Ryan, a professional blacksmith and prop maker is also an entertainer and a gamer who likes to compare video game crafting with real life forging. He has a YouTube channel called 111Scrapsmith where he posts videos of his projects and experiments, such as making a wrist blade inspired by Assassin’s Creed, or testing the durability of Skyrim weapons. He also has a Facebook page where he shares his updates and interacts with his fans.
Ryan started blacksmithing when he was about 17 years old, after taking a course at a local college. He was fascinated by the art and science of shaping metal with heat and hammer. He learned the basics of forging, welding, grinding, and finishing from his instructor, who was also a master blacksmith. He then joined Thak Ironworks, a company that specializes in custom metalwork and historical reproductions. There, he honed his skills and learned more about different types of metals, tools, and techniques.
Ryan’s passion for blacksmithing is matched by his love for video games, especially those that involve crafting and customization. He enjoys playing games like Skyrim, Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, and Minecraft, where he can create his own weapons, armor, and items. He likes to explore the game worlds and discover new materials and recipes. He also likes to challenge himself by playing on the hardest difficulty settings or using unconventional builds.
When/Where/How/Why did you become a blacksmith?
Great question. I don’t really have a pretty answer for it. As far as I can recall, there was no real reason for it. At the time, I wasn’t a “medieval kid” or a LARPer or anything like that. I was looking for direction. I was about 17, and my mom probably suggested something respectable, maybe even profitable, like a doctor, an engineer or something. I imagine my parents envisioned something other than a coal-smudgy, bohemian, moody artist type, but I digress. For some unknown reason, I googled “blacksmithing courses and workshops in Southern Ontario.” I found a shop and took every course they offered, and then never really went away. So they started paying me to sweep the floors, empty garbage’s and scrub the foulest bathroom I have ever seen. That evolved into me wire-wheeling some stuff and maybe drilling holes into stuff. Stuff that needed holes, not just pop a hole in any old thing. You know that.
Anyway, I slowly got more and more forge time and learned to make some really neat things. I was a smith there for about a decade, and then I struck out on my own. I run my own forge, making my own stuff for people I want to work for and with; it’s perfect.
How does one become a blacksmith in this face-paced, modern world of ours?
I would go back and re-read my answer to the first question and just do what I did. That’s probably the easiest–unless you have a school nearby that offers smithing courses. Not just welding courses, but actual smithing, even if it’s on a gas forge. Going to a school would probably be the way to do it. But “find a local smith to teach you” is a close second, maybe even tied for first if they’re really talented and a good teacher.
If there is nothing and no one nearby, then try the internet. There are a billion blacksmithing instructional videos out there, drastically varying in quality, I’m sure. But there is something out there to help you along with the concepts and processes.
For an actual, physical forge, there is no substitute. That mystical ether with the smithing tutorials will also have a ton of diagrams and schematics for forges. If you find one you like but don’t know where to get the steel, or have no way of building it, check a local metal shop. There are tons of welding and fabrication shops around. Run it by them, and see if they can help you out. I hope that covers enough of that one; if anyone has more specific questions, please let me know.
What is my favourite thing to make?
Do you know that whole-face smile? The big one, the one you can’t fake. It’s not just the mouth and the eyes, the cheeks almost jump off the face, and the whole lower face is on auto-pilot. The whole face brightens, and it’s the more pure, beautiful form of that person. That’s my favourite thing to make. Seriously. I’ll explain. It’s not because I’ve been known to succumb to strong outside emotional influence; it’s because I’m good at what I do. I don’t work for me. I work for people who want me to make things for them. Does that make sense? Pieces that mean something to my customer mean something to me. The stronger the impact, the deeper the impression.
So the short answer could be summed up as–LARP tools and ritual tools. Tools that can be made in my “rugged Germanic” style that perform a function, have real purpose to the practitioner and really means something to them. Pieces like that mean something to me. Seeing LARPers pass on a trinket I made years ago as a character passes on. The myths and legends of these old pieces in games and movies have always intrigued me. Ya, it’s a cool +1 sword you found sitting in the corner of a dark cave, but why was it there? I like the little flavour text of who owned it and why it was sitting there. Who actually made it, and why? What did they make it from? Was it just another day at the shop, or did they have to close the
street for a whole ritual? I’m that guy now. I’m the guy who gets to make stuff that gets passed
down or even just lost in the forest at 3 am.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Teaching. There, that was pretty quick and simple. I teach as often as I can. I love teaching blacksmithing techniques on either my portable forge or at my shop. I offer hot and cold workshops year-round at different locations, and my shop is often open to students. I also love the opportunity to share some of my arms and armour collection with school students. I’m often invited to speak to grade 4 students as part of their ancient and middle ages studies. I also get to share with the older high school students for various history and tech programs. It’s just awesome to share my stuff and watch them light up when they get to really see and feel heavy, well-oxidized weapons and armour. As I stated earlier, just writing is difficult for me, same with public speaking. Without some prodding and decent questions, I’ve got nothing. But pose a nice little query for me, and I won’t shut up. So I rely heavily on the Q&A portion of my Arms and Armour Presentation. Younger grades are never a problem; they always have questions. Sometimes too abstract. But by the time they reach high school, many of them are so concerned about peer pressure they seem physically incapable of asking questions. So I keep a bunch of stuff around that I
can talk about if there are crickets.
Alright, I should probably call it; this has gone on longer than I expected. And it’s such a mess for Alli to decipher and type up. What a trooper; love you, Alli. And we love and appreciate all of you. It’s our absolute pleasure to work and play with all of you. Thank you for inviting us into your world and giving us an awesome and inspiring place to set up shop.