Blacksmith for a Day  

The Door County Historical Society will present the program “Blacksmith for a Day” on Friday, July 7 or Saturday, July 8 at the Heritage Village at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay.

The program idea came from Heritage Village visitors who watched the blacksmiths at work since 2009. They often commented, “I would like to try this sometime,” explained blacksmith volunteer Al Briggs. Blacksmith for a Day is a great opportunity to try blacksmithing before investing $150 for a 16-hour/4-week class. The program is an opportunity to experience elementary blacksmithing. “Participants will leave with a small item made either an “S” hook or leaf; they will have an opportunity to see what iron can do,” explained blacksmith volunteer Larry Stuth. Depending on their natural skills, the blacksmithing participant may need an hour or four hours depending on their natural skills working with metal. Program participants should wear cotton fabric and bring safety glasses. The fee for the program is the admission to the Heritage Village ($6 for adults) and $10 for the program. Participants may be as young as six years of age, but must have a parent present, as they work alongside a local blacksmith in a traditional blacksmith shop.

Blacksmiths were once as important to a community as a doctor is today. They made everything from nails for construction to forks for eating. Prior to Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin machine in 1793, all rifles were handmade by a blacksmith; no two rifles were alike. Our community in the 18th century created an unprecedented need for blacksmiths to make metal parts for the sailing ships: pulleys, cleats, brackets, and anchor chain. Shipbuilders needed hammers, chisels, saws, nails and bolts; the blacksmiths made them. Loggers needed saws and axes as well as chains and hooks. Homesteaders needed hardware and house wares, most made by the blacksmith.

A special feature of the program for Village guests will be viewing of the “Ulfberh+t” sword fashioned by Richard Furrer of Door County Forgeworks for the Nova National Geographic special “Secrets of the Viking Sword.” Using cutting edge science and old-fashioned detective work, they were able to reconstruct this ancient marvel using “crucible,” high carbon steel. “To do it right, it is the most complicated thing I know how to make,” he said. “To be able to make a weapon from dirt is a pretty powerful thing,” explained Richard, “But, to make a weapon that could bend without breaking, stay so sharp, and weigh so little would be regarded as supernatural.”

The Door County Historical Society’s Heritage Village at Big Creek is located at 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, adjacent to the Collins Learning Center. The program will be held on July 7 and 8 from 10-2 and has a special fee of $10 per participant, in addition to the daily adult admission fee of $6. The Village is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10-3. For further information, contact the Door County Historical Society at (920) 421-2332 or

The Door County Historical Society is a membership organization dedicated to keeping history alive for future generations through the collection, preservation and sharing of the heritage of Door County. The Society operates two interpretive sites: Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park and the Heritage Village at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay.

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