Blacksmithing melds into hobby for teen

December 26, 2010|BY TIFFANY ARNOLD |
  • Michael Donmoyer, 17, began his hobby as a blacksmith when he was 13.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Video games? Forget about it.

Michael Donmoyer has a hobby of turning rods of metal into taffy.

Michael is a 17-year-old blacksmith, a hobby he's had since he was 13.

It started with a fascination with wanting to create swords he saw in movies like "The Lord of the Rings," said his father, Roger Donmoyer, who is a pilot. Then, Michael's parents Roger and Beth Donmoyer encouraged him to shadow a few local blacksmiths. They didn't have him forging swords, but the process of making metal goods proved to be just as rewarding. Now he's generally the youngest blacksmith at hammer-ins -- a blacksmiths' version of a quilting guild.

He works in a shed paces away from his family's home north of Hagerstown, where he forges things as simple as iron hooks or  as elaborate as five-foot lantern posts.

"I thought it would be harder," Michael said, while crafting the beginnings of an iron hook.

He starts by igniting a bed of soft coals in what looks like a stove, albeit one whose top is covered with smoldering coals. Smoke is swept up and out of the shed's roof through a pipe. Michael inserts an iron rod into the flame once the flames started to glow bright orange. Temperatures must reach around 1,500 degrees in order to manipulate the metal.

It only takes a half minute for the rod to turn fluorescent orange.

Michael then removes the rod from the flame and hovers it over a 400-pound anvil, beginning the tedious work of banging and bending the rod into a decorative hook, about as simple as it gets. A candle holder, for example, would take about an hour to make.

"It takes a lot of endurance," Michael said.

The hammers can weigh 3 to 5 pounds, more or less depending on what you're forging. The process of forging requires a blacksmith to reinsert the metal into the flames. In order to manipulate the metal, it cannot cool off too much, Michael said, otherwise it will break.

Michael said family and friends of family are usually the recipients of his hand-forged wares. In fact, he made the candle holders and a crucifix on the family table the day of the interview. He has done demonstrations at parks in Pennsylvania and for his school, Heritage Academy, west of Hagerstown.

As to where blacksmithing fits into his long-term plans, Michael said he's not sure. Soccer is his other big hobby.

"Blacksmithing will just be a hobby for me," he said, "probably not a career."

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