Berlin Duo Turns Metalworking Hobby Into Business
By CHARLENE SHARPE
The Daily Times of Salisbury
BERLIN, Md. (AP) — Looking to repurpose your old railroad spikes?
Maybe not, but you can purchase a knife made from one from the two men behind West Street Forgeries.
Since November, Berlin residents Brett Smith and Ryan Nellans have been busy forging knives and utensils from things like railroad spikes and horse shoes. Through trial and error, the duo has started to turn the backyard hobby into a moneymaking enterprise.
“Everything costs money,” Smith said, pointing to their equipment and supplies. “If you can sell a little, it goes over
better with the family.”
Smith, a longtime knife collector, said he began forging at the urging of a friend last fall.
Once he’d obtained a gas-fired forge, which heats metal to more than 1,500 degrees so it can be shaped, he began experimenting with used metal, such as old railroad spikes and used horse shoes.
“Watching steel glow red hot and molding it is fascinating,” Smith said in between projects recently, sporting protective
glasses and a thick leather apron.
Once he saw what Smith was doing, Nellans was quick to get involved.
“It’s the manliest version of a creative process I’ve ever been a part of,” he said, adding he’d been intrigued by the art of
blacksmithing even in video games.
After working with just the forge and an old railroad tie as an anvil, the pair has moved on to working with a true anvil and a century-old vise in a rustic, log-built shop they created themselves. The log beams forming the perimeter of the shop are even held together with wooden pegs instead of modern day nails.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Smith said.
Although blades are their main interest, Smith and Nellans have started working on other projects such as barbecue utensils and tent spikes. Their latest effort is a cable Damascus blade — a knife blade forged from a high tensile steel cable. Nellans hopes to turn it into a chef’s knife.
“That’s going to be a beauty,” he said, removing the still-glowing metal cable from the vise after twisting and tightening it.
Smith said he was also working on turning a rasp, used by blacksmiths on horses’ hooves, into something like a machete.
“A knife can be a collector’s item,” he said. “But a lot of times it’s just a good tool you need for a job.”
While prices vary for their creations, Smith said they’ve sold knives — with handmade leather sheaths — for as much as $225.
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md. www.delmarvanow.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)