Sharing the blacksmith skills
Judy’s time at Nichol’s Blacksmith Shop is mostly spent giving talks and demonstrating blacksmithing techniques to visitors. People love to see her twisting metal.
“We’ve got a small gas forge here too. We got it through a grant from Meridian Energy. Visitors love the coal forge, but the gas is instant and it’s a lot cleaner.”
Most of the items made by the volunteers are for sale although, Judy points out, Dave Hamer’s work is on display solely to show the volunteers what they might aspire to: handles, a toilet-roll holder, beautiful gate hinges, a coat hook made from car valves …
Over the winter of 2017 three volunteers held working bees to put guards around the belt-driven drill press, power hacksaw, and grinding stones. “Even though it’s not quite authentic, it had to be done to comply with safety regulations.”
The forge is open weekends from Labour weekend in October to Queen’s Birthday in June. Judy mounts demonstrations for small groups and conducts beginners’ courses by appointment.
Blacksmith courses for young and old
One thing you have to know: don’t talk to the blacksmiths while they’re working at the forge because they can spend an hour making a piece and one moment’s inattention can cause them to burn it and it’s ruined.
“You can sometimes cut off the damaged part and start again, depending on where the burnt bit is, but you’ve just lost an hour’s work,” says Judy.
While she gets a lot of pleasure from working at the forge, more than anything Judy is eager to introduce blacksmithing to young people.
“We’ve established beginners’ courses for the young ones, and their eyes light up when I kit them out with a leather apron, glasses, and gauntlets and get them going. They work the bellows and have a go at hammering the hot metal. We really need these young people. They’re our future. We need them to be inspired.
“It’s so rewarding to pass on knowledge and skills. That’s where my passion lies. Because I can’t forge as much as I’d like to, I just want to get the young people involved.”
Visitors love to watch Judy bending and twisting metal
A few tools of the trade