A Man Out of Time

The Vulcan may be the most obvious reminder of Birmingham’s roots in steel but since taking his perch on the side of Red Mountain, his hammer has been frozen in time. Meanwhile, in Helena, AL, if you happen by on the right day, you might find Glynn Holmes firing the forge mounted on his backyard brick pavilion. He will likely be working over the large anvil he scouted out in Ohio. Nearby, a couple of scoops of bituminous coal are glowing and an assortment of tools—definitely not standard hardware store stock—are at hand. His selection of hammers weighs from a few ounces to eight pounds, at the heaviest, and with the proper tool in hand, shaping the glowing metal, he asserts, requires more patience than strength.

Although Glynn’s shoulder span is not quite the ten feet wide of the Vulcan’s, his no-nonsense stance and very firm handshake are telling of his interest and practice of blacksmithing since 1991. He creates traditional architectural elements, knives, cookware and grilling utensils. Via workshops taken over the years devoted to specialized techniques, he has produced hammered copper vessels and lidded boxes and even a beautifully sculpted “genuine steel magnolia”.

An active member of the Alabama Forge Council, Glynn invites all to the 20th Anniversary Celebration upcoming April 4-6, at the Tannehill Ironworks, located eleven miles west of Bessemer. The AFC is a nonprofit organization comprised of over 600 professional, amateur and beginning smiths and whose current president, Dr. Jim Batson, is a retired rocket scientist from Redstone Arsenal.

During this weekend event, one can view the extensive knife show that includes axes and tomahawks, see demonstrations of knife grinding, leather work (sheathes) and scrimshaw techniques. In the Old Timey Rendezvous Area, past demonstrators will be in period dress and use primitive tools (read: no electricity here) to create knives from start to finish.

If you’ve ever wanted to try wielding a hammer yourself, there is a Hands-on Introduction to Forgework for adults and, this year, a special area for youth, ages 8+ (with on-site parental supervision only) to experience working with Green Coal.

The primary demonstrators during this weekend are Wade Coulter, descendant of Mountain Man Jim Coulter, and Rick Dunkerley from Montana. One-of-a-kind Damascus and fixed blade knives by these ABS Mastersmith knife makers are works of art that may bring from $2500 – $10,000 from collectors. Richard Williams from Dollywood, TN, and Alan Longmire, who specializes in hand and pipe axes and tomahawks are also featured demonstrators

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