elizabeth Belz came together to teach two 2-hour long blacksmithing classes in the Clay Spencer shop to 7 staff and residents from the Cherokee and Clay County Women’s shelter, REACH.

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My Fascinating Lunch with Tim Ryan: Auctions, Dibbles, Zen, Gardens & More

Learn a little bit about Tim Ryan the gardener, auctioneer, medicine showman, raconteur, kettle cooker, blacksmith, instructor, former Folk School Board member, bibliophile, and storyteller. We recently sat down over lunch to talk about many things. Enjoy our interview!

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Solace in Steel with Elmer Roush

This week for our celebration of Scandinavian heritage, Elmer Roush is teaching Viking-style Ironwork in the Blacksmith Shop. Students are focusing on reproducing 10th-century Viking relics including spearheads, axes arrowheads, and locks. Elmer is renowned for creating hand forged functional hand tools, weapons and implements from 10th Century Viking to 18th Century American styles. He often teaches historical styles at the Folk School.

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Interview with Blacksmith Lynda Metcalfe

A big congratulations to Brasstown artist Lynda Metcalfe for being the recipient of a NOMMA (National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association) Top Job 2015 Silver Award. I was delighted to sit down with Lynda and learn about this exciting project and what it’s like to be a local artist in the Folk School Community. Enjoy our interview!

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Bell, Hook & Anvil: Auction Talk

I stopped by the Oscar Cantrell Blacksmith Shop, the current shop of Resident Blacksmith, Paul Garrett. Paul and I talked about the upcoming Blacksmith & Fine Craft Auction on November 1, a special event planned for October 31st, and about Folk School life in general. Enjoy!

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Working Under the Star – Part III

Part III:  Folk School Staff with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Connections

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Working Under the Star – Part II

Part II:   Who were these AFSC people, anyway?

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Making Planes That Don’t Fly

I recently got the chance to take my first Woodworking class here at the Folk School. It was the “Making a Traditional Moulding Plane” class, where we made a variety of 19th century quarter sawn beech planes using antiques as examples, and using many antique tools to do the work. It was  a great class that had been very skillfully prepared and presented. It was taught by Bill Anderson and Peter Ross.

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What Exactly is Blacksmith Work Week?

I sat down with Paul Garrett, the Folk School’s resident blacksmith, to find out a little bit more about the mysterious and unique annual event known as Blacksmith Work Week.

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New Instructor in Blacksmithing

Last week we welcomed Bob Rupert of Pennsylvania, and his assistant Gary Cooper to the Spencer/Whitaker Blacksmith Shops for their first visit to Brasstown. They both quickly acclimated to the new Five Star facility, and found it easy to fall into the spirit of the Folk School during the week.

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Peeking in During Blacksmith Work Week

Blacksmith Work Week is a wonderful annual tradition at the Folk School where blacksmiths from all over come and volunteer their time to do smithing projects around campus and make improvements in the Shop. It’s been 15 or 20 years that they have gathered here every spring, for Blacksmith Work Week, so Paul Garrett, the Resident Blacksmith tells me. When I visited, there were about 20 men and at least one woman circling like bees. They are all over the balconies, in corners and down on the floor.  Red hot metal is being pounded beside blazing forges, power hammers have metal running through at a rapid speed, and components are being welded together.  It is high-level intensity with professional focus in the shop today.  No students are here; the blacksmiths are giving their time and talent to retrofit the Francis Whitaker Blacksmith Shop. What was the primary blacksmith shop is now being set up for material storage, welding, grinding, and drilling. A few forges have been left in place for this studio.

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Scandinavian Ironwork

Charley Orlando and Doug Merkel taught “Early Scandinavian Ironwork for Everyone” during Scandinavian Week.

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Sculpting Critters in Steel

We recently had local artist/blacksmith Joe Miller back to teach his popular “Critters” class in the blacksmith shop for one of January’s advanced weeks. The class is a combination of forging and fabricating, and the students make a critter or two of their choice that might be some kind of a fish, a bird, spider of a animal of just about any species.

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A New Era

Today, we opened the new Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop. After a week of moving some of the tools and tables and things from the the old Francis Whitaker shop, we are ready to teach classes again, and welcome instructor Judy Berger, her son David, and the students of Intergenerational Week.

