Since Frederick is a farming- and livestock-centric area, you have a choice of excellent farriers in the county for your needs. But decorative blacksmithing has been less of a commonly found niche market. Over the last 5 or so years, Blacksmithing seems to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Organizations and private and commercial forges have begun offering classes to folks who want to learn all about this 5,000 year old craft that is part art and part science. Many people, myself included, have a passing knowledge of what a blacksmith is. In the last few years, shows like the History Channel’s “Forged In Fire” , “Iron and Fire” and “Milwaukee Blacksmith”, and “Man at Arms” on YouTube have brought this ancient vocation to the masses and has sparked an interest in learning this combination of iron, steel, heat and sheer strength.
For those in Frederick County and the surrounding areas, there are a few forges and organizations that offer forge time, information and classes open to the public in which to learn this craft. Ms. Caitlin’s School of Blacksmithing is one such place, offering beginners classes six days each week at her forge located in the heart of Frederick. Her classes are ideal for those who have never visited a forge before and subsequent visits allow repeat students to refine their skills and work on incrementally more difficult projects. Most students will be able to complete and take home a small project in her 2 ½ hour class, the cost of which includes the materials, forge fuel and use of the forge tools.
Anyone who wants to become more involved in classes, meeting with other area blacksmiths and more are encouraged to check out the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland. Just 30 miles outside of Frederick, this non-profit, educational corporation was founded in 1986 and is “dedicated to preserving and promoting the art and craft of hand forging iron” (bgcmonline.org). They offer a wide array of classes for the beginner blacksmith that covers safety and basic metal work, to intermediate skills such as making knives and other blades. For the experienced blacksmith, they offer open forge days for those who don’t have a forge at home.
Forging is a hot, dirty past time that almost anyone can try with just a little preparation and some safety. When it’s time for your first blacksmith class, you should wear natural fiber clothes, such as cotton, wool or linens that you don’t mind getting dirty. Natural fibers are best because although they may singe if hit by an ember, they will not melt like synthetics do, which causes burns. Closed-toed shoes are a must, and those of leather or canvas are safest. Safety glasses and hearing protection are also required (even if you wear glasses!). Classes will cover the safety rules, including an introduction to the variety of tools you may come to use while forging your project, as well as basics of working with fire and hot metal. Lastly, you want to make sure you drink plenty of water! It is HOT work and you WILL sweat!
Trying out blacksmithing could be the start of a fun, new hobby or a life-long learning experience. Looking for more options for blacksmith classes? There are forges located throughout Maryland!