Workshop History

Blacksmith Workshop History

The Island Kajiba: 2019-2020

The short-lived island workshop project came (and went) as a result of changing circumstances as well as a desire to improve the forge towards specialized bladesmithing processes. This was my first indoor forging space in almost 30 years that was designed and laid out from the ground up specifically for my work and I learned a lot during the process. Tour the forge, or see the workshop building project.

Island Blacksmith - Crossed Heart Forge
Japanese style swordsmithing forge built from reclaimed and natural materials using traditional techniques.
Island Blacksmith - Crossed Heart Forge
Timberframe and tsuchikabe earthen walls over tied split cedar and bamboo lath.
Island Blacksmith - Crossed Heart Forge
Japanese style charcoal swordsmithing forge in operation.
Island Blacksmith - Crossed Heart Forge
Japanese style kajiba and charcoal making kiln.

Parksville Museum Forge: 2017, 2018, & Special Events

The Parksville Museum Forge project features western Canada’s only full-sized traditional Japanese style swordsmith forge. Originally constructed in 2016 as an artist in residence space, the plan was to have a variety of work going on in the workshop during the weekly markets throughout the summer as long as conditions allowed. Refurbished and updated in 2020 for regular knifemaking use. See the museum forge archives.

Island Blacksmith: Traditionally crafted knives from reclaimed steel.
Built to traditional specifications using reclaimed and natural materials.
Island Blacksmith: Traditionally crafted knives from reclaimed steel.
Forge serves as an exhibit and display as well as functional demonstration space.

The Island Blacksmith Shop: 2011-2018

The island workshop was located in a portion of a shared creative arts space. Plenty of rusty old tools and scrap metal to add character and a few modifications including shelves, doors, a boardwalk, a chimney, and some lighting transformed the eight by twelve space into a very usable and inspiring blacksmith shop. Over the years a reclaimed metal roof and a layer of crushed gravel on the floor were added to improve winter working conditions. see the workshop set up archives

The Island Blacksmith Shop: 2011-2018

Forging tanto in the charcoal forge.
Hand forging a 13th century classical style tanto blade using a charcoal fire and water on the anvil to keep the steel clean and smooth.
Day 6 of the secret island workshop set up.
Back in Business, the first lighting of the forge at the Island Blacksmith Workshop in 2011.

The Wandering Years: 2002-2011

During this time, workshop space and time were scarce. Most of the metal work during this time was done in situ or in makeshift locations. Mainly fabrication like coping for skateboard ramps, boxes and ledges, playground equipment and fencing, and general repairs made up the bulk of the projects. Dave was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time teaching at a design school in Japan, and to be invited to make a spontaneous cameo appearance at the Barkerville blacksmith shop at one point.

Hammertime at Barkerville Historic Village.
Cameo appearance at Barkerville’s Blacksmith Shop.

The Barn Shed: 1995-2001

After the proving grounds of a couple of cold winters in the lean-to, the small barn-shaped shed next door became available for use. The eight by twelve foot workshop improved on the previous shop with a woodstove, electric power for tools, shelter from the rain and snow, and more dry storage space.

The first Crossed Heart Forge workshop building.

The Portable Set-up: 1995

This was a stripped-down version of the workshop that was used for a public blacksmithing and heritage crafts demonstration as part of an artisan street fair in the Kensington district of Calgary.

Outdoor heritage crafts demonstration in conjunction with The Pine Shop.

The Lean-to: 1992-1994

The first top-secret workshop consisted of a six by eight foot tin roof on posts wedged between two sheds and a fence. The roof had a hole to accommodate the tree that shared the floor space. Offering little protection from the winter wind and snow, it was later modified slightly to enclose the high side and some of the openings.

Interior view of the original Crossed Heart Forge lean-to.
View of the lean-to roof, the workshop is completely off the grid.

The Village Blacksmith Shop: 1992

This shop, where I undertook some short-term training, belonged to Mr. Emmanuel A. Schrock, Blacksmith. It was located in the former livery stables in Fredericksburg, Ohio. Plenty of space and many tools and raw materials to choose from. Read about Mr. Schrock and see more pictures of the shop here:

Emmanuel A. Schrock: The Village Blacksmith Shop.
The forge and anvil in the shop of Emmanuel A. Schrock, where I had my first training.

The Outdoor Trials: 1990-1991

Preliminary experiments with heating metal were mainly aimed at quenching and tempering steel for small stock removal blades. Various configurations of empty coffee cans and reversed vacuum cleaners had varying degrees of success and very short lifespans. It was these crude trials, though, lit by moonlight and the swirling glow of dancing flame and spark, that first imparted the love of mastering the art of combining fuel, air, fire, and steel.

Read more about the beginnings of my metal working journey here: A Brief History