Building a blacksmithing program for Boy Scout Camp
Or How the Al Bart grant has brought smithing to hundreds of young men.
I wanted to take a moment and let you know about an ongoing project that I’ve been a part of for the last few years. I apologize for the length of this post, but I thought you might like to know the whole story and the progress thus far.
First, a bit of background:
Old Cedar Forge Workshop
In 2008, I attended a blacksmithing workshop by Jerry Culberson at Old Cedar Forge, with help from the Al Bart grant. I had been doing smithing on my own for a couple of years before that, but all my education was from books & videos, plus watching a few live demos. This was my first opportunity for hands-on instructor-led learning. The workshop was fantastic, and I met some great folks, and had the opportunity to get some instruction from Dean Mook and Tri Ficker, as they were assisting Jerry in running the class.
Some pictures from the workshop can be found HERE.
Boy Scout Troop 53
In May of that year, I invited my son’s Boy Scout Troop to come to my home and learn the Metalwork Merit Badge. I tried to pass along many of the same lessons I had learned in Jerry’s class. Since the badge requirements are remarkably similar to what we learned in the workshop, it was a great way to pass the knowledge forward. A dozen or so boys attended and had a great time learning to shape steel. Photos of the event can be found HERE.
Hahobas Boy Scout Camp, 2008
Later that summer, when I prepared to take my son off to Boy Scout Camp, I had an idea. I phoned up the camp director and said, “How about if I bring my blacksmithing equipment up to camp and teach the metalwork merit badge for a week?” Needless to say, they were overjoyed to have me there. We didn’t have any free buildings or structures to set up, due to the short notice, but the weather was great, so we built our “smithy” by just setting up equipment in a clearing next to the lake. I taught metalworking to boys the whole week (in between camping with my son’s troop). While we were using a gas forge, there was something very appropriate about setting up in the shade under the trees. Longfellow’s poem was often quoted that summer.
Some pictures from camp that year can be found HERE.
Getting serious about teaching at camp, 2009
The next year, I decided it was time to get serious about offering metalwork instruction at scout camp. We cleared some land and built a temporary structure- a 10×20 building with a tin roof and 4×4 posts to hold it up. I took 5 weeks off work and taught blacksmithing at camp for the entire camp season. I estimate we had around 100 boys come through the program that summer, and it was one of the highlights of camp. Things got a little crowded in the smithy sometimes, but we managed. It was a great summer- we even experimented with making our own charcoal, using an article in one of the old issues of the Hot Iron News to teach us how. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the article’s author was Al Bart, as it gave me another chance to “carry forward” his knowledge.
Here’s some pics from that season of camp: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tmib/se…7618993244139/
Doubling our space, 2010
In 2010, we cleared more land around our “smithy” building and used canvas tarps to extend the working area. While we couldn’t run forges underneath the tarps, it did provide cover from rain and sun for scouts to work. I welded legs onto a huge piece of steel and it became our table for the scouts to bang on when working. I even put a forge near it, and some scouts used the table for their anvil.
Since I couldn’t take 5 weeks off work again, I was only at camp for two weeks, but I taught another adult staff member, and another youth staff (<18) how to run the program in my absence. They did well, and the smithing program continued for all 5 weeks of camp. I didn’t get a count of how many boys came through the smithy that year, but I know it was more than the year before.
Here’s some pics from the 2010 summer season:
A permanent smithy! 2011
We’ve determined that the temporary building we made won’t suit our needs, so we’re going to build a permanent building at camp to serve as the smithy, and to help continue the blacksmithing program for years to come. We were able to fund building construction partially through a grant from the National Order of the Arrow, but are still working on fundraisers to finish building construction. It’s our goal to have the building ready and usable before camp this summer. The new building will be quadruple the size of our original “temporary” shelter, and will be able to be secured so tools and equipment can be stored on-site, rather than having to haul them in each time. This will not only help the summer camp program, but enables us to use the smithy in the off season as well, since it won’t take an entire weekend just to set up the facility.
A plea for help: tools needed.
Right now the program is surviving through the efforts of some dedicated volunteers, using equipment I made or donated. We have one “real” anvil, and a half-dozen railroad tracks on stumps for the scouts to use for anvils. We have two post vises and one bench vise. We have 5 small coal forges (mostly homemade) , and I hope to bring my homemade gas forge up to camp this year as well.
However, with the growing size of the program and the hope to expand to running weekend events in the off-season as well ,we need more tools and equipment. Even small things like tongs or other hand tools are very valuable.
If you have any extra equipment (anvils, forges, hammers, tongs, vises, hardie tools, swages, etc.) that you would be willing to part with, please let me know. (I can see to it that you get a receipt from the council if you want to claim the value of the tool on your taxes as a charitable donation.)
Even if you don’t have extra tools to spare, please consider spending an evening making something to donate. Tongs and other tools are not difficult to make, but trying to produce enough tools for 20-30 boys to use takes some time.
Another plea for help: Funds.
As noted, we’re working to build a permanent smithy at camp, and while the grant from the national OA helps immensely, we’re not yet fully funded. Any donations to help the program would be welcome. If we exceed our goals and raise more than what is needed to build the building, any additional funds will go toward the program itself- for example to buy steel, coal, aprons, safety glasses, tools, etc.
I can be reached at John@JohnTheBlacksmith.US (The boys all know me as “John The Blacksmith”, as it’s easier for them to remember and say than “Tracy Lauricella” J )