Tucked away in the bays of the locomotive workshops at Technology Park in Eveleigh is a unique part of NSW’s rail heritage in the form of the blacksmithing shop. Here, you can join courses in the art of blacksmithing using the exact same forges and tools used by the railway workers of old.
There is little more satisfying than wielding a hammer against red-hot steel to deftly create a new tool, a statue or a creative addition to your home.
From full-blown attacks on steel to the deftest of taps to put the finishing touch to what you’ve wrought from the forge is a great way to forget the week just gone.
Classes at the smithy are now being held more regularly, and my introductory 10-week course on Saturdays from 9am to 3pm was both informative and productive. The time flew by – absorbed in the process of creating something new from billets of steel.
From bottle openers (that were a hit as Christmas gifts) to a delicately sculptured rose, to an outdoor chandelier that brightens our barbecues and weekend parties, there was plenty to keep me active.
Adding to the enjoyment was the interaction with the others attending the course – watching their projects develop and assisting them where necessary to hold steel in tongs while they aimed their blows at the glowing steel.
We were taught the fundamentals of blacksmithing – from the all-important process of pointing, to techniques of shaping and annealing, twisting, bending, folding, cutting and stamping.
Heat is of course the major input to the blacksmithing art, and we were taught to understand the differences between using forges and furnaces. The forge has hot spots, depending on how well your fire has been set up, so it’s important to understand what part of your workpiece is being heated, and how. The furnace has a more even heat, and can accommodate different shapes and lengths of steel.
The time passes very quickly when your focus is on the work at hand. And it was great to relax after each day, chat about the thing we’d learned, and enjoy a quiet ale before taking our latest creations home to impress the family.