Jake James in his workshop (Swikar Oli/News staff)

Once a dead art, blacksmithing is now back in fashion

People are being more aware that we live in a world of manufactured items

A blacksmith transforming metal with heat and pressure seems like an ancient art lost to the world of modern manufacture.

Yet the creativity involved in metalwork: the cutting, grinding, forging, bending and hammering, is a joy that many still want to experience.

This interest is exemplified by blacksmiths like Jake James of Metchosin and Benoit Laurent of Langford, who’ve been teaching classes to those interested in learning about the trade.

James recently started his “first season” of one-day forging sessions in partnership with Camosun College. Laurent instructs his own group out of his workshop. The two still get commissioned to create their works for residents and businesses around Greater Victoria.

ALSO READ: Highlands blacksmith’s work forged in European history

Blacksmithing as a job died fast after the period of world wars, when mass production became commonplace. Laurent said the revival came 20, 30 years ago and is now “exploding” with the internet.

What was once a “cliquey movement” has led to people being more aware that we live in a world of manufactured items, James said. “That’s translated into thinking about how things are made and the experience of how something is made.”

“The appreciation of the quality of a handmade product is becoming much more ingrained in people, I think, having almost been lost for a while.”

The rise in popularity is partly because word has gotten around on how much you can create, Laurent said. “Anything you can imagine is pretty much doable,” with scale and volume being the only mitigating factors, he noted.

ALSO READ: It’s a good day to be a blacksmith in Metchosin

Oftentimes, James said architects and designers have come to him for particularly tricky constructions without a “logical solution” after finding out about the freedom and flexibility that handcrafted metal work allows over the offerings of welding and fabrication shops.

James is able to maintain a living in this line of work because, he said, as long as the economy is strong, people still desire the originality of handcrafted work rather than picking out something at Home Depot. There are also the people looking for heirloom items, like a “nice axe,” he adds.

Blacksmithing as a trade is still an indefinite process, even though modern machinery has augmented capacity of the lone forger over “four or five people swinging sledgehammers,” Laurent said. He gets requests varied enough that continue to make it a challenge, he said.

ALSO READ: Blacksmith hammers away at Metchosin welcome signs

“No project is the same and there’s no monotony.”

The job might look east to Newcomers who watch professionals on “high-end” TV shows on forging on History and Discovery channels, although the hard work involved quickly “dawns on people,” Laurent said.

“You will get burned…you will get your face covered in soot..you will get hands covered in grease and oil,” he said.

Laurent recommends those who are interested to join a group like Vancouver Island Blacksmith’s Association to get an idea of the work, which is how he got started in the work over six years ago. The yearly fee is a “pittance” for the quality of the education afforded, he said.

swikar.oli@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

B.C. mom, kids on bike turned away from Tim Hortons drive-thru

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

VicPD officer answers the call from Canada Revenue Agency phone scammer

Officer politely asks questions, frustrating scammer

Body found in Central Saanich waste recycling facility deemed non-suspicious

Coroners Service investigating circumstances of death

West Shore RCMP spend four hours searching for roving hikers

RCMP say stay put once you’ve called for help and listen to instructions

Saanich mom on a bike turned away in Tim Hortons drive-thru

Car-free for years, Charity Millar ‘felt gross’ being denied service

POLL: Do you plan on making any purchases on Black Friday?

We’ve all seen the images. Shoppers rioting outside of a store in… Continue reading

B.C. man gets life with no parole until 2042 for murder of Belgian tourist near Boston Bar

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

‘Very disrespectful’: B.C. first responder irked by motorists recording collisions on cellphones

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue deputy chief challenges motorists to break the habit

Daily cannabis linked to reduction in opioid use: B.C. researchers

Researchers looked at a group of 1,152 people in Vancouver who reported substance use and chronic pain

Port Alberni rallies for mill workers

Fundraisers helping ease the sting of five months without work

Island student lobbies school board for dress code consistency

Jaylene Kuo contacted school trustees after seeing dress guidelines at brother’s school

Bids down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

Most Read