MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — Owen Kelsey raises his hammer and brings it crashing down on a cherry red-hot piece of metal resting on an anvil, twisting and flattening the piece with each stroke.
“If you keep the metal hot, it keeps from cracking and splitting,” said Kelsey, demonstrating the metalworking art last week to welding students at the Cape May County Technical High School.
Kelsey is the blacksmith at Historic Cold Spring Village in Lower Township. He was invited to teacher Tom Jackson’s welding class to teach working metal by hand.
“This is where welding began, and the kids get a chance to understand and see where it started from,” Jackson said.
Senior welding students constructed a forge for the blacksmith to use, working with pieces of scrap metal and lawnmower parts around the school. Fitted with an old leaf blower as an oxygen supply, the forge was filled with coal and heated to temperatures near 1,500 degrees to heat the metal into workable form.
“Fire welding or forge welding has been around for over 1,000 years,” Kelsey said. “With the advent of modern welding, you have removed the element of fire to meld or blend the metal elements together.”
Students learned proper blacksmith techniques, such as forging operations, the workings of an anvil and proper forge safety.