If you go
What: Blacksmithing demonstrations
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays through August
Where: Wyman Museum, 94350 E. U.S. Highway 40
— The demonstrations are open to the public. For more information, call 824-6346.
The sun bore down Friday on the roof of a wooden shop at the Wyman Museum.
Sounds of clanging steel and the smell of burning coal bellowed out of the dimly lit structure.
Inside, Dalton Reed, 25, worked away, sweat rolling down his forehead.
His hands, one griping a hammer and the other a clamp, were covered in coal ash. He swung the hammer, knocking the bend out of what was once a coiled, car shock absorber.
Reed, a Steamboat Springs resident, returned the straight metal rod to the forge fire, fed the fire a few more pieces of coal, and began turning the forge’s hand crank, reigniting the flame to life.
For the next half-hour, Reed worked to transform the straightened iron rod into a dinner triangle. His afternoon’s work was part of weekly blacksmithing demonstrations hosted by the Wyman Museum, which will continue each Friday through August.
Reed contends the process of taking scrap and giving it new life — such as he demonstrated by forging the rod Friday — is something that has always fascinated him.
“You can make so much with literally what you have here — the hammer and the anvil,” he said. “The simplicity, the practicality, the not being reliant, and kind of having some sense of self-reliance.
“If I need something, I can make it. I don’t go buy it.”
Reed, who works as the museum’s restoration mechanic, enjoys the simple pleasure of “keeping it authentic” when it comes to demonstrating the technique to local residents.
“That’s the fun part of it,” he said.
Reed didn’t always have a passion for the blacksmith’s forge, however.
It wasn’t until about three years ago that he picked up a hammer and began to learn the trade from Craig resident Rodney Duncan, he said.
After Duncan pinched a nerve in his shoulder, limiting his blacksmithing abilities, Reed stepped up to fill his role at the museum.
“So it was kind of like, ‘Oh, OK, I better learn,’” Reed said.
At the time, groups of area students were scheduled to watch the demonstrations previously hosted by Duncan.
“Luckily for me, so long as I can get the metal hot and hit it with a hammer, people will be amazed,” he said with a laugh. “And then it is just going on from there to say ‘Well look what I can make, look what I have done.’”
Since learning the trade, Reed said he developed a passion for the hobby.
“There is a certain amount of pride to be able to say, ‘Oh yeah, I made that completely from scratch,’” he said. “I didn’t buy a kit and assemble it. It was junk, scrap or raw material.”
The forge Reed works on at the museum is about 100 years old, he said.
“This was made in a factory somewhere where they could pour at least several a day,” he said. “The legs come off and they could ship it to you.
“You could order this whole set-up out of your Sears catalogue 100 years ago.”
But over time, the effort, skills and materials needed to forge objects has been the trade’s commercial downfall, Reed said.
“That is why there are no more blacksmiths if some machine can hammer out 30 of them in an hour that will be more professional and more consistent,” he said.
But, the inconsistencies and minor flaws are just a part of making something by hand, he said.
Many of Reed’s projects — be it a dinner triangle, a knife made from a railroad spike, or mechanical parts — bare such markings identifying them as hand-forged.
Reed even fashioned a knife made from the ball bearing case of a 1967 Ford Truck.
“You see it’s got these groves for a snap ring, it’s still there, a little groove,” Reed said turning the blade in his hand.
Reed said the knife represents about 30 hours of work. He chose the metal found in the ball bearing case because it is high carbon steel, which helps hold an edge.
After three years of practicing the trade, Reed contends he is still learning.
He continues to learn by reading books and talking with other blacksmiths. Eventually, Reed said he wants to work as an apprentice with other blacksmiths.
“It’s amazing how much I have learned doing this,” he said.