The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Blacksmithing - A Lost Art

By Susan Galbriath, Thre Quill

Ron James of Oquawka began blacksmithing in 1986 and 1987.

As a blacksmith he is a member of several organizations: ABANA (Artist Blacksmithing of North America), a worldwide organization of which there are several sub clubs: Illinois Valley Blacksmithing Association, Upper Midwest Blacksmithing and BAM (Blacksmithing Association of Missouri).

These organizations meet periodically where blacksmithers share their knowledge, demonstrate their craft, and interact with other blacksmithers .

Ron said, "Blacksmithing is a lost art. Unlike some other crafters, blacksmithers are willing to share their trade knowledge to help one another."

He and his wife, (Deanna, who passed away in 2003), used to travel with their motor home , enjoy camping and meeting people of like interests. Ron said he would do the cooking and set up camp while Deanna prepared to weave homemade baskets. Deanna always told him, "You can make anything, she was my biggest supporter. We loved to camp and had a great time."

When he started blacksmithing he bought a forge (a furnace or hearth where metals are heated or wrought), at an antique shop in Missouri and bought an anvil (a heavy block of iron or steel, with a smooth black top on which metals are shaped by hammering), in Oquawka. He has a friend, in Oquawka, who sold him coal for his forge. He said, "The first time I built the fire for the forge, I burned myself; a memorable moment!"

He purchases his scrap metal from a scrap yard in Burlington, Iowa or any other market where he finds scrap metal.

He also has a shop in his back yard plus his traveling shop. He constructs many different items.

Besides his full time insurance business and blacksmithing he enjoys Rendezvous camping. (Rendezvous is the primitive encampment where buck skinners get together. It is like camping, albeit without any items that were around before 1840, the year of the last great Rendezvous. It is a time for pilgrims to get together and swap stories, reenactments of the 1840's fur trade, have shooting contests, and trade their goods. There is much revelry and mirth as they get together, forget their modern existence, and sit-back with the stars and firelight.

Ron also participates in Cowboy Shoots which is an international club.