One 21-year-old in Grunthal is learning the art and craft of being a blacksmith.
Tracy Friesen says he started six years ago by using the home fireplace and has since upgraded to building himself a shop with a forge, anvil, and lots of metal to work with. Friesen notes he became interested in metal crafting after watching fantasy or medieval movies such as Lord of the Rings and fascinating about creating swords or suits of armour.
He says he has read a few articles and watched videos online, but the hands-on trial and error learning has helped him the most in growing his skill as a blacksmith.
"For my suit of armour I have a shirt of chain mail and it's just made out of electric fence wire that I've wound into links, then I cut those links apart and then just link them and bend them all together. The whole cost for that shirt of mail probably cost only a few dollars, but I've put probably 150 hours into that one shirt, just making those links, sitting in front of the TV and bending them together over, and over, and over."
Friesen notes he keeps most of the items for himself because they're things he'd like to have, and making them is much more of an accomplishment than going out and buying the same thing. He adds, he was at the Cooks Creek Medieval Festival last summer where he had pieces for sale and was creating items live for people to watch the process.
He says through his hands-on learning and trying new techniques, he's learned, "forge welding and making Damascus steel. [That's when you] forge weld different plates of steel, different kinds of steel together, then folding it and welding it together, and folding it and welding it together, and shaping it into a blade or a tool. Once it's done and all polished up, you can see the different layers in it and it also strengthens the metal."
Friesen adds he's made two gauntlets which took close to 40 hours to complete. He says he made them by riveting 36 plates together and then hand-pounding each one until they articulate properly.
He says he would like to start diving into bigger projects and eventually craft himself a sword.