At work with Alison: blacksmith

PRESTON COUNTY, W.Va. (WDTV) - Becoming a blacksmith was never something Andrew Rice set out to do. Four years ago, Andrew was in grad school studying physics and picked up the metal working trade by chance.

Blacksmith Andrew Rice forges a hammer.

"My in-laws bought me a weekend blacksmith class at Arthurdale Heritage and I took to it like I had done it in another life," Andrew said.

After a year of perfecting his craft, Andrew opened Sky Forge Metal Works in 2014.

"My wife said 'let's do a business', so we just dove in."

Andrew is mostly self-taught, and says that anyone interested in learning the trade should attend a class. Once you have materials, he says, you can find videos online to help you learn at home.

Today, Andrew taught me how to make his very first project: a decorative wall hook.

"With forging, you can create unusual shapes and fluid movement through the steel."

First, the metal gets heated in a coal fire, then placed on the anvil to be hammered. This process gets repeated until the metal is shaped.

Then, the hook gets smoothed down and a hole is drilled in the top. Andrew finishes his projects with a beeswax polish to give them an organic, black sheen.

"It's a mixture of that romanticism of forged work with the modern welding and machining."

Being a modern day blacksmith certainly has it's challenges.

"The hardest thing about running a modern forging business is making a living at it. 25 percent is probably the actual working time in the studio and the other 75 percent is spent marketing to clients."

However, hard work doesn't scare Andrew away; it's just something that comes with the territory of his craft.

"It's very demanding of your entire body and mind; that's the challenge that keeps me going, it's a good hobby and there's a good brotherhood with it, and you get to create things by hammering."

If you're interested in purchasing a piece or taking a class with Andrew, visit the related link.