‘Strike it while the iron’s hot’

Blacksmith Steve Gurzler uses a hammer to shape an implement while in the foreground blacksmith Jordan Mauro displays a finished fork he forged with hand tools. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

ST. JOHNSVILLE — The saying “strike while the iron’s hot” regained its original meaning Saturday as two blacksmiths demonstrated their skills on the first of the two-day Fort Klock’s ninth annual Blacksmiths’ Hammer-In.

Bystanders watched, and then were given some hands-on experience, as blacksmiths Steve Gurzler and Jordan Mauro showed how iron could be shaped into useful tools after being heated with coal in bellow-driven forges to about 1,500 to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Steve’s a [civil] engineer, and I’m a jerk-of-all-trades,” joked Mauro, who has a blacksmith shop in Gilmantown in Wells.

The duo showed how an early 20th-century blacksmith shop would operate to hand-make implements for households and businesses. This was before machinery and mass production took over most manufacturing.

Jordan showed the stages of making such useful instruments as forks and tongs using both skill and muscle.

He said still runs a shop in his own area for people who want authentic hand-wrought implements. “A lot of people like handcrafted things rather than mass produced,” he said.

“It [blacksmithing] takes a lot of patience,” Jordan said.

“Everything you do takes a long time.”

Aaron Weaver of Lake Pleasant and vice president of the Historical Society of Lake Pleasant and Speculator, said he was “invited down to see how it’s [blacksmithing] done.”

Because Hamilton County has a lot of older buildings, Weaver said he would like to be able to “explain to people who ask about the history of our area.”

Since lumbering and tourism are the major industries in his county, many people have a variety of jobs, including the blacksmith trade, he said.

The county’s older buildings may require a blacksmith’s craft be repaired in a historically authentic ways, Weaver added.

Among those watching the blacksmiths were Howard Brott and Ethan Cretser, both of Ephratah and employees of Taylor Made Systems of Gloversville, which uses machinery to make aluminum and stainless steel boat windows.

Cretser said he was very impressed with the blacksmiths because of their hands-on creative skills.

He said he enjoys woodworking himself. “I just like working with my hands,” he said.

“I get way more satisfaction from that than going to the store and buying something.”

Fort Klock’s Hammer-In, at 7214 Route 5, will continue today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food, prizes, stories and demonstrations will be part of the day. Free parking and primitive camping are available.

By Patricia Older

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