Saturday, January 23, 2010

Michael McCarthy - Demonstrator Profile

Michael McCarthy

" My mission, in simplest terms, is to "Preserve, study, advance and exchange the techniques of the pre-industrial metalworker, In order to help build independence and productivity in those who may benefit from it."

" My vision statement, in part an effort to clarify the above: "Foster and develop an environment of study and research. Present the craft to those with interest. Provide a clearinghouse of information as regards the craft. Help to provide a voice for traditional crafters. Seek out opportunities to teach others."

" I became intrigued with the work of Paul Spaulding and went looking for an apprenticeship with him. I thought I would stay in his shop for a year or so and "bone up" on my forging skills. Seems laughable to me now. Five years later (2005), I find myself running the shop (at the Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown NY).

" My dream had long been to create an axe. Now I have made axes, using old tire iron or other sources, and welding in steel bits. What I am talking about is creating an axe. Starting with nothing and ending up with an axe..."

Replicas of Colonial Period hammers (wrought iron with welded steel faces)

" Since I can remember, I have been fascinated by the idea of sole authorship, the making of artifacts that can be attributed to one person and one person alone, without the imprint of another living soul. This is what brought me to blacksmithing in the first place. Looking for ways and means to make my own tooling, my own hardware, etc... I stumbled onto a trade so grand, so varied, so difficult that even a flighty gen-X'er like myself couldn't get bored with it. "

The Campbell Pipe Tomahawk
A recreation of a revolutionary war era tomahawk

Found on the Campbell property after the Revolutionary war era raid on the town of Cherry Valley, the axe stayed within the Campbell family for years before being donated to the Museum. The axe must have been quite a treasure for its day. Made of wrought iron with a welded steel bit, it is decorated with a series of punched and incised dots that elevate it from the status of many others in its class. The handle itself is treated in similar fashion, with a panoply of animal fetishes and arrows of poured pewter; it boasts brass tacks at the interstices of its designs. This attention to detail was by no means uncommon, as these pieces tended to be made and given as commemorative items.

This axe is not a reproduction, but rather it was inspired by an 18thc. axe attributed to Richard Butler. It is Made of wrought iron, with a welded steel bit. The bowl is cast silver and the end cap and handle bands are fabricated silver. The inlay is silver and gold. The handle is Tiger Maple with inlaid silver bands.

Mike's original web site is now only available in archive, so the information there is dated (to 2005!) and does not detail his recent achievements. Mike was instrumental in the creation of the Early Iron series of smelting symposiums.

Also on Mike's (archived) web site: a full discussion on forging hammer heads and building a great bellows.

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