Forging ahead to revive, preserve an old art

There was a time when just about every town in America had a shop where a local blacksmith used a forge to heat and shape pieces of wrought iron or steel and, with great skill and physical labor, joined those pieces by hammering them together on an anvil in a process called forge welding.

The local blacksmith commonly made nails, tools, gates, railings, farming implements, kitchen utensils, light fixtures, weapons and more.

The advent of gas, arc and resistance welding, as well as mass production techniques, began to erode the traditional roles of the blacksmith and the need for hand-crafted items.

By 1930, blacksmith shops had nearly disappeared but, starting in the 1970s, artisan groups across the country, including the New Mexico Artist-Blacksmiths Association, have kept the craft alive. The association has about 75 members.

“Our mission is to further and preserve the art of blacksmithing,” said the association’s State Fair coordinator Alex Ivey, who is himself a hobbyist blacksmith.

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