My Time at the Pieh Tool Blacksmithing Class: "the Bill Pieh Resource for Metalwork”
Last year I purchased a hammer and some tongs from Pieh Tool, and experienced some interest in Blacksmith classes. Pieh Tool, at the time, was not set up for people to stay on campus. So I was not really interested and declined on that pretense.
October of this year, 2007, Amy Pieh contacted me. She said her bunkhouse was complete and she would like to extend a $55 off tuition price. Being from Delaware and Pieh Tool being in Arizona I was faced with other concerns. Such as, travel to Arizona and transportation to Pieh Tool. I went on the internet and found a round trip ticket and rental car for the weekend for $400, I thought this was reasonable. But for a ground total of $800, I was still apprehensive. I told myself “what the heck-call it a vacation!” I flew into Arizona, and basically I was on one road for about an hour and a half and I was there.
The lodging was good with TV, computer in the room that has a DSL internet connection, good continental breakfast and hot tub. I was very comfortable with the lodging. Enough about that now the meat and potatoes.
Gordon Williams, Instructor
Beginning of class was the usual drill, introduction and safety.
Then Gordon gave a few demos of method and practice and a guide for our first project which was a leaf cup rack.
Then we got right to work; making parts for a leaf cup rack. While applying the techniques Gordon demonstrated while we were making our cup racks, Gordon was monitoring our progress doing demos of other projects on the fly encouraging our class to have more than one project going at a time.
Pieh Tool uses gas forges with about a 6 inch opening front and rear if you need to open it up. Although, I am a novice Blacksmith and like the nostalgic feeling of coal, I was quick to realize the advantages of a gas forge. One being you turn it on and off. Two more irons in a fire at once. Especially with Gordon being the driving force to have more than one project going at a time.
The shop was loaded with anvils, tongs, hammers, punches and anything you could possibly need to do the job. There is a wire feed welder there also for those projects that just need a touch of weld.
There is a Sahinler Power Hammer there and Gordon has a whole compliment of swages to work with. Not to mention, a huge selection of specialty jigs and fixtures that Gordon has either made himself or acquired.
Some of the projects that we worked on were:
Gordon allowed us to make our own projects. I made a rope twist candle holder, just because I wanted to use the power hammer. Actually what I think I liked most about Gordon was his aggressive demeanor as far as having more than one project going at a time. I made a great number of finished products which Amy was very kind to package and mail to my house, my expense for shipping of course.
Out of a class of about 6, which two have done blacksmithing before, three have not at all and one had some experience as a jewelry maker. I would say the project success rate was in the mid 90%. Gordon provided a lot of insights into finishes for metal, reference books and any other related questions about blacksmithing or non blacksmithing if you just want to ask aboutArizona, he was open.
I was going to provide a mini biography on Gordon, but it is not necessary. He is a good man with a humble spirit. He has a passion to pass on his knowledge, good enough for me. I was made to feel very comfortable during the class. I really liked the fact that Gordon, at a moments notice, was there assisting you.
If I could critique one thing, I would have to say either the tool and tong tray need to be shared by two stations. Or a better way is to perhaps make a combo forge and tool tray; it tends to get congested at times.
I am sure I left out a lot of content, but after all I am a machinist by trade, not a journalist. I would like to go back eventually, for a more advanced session.
At the end of the day what does it really matter what I learned if I meet good people and enjoy their company? For me learning is just a big bonus. We had a very diverse group of six students from totally different backgrounds but in the blacksmith shop we were like a homogenous team. I loved it! Enough said.
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My Time at the Pieh Tool Knifemaking Class with Ray Rybar: "the Bill Pieh Resource for Metalwork”
Good morning Amy and all the wonderful ladies at Pieh Tool. Thank you very much for all you did for us there this last weekend for the knife making class, it was a great learning experience, I learned more from Ray in three days than I have in the last three years. I would highly recommend this class to anyone interested in the craft. Again thank you very much and I look forward to seeing you all again.
September 18, 2012