The First South Central Regional Conference

by David W. Wilson, Chairman

Published in the October 2001 Issue of Anvil Magazine

Note: Images and captions are located at the bottom of this article.

One of the main drawing cards of a blacksmith conference is, of course, the demonstrators. As chairman, the choosing of the demonstrators can be difficult, since a variety of skills is needed. Any two blacksmiths should not be forging the same items, discussing identical methods. They should always have a broad range and express this in their teaching skills. It's inevitable that some methods will overlap, but the optimum plan is to strive for pleasing variety.

The fine group at IronFest was no exception. Frank Turley, Mike Boone, Wendel Broussard and Jeff Mohr were a fabulous combination, showing very diverse talents. Their experience as instructors was very obvious as I viewed the four forging areas. These smiths utilized displays of sample ironwork, white board sketches, preparatory layout drawings and slide shows. They exhibited a level of patience that any instructor would be proud to possess. Frequently they stopped to answer questions while passing around the ironwork, showing each process during the forging. Their talents as metalworkers are top notch, resulting in a very rewarding event.

Starting off at IronFest were workshops and demos on Thursday. Doug Hendrickson fired it up in the morning and helped several people with hammer control. Doug later forged at the Public Demo area, which is open to the public. Shannon Wright started her demo with a description of her work and then produced a fine-looking vase or candle holder made from pipe. Later Shannon displayed a section of a large table project that contained wedges and tenons. Her sample copper rose was passed around and she created another beautiful rose using a gas forge. Bill Bastas then told the group about several hammer techniques including Uri Hofi's. Some different ergonomics were discussed by Bill as to anvil placement and use of the parts of the anvil.

Saturday evening, James Ryan and Tom Essary produced a shovel-making jig, as seen during Jeff Mohr's demo earlier in the day.

Starting off the national demos, Jeff Mohr forged a fantastic fireplace set with amazingly fast speed. Jeff completed the braided twists and wonderful oak leaves with acorn embellishments. He clamped a work piece to his jig and created a great shovel shape, using a torch to localize the heat. For the stand Mohr clamped a circular form into a post vise and cold-bent the base legs. He plumbed the legs and finished the ironwork. An additional, unique segment of his demo was making a fireplace broom. Jeff and Brook Mohr produce an excellent videotape about the process describing broom making for blacksmiths.

One of the most anticipated presentations was by Wendel Broussard and his fabulous repousse' work. We seldom get to see this type of craftsmanship at an advanced level. Wendel trucked in a display of repousse' pieces relating to different art periods. His post vise and attached work tables were curved for an excellent, functional configuration. Numerous hammers, stakes and shaping tools were put to use in shaping the artwork of leaves. Wendel heated some sections with a well-constructed treadle torch. Several of his leaves were designed and installed into a joint project with Mike Boone.

At Mike Boone's forging station, a book on the display table was astonishing to consider. It describes twelve generations of the Boone family. Mike was a pleasure to watch and it was interesting for us in the crowd to ponder his ancestry. Boone forged the numerous pieces of a grille extremely fast as he used a layout table to help align the joint project. This grille was connected with Wendel Broussard's leaves into a fabulous creation, a real attention grabber at the IronFest auction. Later on Sunday, Mike created an impressive gargoyle head from 1"-plus square bar. While this stock was heating, he chased a flower pattern in a square sheet by using a treadle hammer. Mike Boone is a master at changing from one technique to a totally different one without missing a beat.

Frank Turley has taught many accomplished blacksmiths at his Turley Forge Blacksmithing School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The school was founded in 1970. For his demonstration at IronFest, he described the metalworking procedure in easy-to- understand details. Some attention was placed on heat treating as he wrote information on a display board. The 440-pound anvil loaned from Old World Anvil was utilized, with a striker assisting Frank, to produce top and bottom tools. Frank whipped together a strap hinge and pintle like the master he is, complete with precise forge welding and a snug fit, without any play.

The open-to-the-public area included a large parking lot with lots of great tools. New and old equipment coexisted with modern high-tech welding machines humming alongside the ancient process of using coal forges. A unique Public Demo section was kept cooking for the full two and one-half days of the conference. This allowed the visitors to freely experience the craft without any expenditures, if they desired.

The inaugural event of IronFest was a booming success. It can now continue to provide a much-needed blacksmiths conference in the South Central region in the coming years.

Sample ironwork table in Mike Boone's forging station area. In the foreground at left is a gargoyle by Mike Boone. In the right foreground, a joint project grill by Mike Boone with repousse leaves and flowers by Wendel Broussard. Photo by Clif Ladd.

Mike Boone forging a gargoyle head from 1"+ square bar. Photo by Gerald Pollard.

Detail of fireplace set created at IronFest by Jeff Mohr. Photo by Clif Ladd.

Wendel Broussard creating a repousse' leaf. Wendel is using a hammer with stake held in a post vise to shape the leaf. Photo by Lud Pietz.

Frank Turley forging a hardie on a 440-pound Old World Anvil. Photo by Gerald Pollard.

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