Georgia Magazine - March 2018 - 31
Blacksmith archivists, such as Matt McGee in
Milledgeville, have spent recent years tracking and
saving the legacy of the movement that revived the craft
in Georgia in the 1970s. In 1973, Ivan Bailey, Alex Bealer
and other businessmen from Atlanta brought 47 traditionalists and academic professionals to Historic Westville,
a living-history experience in Lumpkin that since has
closed but plans to reopen in Columbus this fall,
for a conference to renew blacksmithing.
During the conference, the group founded the
Artist-Blacksmiths Association of North America
with 27 members. The association is now the
world's largest blacksmithing group, with more than
4,000 members. Bealer wrote the well-known "The
Art of Blacksmithing," which includes more than
500 illustrations that describe the equipment and
techniques developed more than 6,000 years ago to
work with iron.
"Bealer knew that everything started with metal
tools. Without tools, humans aren't humans," says
McGee, who runs his own blacksmithing and glassblowing shop in Ocmulgee County. "He saw a blacksmithing demonstration in Milledgeville in the 1960s that
changed everything. That's when it basically came back
from the dead in Georgia."
McGee has toured the new Historic Westville facility in Columbus, part of which is dedicated to Bealer's
research on blacksmithing.
"Blacksmithing tends to be a journey of self and
challenging your ego," McGee says. "That's why more
people want to be involved. They're freeing themselves
Daniel Moye creates one knife a week at his Cattle Dog Forge in
Watkinsville. One of his handmade knives is at left.
from technology, corporations and materialism."
McGee, who has served in leadership roles for the
Southern Blacksmith Association Conference and the
Ocmulgee Blacksmiths Guild, has watched interest in
the craft grow in recent years. Now TV series such as
"Forged in Fire," "Milwaukee Blacksmith" and "Iron &
Fire" on the History Channel show what it's like to work
with molten metal.
"I call 2018 the great awakening for blacksmithing,"
McGee says. "Everyone wants to get off the grid and
produce something they have pride in. It's the difference
between making your own thing and buying it from the
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Matthew McGee of Milledgeville shows the whimsical side of
blacksmithing. He is active in several efforts to preserve the craft's
history and promote its future.
Throughout the state, blacksmiths and bladesmiths
have started small shops that serve customers regularly.
Many of these workers have other full-time jobs, but in
their free time, they're out in the shop, tinkering and
About 10 miles south of Rome, Chad Matthews, an
officer with the Floyd County Police Department, handforges tools from the mid-1700s to early 1800s in the
tiny town of Wax. His shop, Old South Forge, focuses
on knives, forks, spoons, campfire spits and tomahawks.
He doesn't use any power tools during the process and
hammers the pieces by hand from start to finish.
"I enjoy getting a sense of what it was like back then
to not have the luxury of modern technology," he says.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org