Beautiful hand forged ironwork designed and made for you by Joe Babb

Well, why not a blacksmith? How else can you form something like the support hook in the photo?

pan hook

pan hook

Yes, you could cast something like this. You could even use a 3D printer these days, maybe. But then they would all be the same, without individual personalities. Yes, okay, you could tweak the software to vary the look or you could change each wax mold pattern prior to casting. Making it with hammer and anvil seems a lot simpler and even faster, and way more fun. I’d rather be a blacksmith.

 

Steel has some wondrous properties.  It is very strong.  It can take on beautiful shapes.

in_processWhen it is hot it is very dangerous but it is also soft (relatively) and yields to my stubbornness… or else. It can be split, twisted, squished, and prodded into fantastic figures.

After you’ve been at this for a while, you start seeing things.  It’s true.  In the middle of making some specific thing, I see other possibilities for other things.  It’s a little like a conversation where I’m saying I want you to do this, and it says okay but have you thought about these other ideas? I know the steel isn’t speaking to me. I’m speaking to myself. I have some very stimulating conversations sometimes. It’s a good thing I work alone. What happens is that as a shape develops, I see potential for other shapes. This is why I keep a notebook next to the anvil. Ideas are too often like little elves who appear in the corner of your eye and disappear if you don’t capture them on paper.

This is not a job, it’s an adventure. I never know what’s around the next bend. Most of my work is custom, like the hooks in the picture. A client had a large tray to mount on the wall. Some unique decorative hooks became an elegant solution.

large pan held on wall by custom forged hooks

large pan held on wall by custom forged hooks

Adventures must be paid for. That’s why I charge for my work. How much will it cost? That has to be calculated based on shop time which depends on the item to be made. My prices are not the highest in the land. I am a one man shop. My wonderful wife, Sharon, keeps the books, and tries to keep me in line. My shop is next to my house. So my overhead is low. I work hard to make things efficiently, creating special tooling when I need it. But my prices are not the lowest in the land either. They are like the story about the little boy who asked his dad where the fish were in the lake. Dad replied, “son, they are either in deep water, or in the shallows, or somewhere in between”. My prices are “somewhere in between”.

There are many kinds of blacksmiths because metal working is such a broad field. I call myself an artist blacksmith, not meaning that I am a fine artist. I’ve done a few sculptures that I’m proud of, but I’d rather do functional pieces. The term “artist blacksmith” is an old label meaning that I do architectural ironwork. This includes interior things like furniture. I am not a knife maker, but I also enjoy making wood carving chisels of various types.

I am a blacksmith.

It’s okay, really.  Sometimes I feel a little defensive because of the funny looks I get when some folks learn that I have chosen this path.  It’s just not done anymore.  It’s a dying art.

It’s okay to be a woodworker, even to be a woodworker who chooses hand tools over power tools.  It’s okay to be a potter, or a print maker, or a textile artist.  It’s even okay to be a welder who does sculptures.  But a blacksmith?  A grimy, sweaty, burned, tired old blacksmith?  Oh Yeah!

trio

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