I was at a Hammer-In a while back when I was asked “how long have you been doing this sort of thing?” I didn’t have a really good answer for that. I don’t remember the first time I starting helped my dad fix things on the farm. We did not do any forging on the farm, but we did plenty of heating with a torch and beating on hot things. My dad is a very good fabricator and designer. He taught me how to build things with metal and use countless tools.
When I left the ranch for college I studied Ag Mechanics, which meant I just did more of the stuff I grew up doing. Fixing stuff and building things on a farm. Of course college introduced me to many new tools we couldn’t afford on the ranch and new ways of doing almost everything. For my senior project I wanted to forge an axe. My instructor was not comfortable with forging so he had me weld it and grind it to shape.
The first thing I did when I bought my first house was fill my garage with tools and build a gas forge. I started making knives about nine years ago. I have slowly gotten more and more into forging and making things other than knives. So how long have I been into this sort of thing, is kind of a hard question to answer.
During the same weekend I was also asked “what level of smith are you?” by a gray haired man that has been smithing for many years. I am a beginner. When I am in my own shop I feel like an advanced smith that has a solid grasp on the art of manipulating metal while it is hot. Five minutes at a Hammer-In and I am a solid beginner just learning this craft.
I met a man that makes large steel fish that hang like six foot tall wind chimes. I remember seeing his work when I was a boy of nine or ten. I was inspired by his work then and I am inspired by him now. He has been selling metal art for 40 years, my entire life! I will always be the beginner next to him.
That is one of the beauties of the art of shaping hot metal, blacksmithing, forging, sculpting or whatever you choose to call it. There is no end to what can be learned. A master smith can be a beginner when he or she chooses to learn a different form of the craft. In 40 years I may be a master smith at some skills, but I am sure I will be able to find a portion of the craft where I can still label myself as a beginner.