Photos by Angelina Aragon

Forge Ahead

Written by Keridwen Cornelius Category: Lifestyle Issue: December 2018
Group Free

Blacksmithing is the new black. In these classes, you can play with fire, hammer out your frustrations and craft original objets d’art.

Photo by Angelina AragonSparked by the History channel show Forged in Fire, blacksmithing is rising from the ashes of the Industrial Revolution. One of the artisans who competed on the show this fall was Rodger “Grizz” LaBrash of Grizzly Iron, a south Phoenix father-and-son biz that offers classes in jewelry crafting, knife making and more.

Through Airbnb Experiences, beginners can book a three-hour “apprenticeship” with LaBrash to learn blacksmithing basics by forging a cheese slicer or bottle opener ($95 per person). To make the slicer, you’ll use tongs to slip a bar of steel into a 2,000-degree, fire-breathing forge. When the metal glows orange, you’ll whack it with a hammer on an anvil to taper the tips into points. It’s an exercise in precision and patience, as you’ll make incremental progress before the metal quickly cools to gray and you have to fire it up again. Next, you’ll twist the metal in a vice to form a fusilli pasta shape, hammer out curves on the anvil’s horn, buff and wax the slicer, and fasten on the wire. Voila! Your creation will be the talk of your next wine and cheese party.

Photo by Angelina AragonIn addition to classes on jewelry and knife making, Grizzly Iron also holds open forges every other Wednesday (free to watch, $20 to participate). They’re fiery, cacophonous nights where fathers and sons hammer blades together (women are welcome, but are a rare sight), and friendly forgers discuss the details of Damascus steel. “Blacksmiths want to share the craft,” LaBrash says. “Come in and play with us.”

Mesa Arts Center teaches courses in blacksmithing, bladesmithing and welding for all experience levels. Ladies can act out their Flashdance fantasies in the Welding for Women class.

The Collaboratory art studio and creative school in Mesa offers short classes in slicing metal with a plasma torch or oxy acetylene, brazing wrought iron, soldering with copper and welding steel.

Grizzly Iron
1329 W. Lincoln St., Phoenix