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White hot metal melds with students

Craig Hartrampt, The Clackamas Print
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Volume 45, Issue 24

As you enter the warehouse sized shop, "tang tang tang" is all you can hear. Student blacksmiths are pounding out new creations from steel and other metals to form something they can imagine in their minds, forming new shapes like artistic forks and more simple things like a rod that's been modified to fit into a specific device. The class is Welding 103, an elective that any student can participate in. Whether it's a welder expanding his skills to be more marketable or an artist who's trying to learn a new form of art to express himself in, blacksmithing is open for just about anyone.

Adam Buell is a blacksmithing assistant who started as a student in the class and stayed with it volunteering until he was offered a job helping out. Buell shed some light on the history about this ever increasingly popular class.

"[Blacksmithing] started off six years ago, but it lacked structure and direction, and it wasn't until Bert Romans took things over did the class really have a structured material and direction," said Buell. "We now start with learning hooks and we go from there to more complicated things."

Welding and blacksmithing instructor Romans contributed to the class and how it's structured.

"We start with the basics of blacksmithing for example, basic concepts like metal manipulation, tools, heat control and the metal itself," said Romans.

Romans admits that there is a steep learning curve at first.

"Like using a hammer, a lot of people don't know how to use a hammer correctly. But after [students] get used to it, it isn't as hard," he said.

Buell says blacksmithing has lost its popularity and was dying from the '50s all the way to the '90s. Romans also said over time, with new technology advancing through the years, blacksmithing had become archaic. However the class is becoming more popular. Romans credited the new popularity of the class due to the fact that blacksmithing has many artistic uses as well as commercial.

"If you want to use [blacksmithing] as an art, it opens up a whole new world for you. With blacksmithing, you can make [art] more organic," said Romans. "It's like an artist. They start off with a blank piece for paper and draw an apple or something weird. Blacksmithing is the same thing. I can make a tree stump with branches growing from every which way and out."

Jonah Baker, a student at Clackamas Community College, enjoys blacksmithing with a passion. "I want to pursue this as much as I can. I'd like to make it as an interior designer, even if it's just as a hobby," he said.

Baker had a prior interest in it before he started, unlike fellow student Ben Cooper, who is seeking his associate's in manufacturing. He took the class for a very different reason.

"I took the class to fill out the two remaining credits to go full time and it ended up being fun," said Cooper.

Both Baker and Cooper agreed that one of the more important skills taught in the class was how to use a hammer properly.

When it comes to job seeking, Cooper said, "Clackamas Community College is well known for their welding and blacksmithing in the Portland manufacturing business."

This opens up a lot of potential for students who want a job, not only coming from a highly regarded source, but one that's also close to home. When asked about how well the blacksmithing class is, Cooper gave it nine out of ten.

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