10 Year Anniversary Hammer-In Recap

10 Year Anniversary Hammer-In Recap

"What are we going to do about the hammer in this spring?" asked Greg, one side of his headphones on his right ear and the other clamping his scalp just above the left ear.

"I don't know, probly should have it around March sometime. Don't want the weather to be too bad but also don't want to get later in the spring when everyone is more busy." I said while scrolling the calendar app on my phone, looking at possible free weekends. There were too many red dots indicating scheduled events over the next few months already.

"Well we need to get something on the calendar as soon as possible so we can let people know with enough time to schedule."


"Who do you want to demo?"

"Well me and you will, want to do San Mai? Like a chef knife?"


"Maybe you could go through your Wa handle process on the lathe too."

"Yea ok, I can just bring the mini lathe in and do it in the forge area."

"Cool, I'll just do a basic knife forging and see what else might come up. I'm sure Ben will be good for a demo if he's in town and I'll ask Dave Baker if he'll do something. How about the 16th? That's right in the middle of March and we don't have anything in the calendar yet."

"Yea that's fine."

"You know I think this is right around when I started Join or Die ten years ago, I should make it an anniversary thing as well as the hammer in."

"Yea I guess I've been making for about 10 years now too."

"Alright then"

Every year we begin planning events a little later that we should but we generally pull them off. As a teaching shop I like to host events that bring in other makers and the public from time to time. A hammer in is a blacksmith event where people come (usually bringing their hammers) where ideas and techniques are shared, it's half party and half technical conference. People bring random stuff from their shop for a raffle called Iron in the Hat. There's food, usually trays of half desiccated fruits and vegetables and highly processed meats and cheeses. There are official demoes but most people learn the most from just talking about their processes with other people. These days I learn more about the business of craftmanship from pros more than technique itself, although there is always something to glean from conversations with other artisans.

Lately I have been cultivating relationships with hunters and food producers like farmers and chefs with the help of my marketing partner James Moffitt. He runs an agency called Trailhead Creative and I've found having someone to manage social media and marketing invaluable. He has really been driving the collaborative concept and one partner we've hooked up with is Chef Carlos Ordaz-Nunez. He's running a taco restaurant called TBT El Gallo and they are my favorite. I've had taco from California to Chicago to Tijuana and Juarez and I really do think these are the best I've had. With that in mind I was so excited to get him to come cater the event. We wanted to do something out of the box and when I remembered that I have a friend that raises rabbits, I knew what kind of meat would be perfect for a spring hammer in!

Another guy I was hoping to get to come was Shep Roeper who is the director of Beyond Boundaries, a local nonprofit that serves the special needs community by offering outdoor access activities. They do things like rock climbing, paddle sports and fishing. Lately they have expanded to including underserved youth and veterans too. I've always wanted to make giving back to the community a priority and I often fall short so I felt the need to bring Beyond Boundaries in as an organization we can support. It turned out the Shep was available to come set up a table for a while at the event and we were able to send half the proceeds to them afterward.

Joe Woolf from the Central Virginia Blacksmith Guild was instrumental in helping organize things and he was able to bring out a table from Blacksmith Supply. It was great to have hammers, tongs and other tools available for all the knife makers and blacksmiths that were in attendance. MSG Blades came out and had a table with their world class handle materials too. We had a demo station set up by the Blacksmith guild so that kids and novices could try their hand at some simple forging techniques and one of our building neighbors David Ross had his copper sculpture art on display with demos as well. Everyone generously donated for Iron in the Hat and we had some really valuable door prizes like gift cards for Woodcraft, TBT El Gallo, Some Klingspor abrasive belts and a Join or Die Knife Class. Greg put a very fancy Cur Custom Blades chef knife in the raffle and Ben Abbot and I raffled off the big chopper we made in our demo.

We had all kids of swag like coffee tumblers from Klingspor and Join or Die koozies, snake oil and stickers. Tabol brewing was kind enough to offer a steep discount on their excellent beer. As usual, Roastology coffee provided us with our private label coffee, the High Carbon Blend. Some notable guests were John and Kate from Phillips Forged and Primeaux Goods as well as George from the Village Blacksmith in Gloucester. Mark and Dale from Winburn Steel were there as well as Tony Laseur. We are fortunate to have many top tier makers right around us.

The demoes started not too long after 9:00 with Greg Campbell of Cur Custom Blades who did a demo on forge welding San Mai and Wa handle construction. David Baker then did a seminar on historic sword details in which he held the audience in thrall. I did my basic forged knife class demo and we were able to rig up a large TV so that people in the seats could see close ups of the forge techniques but more importantly the grinding details. After a long lunch break, Ben Abbott and I build a large chopper from forged to completely finished in about two hours. We even did cut tests with it and raffled the thing off! The feedback we got from the event was very positive and we found all the hard work and preparation rewarding. Having the event forced us to radically clean out the shop and rearrange some which was definitely needed.

The concept of throwing an event or party is that you are doing all the work so the people coming can have a good time. Even though it was a Join or Die Knives event, it was really for the benefit of the community. Although this was an income positive event, I would make more money with less effort doing a class or using the previous week strictly for knife production. This is about community which is what I try to make everything in my business about. Truthfully the only reason I didn't lose money on the event is because of the support of the community. Most everyone that came expressed their willingness to help in any way possible and companies like Woodcraft and Klingspor sent expensive raffle items even though they were not in attendance. I owe a special debt to my father, Walt for driving all the way up from south Alabama to help and Joseph Landrum from showing up early and helping at the intake table all day. Our family is always busy with three kids so my wife Blue made sure everything was squared away with our busy schedule and was only able to attend for a short time because of that. This is the essence of what the name Join or Die means to me. All accomplishment and success is facilitated by so much help, much of it is unrecognized. The humility of recognizing our interconnectedness in our successes and failures is a practice that I find critical in actually knowing who we are and where we really stand in the world. I happen to stand in the middle of a large group of awesome people.

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