Back in the early 70’s in California, as a member of the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team ONE* , I was looking for some “unusual” entertainment for my off- time hours. I found what I was looking for in the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international organization dedicated to the reenactment of historical times from A.D. 600 to A.D. 1600. My participation in the SCA called for me to engage in full force, full contact, un-choreographed armored combat. Reenacting the martial life of a 10th Century Viking, it was necessary to have REAL armor for my recreational pastime. At first I used borrowed armor, but eventually I decided I needed my own. While there are sources for such “novelty items” now, in the 21st Century, there really weren’t any places to purchase armor or weaponry in 1975. So, I had to learn to make my own. After some intense research in a local library, I began… and as I worked the metal, hammer in hand, creating my first combat helmet, I was reborn!
In the fullness of time my military service ended; I attended college and earned a degree in Computer Science. I worked as a Defense Analyst for several Aerospace/Defense firms, returned to college in pursuit of another degree in Slavic Studies, and began specializing in the Soviet Threat. My tasking involved analysis and evaluation of Soviet military technology, weaponry, and war philosophy, and the documentation of my findings. Through it all I still held onto my love of working with metal, and I continued to fight in armor as a recreational pastime nearly every weekend.
In 1991 and 1992, while living in Florida, I worked during the week with computers on Defense Contracts… and on the weekends I was a volunteer for the State of Florida’s Department of Parks and Recreation. In this capacity I served as the weekend blacksmith in Saint Augustine at the Living History Museum in the city’s restored Spanish Quarter.
My blacksmithing efforts remained at a part-time, recreational level until 1993 when severe downsizing within the entire Aerospace/Defense industry left me unemployed. Suddenly I was no longer working with the latest scientific developments associated with the “Star Wars” early warning and anti-missile project or the Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missile system. Instead I faced a “mid-life crisis” which was not of my own making. After nearly a year of unsuccessful job searching, I made the best of the situation and decided to turn my metal-working hobby into a full-time occupation.
In 1994 I began working as a blacksmith at Silver Dollar City – an 1880’s theme park in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.
In the early spring of 1998, while still employed by the theme park, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Ulyanovsk in Russia, and to live and work with five incredibly talented Masters of the blacksmithing art. For five weeks they put me through my paces, testing my skills and knowledge in every possible area. I was the only “student”, surrounded by five cordial but demanding masters, each asking me to perform different functions. Although I speak and read the Russian language, my college courses never included terminology and vocabulary specifically linked to the blacksmithing arts. After it was all over, I was in Moscow and preparing to leave for home, when I was escorted to the Moscow Institute of Metallurgical Sciences. There I was presented with a membership in the Russian Union of Blacksmiths, and a letter, complete with government seals and signatures, which stated that I had achieved the skill level of a Master of Artistic Blacksmithing. The President of the Russian Union, Professor Yuri Zimin, Doctor of Technical Science at the Moscow Institute of Metallurgical Sciences, presented me with my membership card and an open invitation to return to Moscow to present a one-man show at the Union’s Blacksmithing Museum. I am the 58th foreign member of the Russian Union of Blacksmiths, and at this writing, I remain the only American ever granted membership in that prestigious organization.
I served as the “village blacksmith” at the theme park for just over 5 years, before leaving their employ in mid- 1999 to form my own blacksmithing business – Moose Creek Forge.
In 1999, as a newly self-employed blacksmith, I began a professional association with Mr. Alex Cameron who, along with his son, Scot, comprises a company known as the WILD HIGHLANDERS (you can find a hyperlink to the Wild Highlanders web site on our LINKS page). Alex is a Hammerman in the Inverness Highland Hammermans’ Burgh – the term “Hammerman” in the Scottish culture being synonymous with “Master Blacksmith”. It was through Alex’s sponsorship that I was granted membership in that esteemed Scottish organization, and upon review of my work, awarded the title of Hammerman. At this time I am very proud to be the only American – the only non-Scot, ever granted membership in that organization.
My professional associations in America include memberships in the Alabama Forge Council, the Artist-Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA), the Blacksmith Association of Missouri (BAM), the Society of Demonstrating Craftsmen, and the Ozark Hammer and Anvil Society; all organizations dedicated to the preservation and encouragement of traditional forge crafts, and their combination with contemporary metalworking methodologies.
“May your anvil never rust from lack of use”
-Steve Robinson Master, Artist-Blacksmith