My Journey Into Forged Ironwork

My Journey Into Forged Ironwork

My path to becoming a blacksmith started when I purchased property in a rural area in Northern California called Dos Rios, population 29! As I worked on building my house, I met a neighbor named John Zeen, he was a retired machinist and we became good friends.

He was constantly creating things such as working on a VW trike, he also built a hot rod pickup truck and various small art sculptures. I found myself over at his shop whenever I wasn't working on the house and after a while I started getting interested in welding. 

Well it wasn't very long and I was finding all kinds of things to weld. Whether it was fixing things or creating little sculptures, some times just for the practice. The one thing that was constant, I wanted to learn more!

Then one day I went to the coast and went to every gallery I came across. When I ended up at the Mendocino Art Center, I saw a sculpture that was so cool, I was in awe! I forget now what it was exactly but I remember that it had various elements to it , some were welded but some weren't.

So I inquired as to what the process was and they told me it was blacksmithing and BOOM I was hooked right then! I had never heard of it before, so I did some research and ended up buying an anvil and made a crude propane forge and got busy. I had a lot of rebar around the property so that's what I started with and I was off!

After a few years of forging various items such as tools, hooks, and other forged items, I took the first of three classes I have taken in my years of practicing this craft. I thought it fitting that the first one be at the Mendocino art center where I was originally inspired.

It was a week long class and I was so into it that it was hard to concentrate on anything else for a long time after that class. I started PoonKinney Forge shortly after taking the class. 

I had became obsessed with blacksmithing, the techniques involved, the process, the endless ideas for tools, and projects. The more I learned the more I wanted to learn.

  I joined the California Blacksmith Association and through one of their events I met another blacksmith and started demonstrating with him at rodeos and art shows and fairs. That went on for a few years and in doing the shows I learned a great deal about interacting with potential customers about selling and creating various forms of forged ironwork while they watched!

Kids were my favorite people to demonstrate for. One time at a rodeo I had a kid and his father watch as I was making a face on the end of a bar.

As I was working , I would stop to show him the progress at each step of the forging process. His face would light up brighter at every step in the process.

When I was finished with the face, I cooled it off and then showed it to him , then handed it to him (I think he was 7?) and said he could keep it. His face lit up so bright because he couldn't believe it was his, then he started crying with joy, It was awesome!

As my work progressed through the years making various forms of forged ironwork for customers, I started thinking about jewelry but I was always busy and never got around to it, until one day in April of 2019.

I was working away in the shop and just out of nowhere I thought, you know it's a beautiful day so I'm going to cut down this dead fir tree that's been on my mind for quite some time.

Well that didn't go well! I ended up ripping all of my rotator cuffs off my right shoulder, (ouch!!) and ended up in a sling for 6 weeks.

So after a couple weeks I was bored as hell , so I went into the shop to see if there was anything I "could" do, since I'm right handed. Needless to say there wasn't a lot.

I couldn't do any forging so I ended up tinkering with jewelry. I had a lot of copper in various forms that I've collected over the years and remembered that I used to place glass beads in the eyeballs of animal heads I used to make while demonstrating and still had the beads.

One thing led to another and that's how I started my journey into jewelry making. I progressed into torch fired enameling and still use the beads from time to time.

Since then I've gotten into making a material called Mokume Gane, but that's another conversation!

Browse my collection of Handcrafted Jewelry

and let me know what you think!

Back to blog

1 comment

Your stuff is beautiful. Would you be interested in having a booth at the Potter Valley Rodeo over Memorial Day Weekend? I can get you in contact with our vendor coordinator if you are.
Also wondering if you do belt buckles, I’m interested in a belt buckle with elk ivories (I’ll provide the ivories)

Erin Kile

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.