ORRINGTON, Maine — If someone needed a metal tool, cooking utensil or horseshoe a hundred years ago, they would go to their local blacksmith.
Nowadays, those items can be purchased at a variety of retail shops and the art of blacksmithing has been lost for many, but not all.
“There are a number of people in Maine who are keeping the art alive,” Robert Schmick, director of education at the Curran Homestead, said on Friday.
Those blacksmiths and blacksmithing enthusiasts are invited to join the Fields Pond Blacksmith Association, which will host its first meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Curran Homestead, 372 Fields Pond Road.
The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum is building a new blacksmith shop this fall, thanks to a state grant. The shop will be a place for those involved in the blacksmith association to tool their work and master their skills.
The circa-1890s Curran Homestead was a subsistence farm that utilized crops, animals and local resources, such as ice from the pond, to provide food, shelter and cash for the Curran family.
The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum was created 18 years ago to preserve the farm, which provides a glimpse into the area’s past.
The Maine State Museum, with New Century Community Program funds, gave the Curran Homestead a $2,651 Historical Facilities Grant to build the new blacksmith shop and create an educational program.
The blacksmith building “will give us a place where blacksmiths and others can experiment, do demonstrations and educate themselves in blacksmithing, an art that is disappearing,” Irv Marsters, Curran Homestead treas-urer, said Friday.
Rough-cut hemlock has been purchased for the building, which will be built by volunteers using 1890s design and building techniques and will house a collection of blacksmith tools that has been given to the historic farm, Schmick said.
“Through generous donations, we have amassed the key equipment for a typical late-19th century forge, including leg vises, a hand drill press, anvil, hammers, punches, chisels, hardies [cutting tool], tongs,” he said in a statement. “Charitable donations of additional antique blacksmithing items are always welcome.”
A masonry forge will be located in one corner, and additional portable farrier forges will serve for blacksmithing round-ups and large group instruction and productivity, Schmick said.
Bob Robinson of the Split Rock Forge in Stockton Springs, who has done demonstrations at the farm, helped design the new shop. He was a blacksmith apprentice in his youth, and works on a forge he built in the 1960s. The popularity of his demonstrations “influenced our decision to create a permanent forge for the purpose of hands-on education at the farm,” Schmick said.
Plus, “We have lots of 19th century tools and farm equipment that need parts to repair them,” he said. “We plan to use the blacksmithing shop to repair [those] parts.”
The facility also is “a place for us to grow together and learn from each other,” Schmick said. “It’s kind of an exciting time in the growth of the Curran Homestead.”
Those interested in learning more about the Fields Pond Blacksmith Association or the Curran Homestead can call Schmick at 843-5550 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.