Craft Fairs and Events

Blacksmithing at the Cowpe Smithy

I always love trying out new crafts and experiencing new craft techniques. When I was (a lot) younger, I enrolled for a night school class on Decorative Wrought Ironwork but it was cancelled at the last minute due to numbers and I hadn’t found anything similar in the area since.

So I was thrilled to receive a gift voucher for a Blacksmithing Taster day for my birthday this year from my lovely husband. I duly rang and booked myself in for Friday 24th February, hoping that my arm muscles would be strong enough.

The course was run by Cowpe Smithy and included all the materials you need to create 2 – 3 pieces that you take home with you afterwards, as well as safety glasses and a leather protective apron. They keep class sizes to a maximum of 3 people so that everyone gets the most from the day but I was lucky to have one to one tuition as the only participant on that day.

The Cowpe Smithy is set in the Lancashire Pennines amidst stunning moorland scenery in the small village of Cowpe.  Built at the home of Robin & Sue Sharples, the smithy itself is a World War 1 inspired workshop, equipped with a traditional coke fired forge. Last year, they appeared on Channel 4’s ‘Amazing Spaces Shed of The Year’ and triumphed in the category for Best Workshop & Studio Shed. Robin is also the owner of the world’s largest collection of anvils!

The day started with a brew and a biscuit, and introductions to Robin, his wife, Sue, who does all the catering, and Daren, a fully qualified industrial and decorative blacksmith. We chatted about what we were going to create and decided on a poker and rake for our woodburning stove that we use in the Glawning when we are camping. My husband had suggested that we kept the length of the poker to a maximum of 13” so that it could be kept inside the stove when not in use, and whilst we did make him one, we made a full sized one too.

As a complete novice, I was a bit nervous, but we soon got stuck into creating my steel ‘masterpieces’.  We started by drawing down the end of the square steel rod to form the handle for the poker and then the rake. This was then curved to form a hook for hanging. We then heated the middle of the rods and twisted them to form a decorative spiral, one of which was cut first on all four sides to create a more elaborate twist.

And all this was done before lunchtime! Lunch was a lovely, large plateful of spicy porkballs served with a choice of cous cous, rice or noodles, handmade by Sue. It was absolutely delicious. After a fantastic hearty feed and a good natter, we returned to our blacksmithing.

Using a technique called ‘upsetting’(the opposite of drawing) we pushed in the end of the poker to produce a thicker profile. We then produced the point by drawing down the end, which made the poker look very professional and gives it a fantastic finish.

We completed the rake by flattening the end and then turning this to create a right angle. This was then doubled back on itself to create the fancy rake end.

Once the items had been cleaned using a wire brush (by Robin, whilst Daren and I drank tea and ate biscuits in the toasty kitchen – thanks Robin), we then covered the hot items with beeswax and wiped clean – this protects them against rusting.

I love my ‘makes’ and thoroughly enjoyed my blacksmithing taster day. Daren and Robin were patient and friendly, and were fantastic tutors. They are passionate and very obviously love what they do – it would be hard not to join in.

I was really pleased that I can swing a hammer with the best of them, maybe not quite as forcefully as others but effective nonetheless. My upper right arm and shoulder did ache a little bit on Saturday morning but it was all worthwhile. Such a brilliant day, I will be recommending it to everyone.

Crafting is very good for the soul. Amen.