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Last Class in the Historic Blacksmith Shop

The second weekend of  July saw the last forging class in the historic Francis Whitaker Blacksmith Shop. Jerry Darnell was here to teach his “Colonial Lighting” class. Interestingly, Jerry was here for the first class that Francis ever taught here at the Folk School in the mid-seventies, and said that he drove something like six hundred miles to be here and see this man that everyone was talking about. That class was in the older shop across the street – the Oscar Cantrell shop.

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One Step Closer

A couple of weekends ago, we had a few blacksmiths over for a mini work weekend. Really just a continuation of our annual work week, it was a chance to get some more work done in the new forge building, now officially the Clay Spencer Blacksmith Shop.

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Blacksmiths at Work

Every time I come to Brasstown, I’m not sure what to expect.  So many things happen here, each studio existing as a world of it’s own, and there is always so much to see and be a part of.

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Metalwork Instructors Buy Beams

Last week, metalwork instructor Bob Trout stopped by my office to talk about the upcoming Gala and Benefit Auction (June 12) and to let me know that he and his fellow instructor, John Rausch would both be purchasing beams in the New Forge Building. Bob, being the enthusiastic supporter that he is, asked if he could speak at “show-and-tell” to hopefully encourage fellow students to match their generous gifts. It is always wonderful to see students and instructors who are so passionate about the School!

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End of the Season.

Just like it was in my stock car driving days where the last race of the year marked not only the end of the season, and gave us a chance to breathe for a week or so, the last regular class of the year was last week here at the Folk School, and now I have a chance to relax a bit before the 2010 class schedule begins in the first week of January.

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Blacksmith Auction

The blacksmithing program is one of the most popular at the John C. Campbell Folk School.   With the New Forge Building underway, many people are working hard to raise funds for the new studio.  The first Saturday in November, the day of the annual Blacksmith auction, was dedicated to the cause…

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Wood Chips and Coal Smoke

Today, the wood chips started flying, and there is sawdust everywhere. I love the aroma of fresh cut pine as it reminds me of trout fishing next to a small sawmill where I grew up in western Montana. Here, it mixed well with the smell of coal smoke wafting it’s way up from the blacksmith shop and from the small forge that I set up amongst the timber framing.

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The slab has been poured!

The slab for the New...

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Work of my Classmates

What I didn’t get to photograph was Paul’s Plant hanger that he made for his garden.  My camera died the moment I was about to snap the shutter.  It was a longer take on the rest of our plant hangers and had a neat decorative twist in the “leg.”  At the base, for stability, he joined a spike by a mortise and tenon joint, another method of joinery Susan taught us.

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On the Road

A book written by Kerouac, but also an apt description of my status.  I originally happened upon the John C. Campbell Folk School when I was looking for classes to jump start my education in metal work and blacksmithing.  For the past month I have been traveling visiting with smiths and trying to glean every piece of knowledge that I can while I’m on the road.

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Yesterday

We finished up in the forge cleaned up shop, showed off our work, ate, listened to the Redhead Express, sat around, talked and spent the night in a wonderful fashion.

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A Moment to Spare

I’ve caught the blacksmithing bug. I’m here writing but would rather have a hammer in my hand, an anvil to my right and a forge to my left. Today has  been the most productive day in the shop. Early on Paul, the resident blacksmith (a job smiths would die for), came in and helped me with my hammer grip. He and Susan, my instructor for the week, both trained with Uri Hoffi, an Israeli smith. Uri not only patented a way of striking, but makes his own hammers. Every now and then he travels to the US, teaches classes, and visits smiths.

Elizabeth Belz headshot

Blacksmithing & Metals Coordinator

Elizabeth Belz

Elizabeth is a blacksmith, educator, and the owner of Black Widow Forge. She was the blacksmithing apprentice at the Metal Museum in Memphis, TN for two years where she trained under master smith Jim Masterson. She was a craft education intern at North House Folk School, a resident artist with the Science Museum of MN, and has spent time at craft and folk schools across the country. Elizabeth has shown her work, competed, and taught blacksmithing throughout the United States and internationally and has most recently finished up an artist residency at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Elizabeth sits on the board of the Society of Inclusive Blacksmiths which is an international nonprofit committed to building equity and diversity in the field of blacksmithing.

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