When I arrived our instructor was readying the forges, and I had to keep moving to dodge the smoke, but he seemed completely unperturbed by it. Greg Price is from Warrenton and prefers to refer to himself as a craftsman rather than an artist, and by the end of the day I totally agreed. He had told us that many customers seemed nowadays to prefer a 'rustic' look whereas he preferred the honed polished effect, which obviously would not allow for any imperfections of any kind that the rustic look would allow. I respected him for that.
I was told immediately to remove my raincoat, being a man-made material, it was too flammable. Of course I removed it, and then mentally kicked myself for not wearing more layers, it wasn't warm out here.
Just keeping the forge alight is a huge task. We learned that our bucket of coal had to be kept wet as this ensures that the fine particles of coal stick to the larger pieces. The wet coal is stacked on one side of the forge where it heats up and turns into coke. This is what should be in the center of the fire and what you push your stock into to heat it up, it's hotter and produces less smoke than coal. Air is pushed through by a fan to ensure the flames are hot. Greg told us to forge when our stock was lemon yellow, and to bend it when it was orange. If your stock is spitting sparks like a firework, then it's too hot.
Another thing that surprised me was that I didn't have to hit as hard as I thought I would need to work my steel. It did involve a lot of concentration and co-ordination with my forge but after a while I was enjoying myself and not even aware of the clouds of black smoke that I occasionally swallowed. Even the damp cold day wasn't hindering me, I was soon warmed up with my efforts and my nearby fire. I did feel that I needed more one-on-one attention, I sometimes had a problem working out which way I needed to hammer my piece but Greg was always very patient and explained or demonstrated well.
ball-peen hammers to get the desired effect on our steel. These are different tools that he's actually made himself from hammers, heating up the peens to then shape them into his desired tool. Impressive, and I loved the handle on the hammer at the top of the photo. He's also made his own grips for holding the hot steel, there are quite a few varieties of these too.
I arrived home tired and with a very black face, and stinking of coal smoke, but very satisfied. Kota and Rosie Lee inspected my works of art, and after feeding them I sat straight down and cleaned them up with sandpaper and mineral oil.
The photos below were taken by Kevin from E.V.E. More can be seen here.