Forging the future of ancient iron craft

Heather Large meets an artisan blacksmith who offers courses teaching traditional skills and takes on sculptural, architectural and decorative ironworks From the moment Jake Hedge forged his first piece of steel, he knew he wanted to become a blacksmith.Captivated by the glowing hot metal and flying amber sparks, he enrolled at the National School of Blacksmithing.Now Jake operates his own forge in the Shropshire Hills, working on commissions for ironwork and sharing his skills by running workshops.“I always had a desire to do something with my hands and learn a proper craft,” says the 30-year-old.“I went to an open day at the National School of Blacksmithing and had a go. Walking into a forge is pretty entrancing – there’s nothing quite like it.”He spent three years honing his skills at the National School of Blacksmithing, which is part of the Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College.In 2015, before finishing his course, with distinctions in every aspect of the craft, he secured a job at a local forge, working on a wide range of jobs from large architectural pieces to delicately forged items.After gaining valuable experience, Jake, who is an Associate of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, set up his own business, Hedge Ironworks, seven years ago.Originally based in Ludlow, he now works from a forge on the site of a sawmill in Onibury, Craven Arms, where he divides his time between working on commissions and teaching students who want to try their hand at the ancient craft.Blacksmithing has a long history in Britain and is said to date back to the start of the Iron Age when man first began making tools from metal.The fundamentals of the craft, which include heating the steel in the forge until it is soft and workable, have remained greatly unchanged for hundreds of years.Once hot, it can then be manipulated into a variety of shapes before it cools again using traditional hand tools such as hammers, punches and tongs and anvils.The metal can be bent, straightened and twisted in whatever way the smithy needs for their creation.Jake works to commission on a wide variety of sculptural, architectural and decorative ironwork projects, ranging from garden gates, railings and bird baths to ornate curtain pole finials and fireplace companion sets.He uses a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques as he believes these create work that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally sound.Before heating any metal, he will always create a full-scale drawing of his designs, which he says often draw inspiration from nature.“Almost everything I make has a leaf in it,” he tells Weekend. “I enjoy creating flowing, organic looking ironwork with everything focused on the forged elements. I’m a one-man band, everything is made and fitted by myself,” he explains.To help bring his creations to life, Jake will also use techniques including hammer texturing, traditional joinery and fire-welding.Jake takes great pride in always striving for perfection in every individual piece and says he is constantly seeking to improve his skills.While he is passionate about forging, he also enjoys fitting the finished pieces in people’s homes and gardens and seeing their reactions.“When the client says they are pleased with something I’ve made – there’s real job satisfaction in that.”Alongside his commissioned work, Jake also designs and forges items for the home that are made to order from his online shop.His courses include ‘Have a Bash’ at Blacksmithing in which participants can learn how to make a fire poker and coat hooks and a half-day blacksmithing workshop which offers the chance to make a hand forged bottle opener.And people enrolling on the Rose Making Workshop will be guided in creating two beautifully forged roses.Jake is also planning to offer additional courses in the future which will give participants the opportunity to have a go at making an axe and a hammer.

He say teaching his students is very rewarding and he enjoys sharing his passion for craft with others.“A lot of people come to the course to see the fire and sparks and to have a go. Everyone realises how difficult it is but also how enjoyable it is. I love teaching. It’s great fun. Ninety-nine per cent of people have never had a go at blacksmithing before. “I show them what I do and give them an insight into the craft. With my help, they are able to make an item and go home with it at the end of the day and I get to see how proud they are of making it,” explains Jake. In the 18th and 19th centuries, before mass production, almost every village had at least one blacksmith. Although the numbers have reduced, Jake says there is still a thriving community of tradesmen and women keeping the traditional skills alive and foster a great appreciation for the craft. “We’re forging in the same way as it’s been done for hundreds of years. There’s something really nice about that and people value it. There still seems to be a great need for a blacksmith,” he said. For more information about Jake’s blacksmithing courses, visit or

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