Forging a passion for blacksmithing

RAYMOND — Since he got into blacksmithing a little more than a quarter of a century ago, there hasn’t been a day that Kelly Wetzel says he hasn’t looked forward to going into work.

And when he was laid off for a couple of years from his job as an industrial smith at a Milwaukee-area manufacturer due to a slow-down in wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Wetzel turned to sharing his passion for the centuries-old skill by teaching.

We’re not talking horseshoes here. Think sculpture, artwork, furnishings and accessories forged from metal, hammered out on an anvil and twisted into shape.

For 13 years Wetzel, 56, has offered an eight-week basic blacksmithing class coordinated through the Wustum campus of the Racine Art Museum. And he gives his own individualized advanced training on Saturdays at his shop located on 108th Street in Raymond, just a mile north of Highway 20.

The shop includes nine work stations with coal-fired forges and anvils. And he also has a couple of stations for his personal work and a gas-powered forge, a hammer press and other tools of the trade. He must have more than 100 smith hammers.

Maryland blacksmith guild proves its mettle

  1. His blacksmith work is spread across northern Michigan in homes, restaurants, wineries and other businesses from Cadillac to Mackinac Island. His iron creations are A coal-fired forge made of brick is the core of the gigantic work space. The large
  2. Members of the Chesapeake Forge Blacksmith Guild gathered at their “clubhouse” at Kinder Farm Park on Sunday, sweating over one of four 1,500 degree coal forges, tinkering with their metal projects. The whir of a fan boosting the fire's heat was
  3. Try being a blacksmith — not because you have to because it's your job, but because it's fun. Members of the Chesapeake Forge Blacksmith Guild gathered at their "clubhouse" at Kinder Farm Park on Sunday, sweating over one of four 1,500 degree coal 

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