Riddle of Steel

In this course, we will explore the history and practice of metalworking from a hands-on, practical perspective. Working with the experts at Dragon’s Breath Forge, the students will build their repertoire of metalworking skills over the first week, and will individually complete a number of simple, practical household items. During that same week, the students will see a working forge at Old Sturbridge Village to gain a connection to the historical place of metalworking in day-to-day life.

During the second week, students will focus on the more specialized skill of bladesmithing. The students will see examples of larger blades being forged and will complete a small, practical cutting tool of their own. During this week the students will also travel to see the Higgins Armory collection to see examples of the evolution of the arts of blade-smithing and armoring. Students will need to complete a daily journal of their experience including photographs, drawings and/or other media describing their experience and techniques learned. Students will be expected to produce a variety of items demonstrating mastery of metalworking techniques.


Rest Day: Old Sturbridge Village

After a hard day at the forge, today the students travelled to Old Sturbridge Village to spend a day exercising their brains while giving their bodies a chance to rest and recover.. Old Sturbridge Village is a living history museum dedicated to recreating rural New England life of the 1830's.  Our main reason for visiting is to give the students a chance to see a working blacksmiths shop from the era when they were ubiquitous and a necessary part of the community. 

The smiths were highly engaging and both interested in hearing about our students' experiences and sharing their own. Our students paid rapt attention to what they were shown:

One smith is working on reverse engineering the design of a particular type of hammer, one in which the head was riveted on with a pair of metal straps running from the head down the handle (instead of the hammer head with a hole through the center for the handle). He explained that part of the difficulty is that we have historical examples of the hammers, but no documentation discussing how they were forged, so much of their work in the Old Sturbridge Village forge is trying to figure out the proper order of operations to produce the finished product they want.

The other smith was working on making clinch nails, much like those used by the Forman Boat Shop in making our bent-wood canoes. In that time period it was still impossible to produce this very useful form of nail at an industrial scale, so small blacksmith shops like theirs would produce many of the nails used in the community. 

Here is a close-up example of the finished product:

Last, but not least, the students were set free around the village for a photo scavenger hunt: looking in specific locations of the village for items that could have been made or repaired by a blacksmith.  

Tomorrow we return to the forge for two more days of hands on work. 

Posted by Sean Padgett on Wednesday February, 28


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Forman School
12 Norfolk Road, P.O. Box 80, Litchfield, CT 06759
Phone: 860.567.8712
Fax: 860.567.8317


Forman School is a coeducational, preparatory boarding and day school for grades 9-PG exclusively dedicated to empowering bright students who learn differently.




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