Earlier this week PJ Preuss (our historic preservation officer) and I drove over the mountain to Aligerville, New York to pay a visit to local blacksmith, Jonathan Nedbor. The purpose of the visit was to drop off a thumb latch from the Abraham Hasbrouck house for Jonathan to look at and reproduce. I tagged along because I have been looking at iron hardware this semester and thought it would be beneficial to see where this material was actually made.
Upon first entering Jonathan’s shop, I immediately realized that I was in a special place. Everywhere you looked all you saw was metal. Floor to ceiling were pieces of metal, tools, anvils, and plenty of items which were completely new to me. It was overwhelming being in a shop like this, surrounded by one man’s life’s work.
Aside from being a very friendly man and a highly skilled blacksmith, Jonathan is an expert on both the chemistry of blacksmithing, welding, and the history of metalworking. He was great at sharing his knowledge, and was happy to give me an introduction into the art of blacksmithing. He spoke at length about a variety of different topics such as the history of iron mines in the area, how steel is refined, and the chemical properties of different metals. Listening to Jonathan you could instantly recognize his passion for his craft.
The thing that struck me the most, however, was something that Jonathan said: “You never just make anything”. In fact, it’s his mantra. Jonathan not only makes the objects, but he also makes the tools which enable him to work the metal to make the objects. This process comes only after years of study and practice. What Jonathan is saying is there is an entire series of things that must be done before the end product is created. Jonathan obviously takes pride in the entire process of metal working, which is an example that everyone should follow. It is a philosophy that works for any undertaking.
~Matt Moskowitz, intern
Also see, A Bunch of Nails.