knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising
  3:42 p.m. May 30, 2015
Third Generation Blacksmith keeps family tradition alive

By Michael Williams

iron mountain metal craft
Robby Bowman demonstrates blacksmithing skills at his new shop at Old Mill Square in Pigeon Forge. Image by Jeaneane Payne.

One of Pigeon Forge’s newest and most innovative attractions allows tourists to get some hands on experience at blacksmithing and an opportunity to make a metal souvenir with their own hands. The Iron Mountain Metal Craft Shop opened in early May on Old Mill Avenue in Pigeon Forge and has intrigued many patrons who walk in to watch master blacksmiths plying their trade and visitors may try their hand at the craft themselves.

“This was my way of getting back to my roots,” said blacksmith Robby Bowman. “I am a third generation blacksmith. My father was a welder and his father was a blacksmith.”

The facade of the building is open allowing tourists a chance to come in and sit down and watch as Bowman heats, molds, and bends metal into a variety of shapes making knives, barbecue forks, or fashioning metal people made from railroad spikes.

For a fee of as little as $15 patrons can put on the apron, gloves, and protective glasses and take a class in blacksmithing. The customer will learn to make a knife that he can keep as a souvenir. Using a gas powered forge, a small furnace that heats metal to a fiery red color making it more malleable, the customer is taught to safely remove the hot metal from the forge with metal tongs and take it to the anvil where he will use a hammer and pliers to bend the metal into shape.

Bowman explains the various parts of the anvil and how each are used. The horn is used to mold metal into a round shape. The shelf allows the blacksmith to lay the metal down and hammer out any imperfections. Once the desired shape is created, the blacksmith drops the metal into a bucket of water which cools the piece rapidly.

To make a knife the hot metal is hammered flat on the anvil then cooled. Once the blade is created the handle is installed using various materials ranging from deer antlers to strands of cloth wrapping. Once the blade is complete, the customer takes the knife to the stone grinding wheel where the blade is sharpened to their satisfaction.

Inside the show room are numerous knives and ornaments of all shapes and sizes for sale. All were created by Bowman. Some of his more unique handle designs are made from shells from 20mm and 50 mm guns. The shells are from the World War II and Vietnam era and are supplied to Bowman by a Vietnam War veteran.

Bowman first started teaching blacksmithing in his home in Dandridge and earlier this year decided to open his own shop which has become a point of interest to tourists. Some are content to sit in the rocking chairs that align the wall and watch as the master craftsman creates metal crafts. Others want hands on experience and choose to take the class. During the one hour instructional, the pupils learn about the tools of the trade, safety, and how to make a metal craft such as a knife or an ornament.

“People are amazed that they can come in here and meet a blacksmith and get to work with him,” said Bowman.

While the sight of hot metal and a fiery furnace may be intimidating, Bowman stands by his impeccable safety record. In the ten years he taught blacksmithing in Dandridge never once was anyone injured. Bowman is diligent in making sure he always stands between the customer and the possibility of danger.

While blacksmithing may be a part of Bowman’s roots, it is also a part of Sevier County’s local heritage. The city of Pigeon Forge has a logo that features a blacksmith. During the early 1800s numerous blacksmiths and furnaces aligned the Pigeon River where they maintained places of business. From these forges located on the Pigeon River came the town’s name of Pigeon Forge.

Iron Mountain Metal Craft is the only blacksmith in Pigeon Forge outside of Dollywood. The blacksmith at Dollywood doesn’t allow guests to work with the tools or make their own crafts.

To learn more about Iron Mountain Metal Craft call 423-782-6784.

Published May 30, 2015

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2015 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy