Tiller’s International

Having discovered several years’ archives of “The Woodwright’s Shop,” I’ve steadily worked my way through the very enjoyable episodes. Although I am much more machine-centric in my woodworking habits than host Roy Underhill is, I enjoy learning new ways to do things, and appreciate Roy’s personality. One episode I came across a couple of months ago is THIS ONE, where I learned about the fine folks at TILLERS INTERNATIONAL, near Kalamazoo, Michigan. I looked at their web page and noticed they had a two day blacksmithing course coming up in early December. I contacted Steve and John and asked if they’d be interested in taking the class with me, and they said yes.

The planning commenced, and we were able to dovetail a nice visit with my Mom and Dad into the trip.

blacksmith2On arrival at the Tillers farm, we quickly checked in, had a light breakfast in their lovely kitchen/dining room area, and proceeded to the blacksmith’s shop. We paired up with two to a forge site, and then John, our instructor, gave us a brief demonstration on how to start the coal fire and begin our first project. One piece of information I brought with me to this workshop was that blacksmiths use a lot of hammers. If you look at the shelf behind our instructor, you’ll get some idea of just how many and what the variety of hammers we used.

blacksmith1In this picture, Steve and John are working together to draw out a bar of hot iron with a hammer and sledge. Working as a team you can use a much larger hammer to draw out the metal on the anvil.

After two days, we headed back to Lansing to spend the night with my parents. Our stash of iron was jingling merrily in the back of the car during the trip. We each made an iron ring that we hot welded on the forge, a hook, spoon, and cold chisel that was temper hardened by us. The pieces are spread out on the dining room table as I write this, and we each find ourselves stopping and fingering our work now and then. Tiller’s has many more workshops, which we hope to avail ourselves of in the future.

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