Small Towns: The art of blacksmithing in Door County

NASEWAUPEE, Wis. - For hundreds of years, blacksmiths have been turning hot iron and steel into everyday items that make our lives easier.

But not every community these days has a local blacksmith.

In the town of Nasewaupee in Door County, there's a discrete workshop that's isolated, but not removed from the 21st century.

"When people find out I'm a blacksmith they ask me, are there that many horses around here?" joked Richard Furrer.

Furrer has been molding his craft at Door County Forgeworks for 16 years.

"There's a long tradition of smithing, making real tools so real industry can keep going," he said.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's turn back the hands of time and delve into the process of creating.

"You start with dirt and you end up with a functioning tool," Furrer explained.

The first step is to join the tiny pieces of steel together by incorporating an incredible amount of heat.

While the steel is still hot, that's when the real magic happens and the former idea begins to take form through the process of pounding, smashing and one beautiful light show.

"Historically, it was done with strikers people with sledgehammers and charcoal fire and that can take a great deal of time," Ferrer said.

The majority of his focus at his shop is molding the metal into cutting tools like chisels and knives for the common man. 

"So you do what you can to make a tool that someone is going to make their living with but why does it need to be ugly?" Ferrer asked.

While the profession of blacksmithing may not be as commonplace as it once was, if the tools are made right, they'll give generations to come a peek into the world of a job that stood the test of time.

"It is a little happy moment to know that maybe one day my stuff will be sitting in a museum and people will be wondering who made that," Ferrer said.

The owner of Door County Forgeworks isn't just churning out metal creations for profit. About one-third of his time also entails teaching the next generation of blacksmiths how it's done.

 

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