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Mountain Home Magazine

Corning's Heritage Village Turns up the Heat

Jul 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Dave DeGolyer

For thousands of years, blacksmiths have stoked the flames of forges, their heavy hammers striking down—clang, clang, clang, clang—and calling out from their anvils with a sound of hope, for they created objects that often made life a bit easier.

During the Middle Ages, some smiths worked in castles crafting armor and weapons, while others in villages or cities forged a variety of necessities—tools and myriad other useful items such as scythes, plow blades, nails, axes, furniture, locks, and, certainly, horseshoes. As skilled craftsmen, smiths were an essential part of a community. Their “clang, clang, clang” became so common that, like many things that ultimately change our lives, it eventually turned into the background music of everyday existence.

With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, some objects previously crafted by hand were mass produced, and the role of the smith was somewhat diminished. But, if you listen closely, you can still hear that same metallic sound, the clang, clang, clang, emanating from the historic Cooley Blacksmith Shop at Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes.

It’s there, at Corning’s living history museum, where you will find a brand new event on July 22, one honoring the call of the forge and those who heed it. In particular, the new event will focus on bladesmithing. It’s an element of forging that was, for centuries, essential for people’s survival, and that has, in recent years, found a passionate fanbase as a popular and very challenging means of competition thanks to shows like History Channel’s Forged in Fire.

While a bladesmith uses metalworking techniques similar to a traditional blacksmith, they also often employ woodworking and leatherworking skills to fashion a complete blade that ultimately needs to stand up to sundry tests.

The Bladesmithing Seminar Event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature three seminars of varying levels, plus live demonstrations and “show and tell.”

Beginner and Beyond Knife Forging is with renowned bladesmith Ken Moyer. For Ken, “bladesmithing is about creativity, especially Damascus (patterned welded steel) and the many patterns that can be created alongside existing patterns used to enhance a blade.”

A blacksmith since 1976 and ABS Master Bladesmith since 1988, Ray Smith gained a bit of celebrity status among local folk, thanks to his appearance on the popular series Forged in Fire where he emerged victorious. For him, smithing is about “creating usable and quality tools, with a learned skill, that can also be works of art.” He’ll give the Intermediate Level Seminar.

Introduction to Metallurgy and Heat Treating will be with Ryan Grohsmeyer, who has a PhD in material science. In some ways, finding his way to the forge while in high school shaped more than metal, as Ryan pursued a career in material science and metallurgy.

The inaugural bladesmithing event is the handiwork of Leon Golder and Casey Winston, local blacksmiths with a love for history and a passion for furthering the art of metalworking.

Leon, Heritage Village’s resident blacksmith, took on Casey as an apprentice and the two recently received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to continue teaching and disseminating traditional trades.

“As recipients of the grant,” says Casey, “we felt the importance of demonstrating for the public and offering opportunities for the public and other regional blacksmiths to gather and learn the trade. So, together, we developed this blacksmithing seminar and demonstration at the Heritage Village.” They were able to draw upon the expertise and talents of the three local smiths to create a unique event showcasing another layer of metalworking beyond the traditional methods of blacksmithing.

“Bladesmithing,” says Leon, “has become very popular, and continues to grow in our region. We felt with the expertise right here in our communities that offering seminars and demonstrations will give attendees in-depth, accurate information to begin or continue their journey into bladesmithing.”

Leon adds that he and Casey “selected the Heritage Village historic site for the event not only because of the 1870 Cooley Shop, but because the first innkeeper of our historic 1796 tavern, Benjamin Patterson, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War and was also a blacksmith.”

Receiving the grant allows Leon and Casey, and by extension Heritage Village, to further bring the art of traditional blacksmithing to the general public. Casey feels it is “important for women to have more opportunities in blacksmithing and that hosting events and demonstrations where a woman demonstrates this traditional trade is essential to showing girls that they can be involved in trades and jobs that were historically considered ‘men’s work.’”

Heritage Village is home to the historic 1870 Cooley Blacksmith Shop, as well as an assortment of other historic buildings representing American life. The museum complex hosts a number of events throughout the year that bring history to life as costumed docents recreate a variety of daily tasks—hearth cooking, anyone?

Registration for the Bladesmithing Seminar Event is at the Patterson Inn from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. The Beginner and Beyond seminar starts at 9:15 a.m., with the demo beginning at 10:15. After lunch, the Intermediate Level seminar and demo runs from 12:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. The Heat Treating and Tempering seminar runs from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by a forty-five minute question and answer period.

The price to attend this event is $45 for New York State Designer Blacksmith members and for Heritage Village members, with advanced registration by either a check or online registration at or by calling (607) 937-5281. Lunch will be included in the fee. For nonmembers the price to attend is $50.

Find the Heritage Village at 59 W. Pulteney Street in Corning.

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