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.

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