The blazing 2500 degrees from a furnace sitting on top of a tree stump quickly warms the tiny tin shack in Bridgewater.
Blacksmith John Grogg reaches into the furnace with a pair of handmade metal tongs and pulls out a glowing piece of steel. He sets it on an anvil and proceeds to pound it with a 2½ pound cross-peen hammer.
After striking the piece of steel several times, it goes back into the propane forge. Grogg repeats the process until the metal stretches to his liking. He then places the flatten piece of steel on the end of the anvil and, with a delicate touch, taps the metal around the horn-shaped end with a one-pound ball-peen hammer.
The horseshoe begins to take shape. After hammering it a few more times, he lines it up straight. Grogg then puts the horseshoe in the forge and pulls it out for one last detail.
Using a punch, he strikes one rivet; then another. On the third strike, the horseshoe goes flying through the air. He picks it up off the gravel floor and finishes it. A few seconds on the grinder, a little bee’s wax to prevent rust and the work is complete.
“There you go,” the husband and father of a 7-month old says with a smile. “That is how you make a horseshoe.”
Grogg, who demonstrated his trade at last year’s Redbud Spring Arts & Crafts Festival in Dayton, says he plans to have another live blacksmith demonstration at this year’s event April 27. The festival, which will be held at the Artisans Courtyard, will feature local artist, ducky races, music, horse carriage rides and an antique car show.
“I love demonstrating for the public,” Grogg said. “I just like teaching people about our history.”
Turkey feathers hang from the roof of his shack. Arrow heads, a steel knife and a tomahawk lay on a table below. Grogg also makes hunting tools when he isn’t working on his landlord’s farm. He says he has always had a fascination with Native American culture and living off the land.
“I think there is a lot of merit in knowing how to do hands-on skills that take raw materials and turn them into whatever it is you need,” Grogg says. But it wasn’t until later in life that he began making things by hand. One day, when the suburbanite came across an article about blacksmithing, he had an epiphany.
“I figured out I could take just a little bit of stuff and make my own things. That was a great awakening for me.”
But he didn’t have the money for all the tools and materials. A few years later, the 25-year-old came across another book called $50 Knife Shop, which teaches the reader to find cheap materials to make knives and tools.
“I never thought to use a railroad track or an old sledge hammer head buried in the ground,” he says.
“My first anvil was a piece of tombstone I got for $10. It weighed 115 pounds. I thought it was cool because that is how it was first done.”
Recognizing his calling as a blacksmith led Grogg to members from a Blacksmithing guild who helped him get started. Quickly, realizing it was impossible to make a living as a blacksmith, his life took another turn.
“I thought ‘Well, I could shoe horses, I like horses. It’s like blacksmithing. Call me a horse shoer.’ So, that’s what I did.”
Stable Boy To Smith
Grogg found a job as a stable boy and started an in-depth education about horses. Shortly after, he met David Brown, who began to teach him to shoeing process. Grogg didn’t a license or a vehicle, so he rode his bicycle to the Dayton Farmers Market to meet Brown and shoed horses.
He said he learned a lot from Brown.
“He told me I needed to be a horseman first. Learn how to handle horses. Being able to read horses and be comfortable around them. Without those things, it’s hard.
“You can be the greatest artist blacksmith in the world but you can be dumb as a bag of hammers when it comes to knowing how to handle a horse.”
Grogg says he thanks Jesus for everything he has. He even dedicated the name of his Blacksmithing business to the Lord: 6:15 Forge, which he says is taken from the verse “have your feet shod with the preparation of gospel of peace.”
Contact Timothy Schumacher at (540) 574-6265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.