Why Did Chambers Architects Use Age Old Blacksmithing Techniques On A Ranch Project?
The design for the J-5 Cutting Horse Ranch by Stephen B. Chambers Architects’ required authentic wrought iron elements to blend with the character of the ranch, as it might have existed in Texas in the late 1800s. Texas architect, Steve Chambers paid a visit to Homestead Heritage Forge in Elm Mott, Texas, to discuss the West Texas project. Walking through the double doors of Caleb Nolen’s forge, he found a craftsman possessing the historic skill and artistry of village blacksmiths of Early Texas. Blacksmithing was once so essential in supporting agrarian community life that no town could function properly without a local blacksmith. In 2014, these skills have almost disappeared.
It was Chambers’ intent that all of the wrought iron work would be done in an authentic fashion of the late 1800s, which exhibited historic forging and connection techniques. In modern wrought iron work, two pieces of metal are connected by electric or gas welding. During the late 1800s, this was not available to local blacksmiths who employed pegged and forged connections. Chambers’ designs required these authentic historic details.
At Homestead Heritage Forge, Steve had the rare opportunity to watch blacksmiths work with a variety of tools and techniques that demonstrated the ancient skills employed in blacksmithing. As the blacksmith pumped the bellows to heat the fire in the forge, sparks flew while pieces of raw steel in the fire turned from glowing red to white hot. The blacksmith pulled the white-hot steel from the forge and placed it on an anvil, which rang with hammer blows as he shaped hot iron.