Students wipe their brow as they pull the glowing piece of iron from a bed of hot coals.
Metal meets metal and sparks fly as they slowly but surely pound the rod into a wedge shape.
The group of 10 are among the roughly 1,000 people who have taken part in the Saskatoon Western Development Museum’s (WDM) blacksmith class. The program celebrated its 100th course over the weekend.
Instructor and former museum volunteer Rick Dixon created the program when he saw there was a renewed local interest in blacksmithing. He began with one program per year.
“I thought if we could get maybe five years out of it, it would be good, and that was 1988,” he said.
Today, the museum offers four courses per year, and every time there is a waiting list of up to 150 people. Each course sign up is first come first served.
“I don’t know if they’re all watching Game of Thrones and want to learn to make knives and chain mail, or playing fantasy videos games where they’re playing a medieval character,” WDM director of education Corinne Daelick said.
According to Daelick, “any interest is good interest” because they want to keep the old skill alive. She said they get men and women from all age groups and working backgrounds.
Students spend the weekend learning safety and basic tempering and forging techniques. They make simple, thick objects first like a fire poker before moving onto more ornate, artistic and delicate crafts like flowers.
It costs $250 for both the materials and instruction.
Student Morgan Romanycia always had an interest in old artifacts and the effort that went into making them so blacksmithing seemed like a good fit.
“It’s probably the whole metal and fire,” she said. “The skill it takes, it seems rudimentary. You’re banging a hammer on iron and you’re making these amazing things.”
She said she went into the program to find out if she wanted to turn the craft into a hobby.
“I told my husband he has to build me a forge now,” she said with a laugh.
Dixon hopes students learn enough from the course to develop a continued interest.
“I get a great kick out of them when they make their first project and they do something and it actually works out ant they’re grinning and dirty and sweaty,” he said.
In the meantime, students like Romanycia who want to practice can volunteer at any of the province’s WDMs and work in the blacksmith booth.