|Don the 18th century sutler!|
|Don holding a spring fuller for Jack McAuliffe|
|Derek addressing our small group of smiths!|
So, the first person I contacted to come and teach our group is Derek Heidemann, owner & operator of Resurrection Ironworks in Millbury, Massachusetts. He's only a few years older than me but he pulls weight with the old guys. He's been a blacksmith at Old Sturbridge Village for a long time, and when it comes to the accurate production of 18th and 19th century tools and hardware, I'd say his work is not only of incredible quality and execution but also distinctive in its style, which is definitely something to say about someone who's in their mid-20s! The first demo he came to do was a rose-head nail-making demo, which was impressive in his efficiency, accuracy and speed, but also marvelous in his exhibition of toolmaking: his steeled wrought iron nail header is not only a beautiful take on an historical object but also a fully functional and intuitive tool. That's pretty representative of Derek's work: he loves old things because they work, not just because they're old, and he knows how to bring both of those out in beautiful harmony.
|Derek's custom tongs|
Last year I contracted him to come for a nail-making demo, just to sort of get used to the shop and feel out the whole situation. This time, we planned a little better, invited more people, and did something a little more exciting: tong-forging. He brought an impressive array of tongs, all of which he had made, and in a fast, controlled, and coherent demo, he forged a pair of tongs in front of the small assembly, taking care to explain the objective and parameters of each step, and the anatomy of the product: jaws, reins, and rivet. Derek is an excellent teacher and craftsperson, and I'm always happy to share a shop with him, absorb his experience, and share his unquenchable spirit of pursuing the craft and having a good time doing it.
|Explaining Japanese geometry|
|Applying clay for differential hardening & hamon!|
|Jack talking with Brendan and Paolo in the background|
|Straightening a 6-bar hearth steel spatha|
This demo was, in the words of friend and fellow student Paolo, "quite the game-changer" for those who have forged but never forge-welded. I'm probably a bit biased in that it's the basis of all my ironwork, but on all account's he's right. To be able to almost indiscriminately bond immovable pieces of incredibly strong material into bigger or more specialized shapes is beyond useful: it's magical, and no matter how much I learn about it, my wonder and enchantment only increases. Magic and science are not mutually exclusive; I think that from the vantage point of the human experience, they rely on each other and cannot exist without some measure of the other.
Endless thanks to all these awesome people for sharing coming and sharing their knowledge, experience, and excitement, which we can all feed off and become inspired by! Also I want to acknowledge how unbelievably awesome all the Hampshire blacksmiths are: Sam, Andi, Peter, Emiliano, James, Paolo, Brendan, Rhett, Allxie, and just everyone else who's in the shop all the time: damn, you are cool people to work around. Definitely good looking folks all around, too.
But to Don, I don't think any of us would be sharing this space, community, and thirst for knowledge if it wasn't for you. Thanks from all of us, students and friends past, present & future.