Blacksmith exhibits craft at Opelika flea market

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By Robert Noles
Opelika Observer

Restore Treasures Flea Market on Pepperell Parkway has an added attraction on the second Saturday of every month – blacksmith Charlie Conklin from Valley.

Conklin said he first became interested in blacksmithing after going to an art skills area when he lived in New York, where he saw a demonstration at the Antique Engine & Implements Society. After several years of training, he moved to Valley, where he has lived about six years. It took him a couple of years to get his forge and equipment set up because of cost and some equipment was not readily available, but he now is doing blacksmithing demonstrations and making homestead items, knives and leather goods.

Last Saturday Conklin was making a “D” ring as part of an order. The “D” ring was for a strap on a leather breastplate of a costume someone wanted. He took a straight piece of metal, heated to red hot and hammered it on the anvil. After heating and forming with the hammer several times he had a perfect “D.”

Once a ring has taken shape, it can be dropped into beeswax and given a coating of wax to keep it from rusting in the future.

Conklin uses three types of coals in his forge. Starting with coke coal, along with the help of apprentice Amber Tailsky turning the blower, it only takes about five minutes for Conklin to get the small workable hot coals ready to start his work.

During his demonstration, Conklin explained what he was doing and the process in forming the metal into an item.

One perhaps confusing fact for many is the difference between a blacksmith and a farrier. A blacksmith makes or repairs things made of iron, such as household items, metal doors and furniture, as well as items in farming and manufacturing. A blacksmith does not, as some may assume, shoe horses. That’s the farrier’s job.

Conklin will be back next month with another demonstration, but those who want to learn more about Conklin and blacksmithing can visit him on Facebook at Azreal’s Armory.

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