By Samantha Lambert
Blacksmithing began during the Iron Age, around 1200 B.C., when people across much of Europe, Asia and parts of Africa began making tools and weapons from iron and steel. A blacksmith—also called a smith—was a craftsman whose job was to make things by hand out of metal that had been heated to a high temperature over a forge. The forge was used by the blacksmith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature where it becomes soft enough to shape by hammering on it.
According to a September 2016 Washington Post article: “The revival of handcrafted metalwork is reflected in the increasing number of blacksmiths across the country. Since 1973, the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America has grown from 92 members to 4,087 today.”
Locally, Master Craftsman David Sandlin is playing a role in the revival of blacksmithing with his business Traditions Workshop. Sandlin, who is retired from the military, opened Traditions Workshop in November 2017. “Growing up, I was always tinkering and building. I was a carpenter’s aide to my dad when I was twelve,” he tells Beachcomber.
Traditions Workshop is dedicated to the passing on of their craft skills. When apprentices and journeymen (workers who have learned a trade and work for another person) come to the shop, they experience the Scandinavian concept of Slöjd, Slöjd is the time-honored practice of handcraft using traditional tools to create objects for everyday use in and around the home. The workshop is a hybrid shop where power tools can be found as well as planes, saws, scrapers, adzes, needles and thread.
Traditions Workshop is an extended family business. Sandlin’s son Christopher is a Journeyman Blacksmith and Woodturner. His daughter Jessica is a Journeyman dressmaker and designer of band saw boxes. Sandlin’s wife of 29 years, Anna, is a painter and a seamstress. Billy Hay is a Journeyman Blacksmith who is expanding his craftsman skills to furniture restoration and repair. Hay’s wife Jennifer adds woodburning to the set of skills in the shop.
Sandlin and Hay are members of the Florida Artists Blacksmithing Association (FABA) Panhandle Chapter. They will host the January and February meetings on the fourth Saturdays of each month. Anyone is welcome at the FABA meetings. FABA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to teaching and preserving the art and craft of the blacksmith. First formed in 1984, FABA is an affiliate of the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America (ABANA).
Traditions Workshop offers an Introduction to Blacksmithing class at the Heritage Museum of Northwest Florida in Valparaiso which covers basic forge techniques, hammer control, safety and teamwork. This class is required before you can attend other classes or make use of open forge time. If you want to have access to a blacksmithing studio, Traditions Workshop offers “Forge on Friday” twice a month. Class projects include a fire poker and a set of tongs.
Traditions Workshop also works with Rocky Bayou Christian School students during their “JAN” term, where they come to the shop for one week of intensive blacksmithing. Students make hooks and nails, belt buckles and bottle openers. “It’s about experiencing real life in business,” says Sandlin.
“We are old school. Our shop opens up opportunities for people to experience traditional craftwork. It’s exciting because you can’t really experience this in school anymore.”
The Tradition Workshop Folk School classes at the Heritage Museum include Introduction to Blacksmithing, Introduction to Woodturning, Forge on Friday, and Introduction to Timber Framing. Participants must be 12 years of age. For more information, visit www.traditionsworkshop.com.
The shop is located at 418 Green Acres Road in Fort Walton Beach.