Blacksmiths have been an integral part of human development since 1200 BC. Considered by many as the world’s first engineers, a blacksmith’s ability to mold and shape metal into a variety of determined shapes and sizes has always been a valued skill throughout history.
These skilled craftsmen, whose techniques were forged when steel and other precious resources became readily available, were known for their coveted ability to repair and build almost anything. During this time blacksmiths were highly regarded members of their communities due to their ability to build what others couldn’t - shape tools, weapons and make repairs to otherwise useless items. In some villages Blacksmiths were considered magicians for their knowledge of metallurgy and ability to forge something from nothing.
This unique skill set carried over into future generations and even found a place in the early history of the western United States.
At the better part of the 18th century farmers who lacked the proper tools and skills to do the work found themselves in desperate need to repair and manipulate metals such as steel. In those days farmers would take their needed repairs to a blacksmith who would repair the tools for a determined price and the farmer would return upon completion.
Something dramatically changed however during the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of machinery and the increased manufacturing of raw materials. Molding steel into specific designs became almost second nature, and instead of tools being repaired it became cheaper to replace old items with brand new ones.
However, for one Mountain Area blacksmith metal work still remains a way of life.
As a young man Steven Jacobs can remember watching his father work with his hands forging custom tools and fixing machinery on his families ranch on Oak Grove Road. All the while Jacobs developed a unique passion for the rare skill set.
“I’ve always loved working with my hands and that’s the way I’ve been my whole life, and I’ve been interested in metal work,” Jacobs said.
As a retired Forest Service fire-engineer captain, Jacobs initially took his passion for metal work to local fairs and conventions where he could be seen forging different metals into works of art or customized tools. He is currently contracted with the Mariposa County Fair and has done work during Heritage Days, at the Coarsegold Museum and the Mariposa History Museum.
Considering himself a maker of custom metal work, Jacobs now spends his days heating steel to an upwards of 2,000 degrees, using anvils, shapers, tongs, chisels and punches to create whatever is needed. He then fine tunes those creations using a vise and file. For his larger and more difficult work Jacobs uses what is know to blacksmiths as an electric power hammer which he says can cut his time to 1/10 the time it takes to make a normal piece of work.
Jacobs continues to participate in local renaissance fairs and travels all over the west coast discovering new innovated groups of blacksmiths and forgers. And as a member of the Renaissance guild in Fresno Jacobs will be participating in a Fresno Pirate Fair at Kearney Park May 15-16, and at the Kearney Renaissance Faire in Nov. He can be seen showcasing his blacksmithing talents fully clothed in authentic 14th century blacksmith attire.
Jacobs said much of his inspiration and creativity comes from upcycling broken or damaged items he finds at old hardware stores or garage sales.
Specializing in more fine work Jacobs loves making personalized artworks and fictionally inspired work. Jacobs claims his passions for metal work currently revolves around another passion of his, Steampunk - a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy literature that commonly features some aspect of steam-powered machinery.
After spending more than 20 years perfecting his skills at different shops Jacobs found that his talent still has a place in the world, albeit may not be what most would think.
Although not as popular as during medievil times, folks all across the world are still in need of hand-crafted, customized steel work. From bottle openers to camping accessories, more and more people are willing to pay for the luxury of hand-crafted metal work, leading to the revitalization of a once dying industry.
Following several inquiries about his projects and how someone would go about making those very same items Jacobs decided to turn his hobby into an official business by opening his own metal work business - Wizard’s Workshop and Forge. Jacobs now acts as a broker for those who are looking to find the unique and sometimes rare metal work such as anvils which he imports from all over the world and distributes across the nation.
Now days Jacobs finds his shop filled to the brim with new and used anvils and other blacksmithing equipment that is either hand wrought or cast steel. Many of the anvils can weigh as much as 700 pounds and can cost in the upwards of the thousands of dollars.
Jacobs not only makes customized items but also holds classes where he teaches individuals how to create rustic, yet modern, looking props for a wide variety of craft shows.
“Anyone with an interest in Blacksmith should feel free to contact me,” Jacobs said.
For more information on the Wiazard’s Workshop and Forge or to schedule a class with Jacobs visit Wizard Workshop and Forge on Facebook or go online to wizardsworkshopforge.com/.