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South Jersey blacksmiths keep trade alive

Industrial Revolution machinists in factories did not kill off the art of blacksmithing in South Jersey.

Just like when the trade faced the earlier technological challenge, some South Jersey residents, including Stephen Nuttall, of Tuckerton, and Owen Kelsey, of Upper Township, do not want the practice to die out now because of the digital revolution.

They each regularly perform the tasks of the blacksmith trade for their own personal satisfaction and to introduce other people to the vocation.

“It’s an artistic endeavor that I enjoy,” said Nuttall, a folk-arts grant recipient last year with the State Council on the Arts for his blacksmith work. “It is considered more or less a dying practice or a dying craft. ... It’s a wholesome activity. It’s a creative activity.”

Gallery: South Jersey blacksmiths keep trade alive

A blacksmith uses a heating source that can rise as high as 3,000 degrees to warm a piece of metal until it is easily bent. Through the use of a hammer and the heating in a forge, blacksmiths manipulate or move the mass of metal in the direction they want it to go on an anvil.

The New Jersey Blacksmith Association has 75 members, but not all of them are active, said Bruce Freeman, a member of the organization’s board of directors.

Blacksmiths used to be as prevalent in New Jersey as auto mechanics are today, Freeman said.

“Back in the day, we had farmers all over the place. They had implements that needed repair. Some farmers learned blacksmithing because it was economical to do, but the village blacksmith, as the phrase goes, was the person who repaired everything in town,” Freeman said.

A separate branch of a blacksmithing is a farrier, who trims and balances horses’ hooves. They are present in this state, but a farrier doesn’t have to be a blacksmith. They can use aluminum or plastic horseshoes, Freeman said.

The seeds of Nuttall’s interest in blacksmithing were planted long ago.

Nuttall’s grandfather was a farmer in eastern Tennessee who worked with tools that he made. He remembers talking to his grandfather about his tools, which included a hammer, shovel and ax.

Nuttall, 52, is a married father of two. He began making custom pieces after he visited a working blacksmith shop in 2015 at Batsto Village.

Kelsey, 29, came to his interest in blacksmith work through his interest in educating people. He is a 2010 graduate of Marymount Manhattan College with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts. He took a four-day class in the blacksmith trade in the winter of 2014 in Maine.

Kelsey calls himself a performance blacksmith. He works as the resident blacksmith during the summer at Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May. He also has an educational business called Mr. Owen Blacksmithing that visits schools, fairs, festivals and other places.

“The part I really enjoy the most is teaching people about it, to teach kids about history, science,” Kelsey said. “There are always a few kids asking questions. ... I try to spread the word that the blacksmith is still around.”

During the past three years, Nuttal has created functional pieces, such as door hinges, barbecue forks and turners, and bottle openers, but also animal shapes and artistic motifs.

Nuttall likes the process of taking a piece of steel and, by using the basic tools and heat, shaping it to match a design in his head.

Nuttall is happy if, at the end of the process, he is able manipulate a piece of metal to make it resemble the shape of a bird or an apple.

Kelsey said he believes there is something in everyone that wants to create. He couldn’t figure out how to be creative for himself for a few years.

“I’m not a pyrotechnical person in the least,” Kelsey said. “It was a huge departure for me, but I found it, and I realized how it was something you could do with your hands, make art.”

Soon, people who want find out more about blacksmithing in South Jersey will have a third option.

In addition those at Batsto and Cold Spring, the Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum was supposed to open a blacksmith shop last spring, Nuttall said.

Construction has started, and the foundation has been set, but there is no definitive or confirmed date for opening, said Julie Hain, director of education and exhibits and the Jersey Shore Folklife Center at Tuckerton Seaport.

The art of blacksmithing is not new to Tuckerton, according to information on the Tuckerton Seaport’s Facebook page.

“There have been blacksmith shops in our town for over 100 years,” the Facebook page said. “Blacksmiths were an important part of the community, and their work was used in the community in many ways.”

Once the shop is up and running, visitors will be able to see the iron being pounded and even take classes, the post said.

For more information about blacksmithing, visit

Community outreach, donations follow Sister Jean's Kitchen burglary

ATLANTIC CITY — The community is coming together for Sister Jean’s Kitchen after finding out about a burglary that left the nonprofit with 300 pounds of food missing.

Renate Taylor, the development officer at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, Southern Branch, said the food bank will replace the food that Sister Jean’s lost.

It’s the food bank’s responsibility to make sure Sister Jean’s recovers from the loss, she said.

“It wasn’t even an option,” Taylor said. “Of course we’re going to be there. … This is what we do for each other.”

The Rev. John Scotland, executive director of the nonprofit that feeds the homeless, hungry and people in need, said the food bank called them as soon as they found out about the burglary.

“They’re very much supporting of us,” he said.

Sister Jean’s Kitchen opened its doors at the Presbyterian Church at Pennsylvania and Pacific avenues at 7 a.m. Wednesday to find pounds of fish, pork and chicken missing from its freezers and damage to doors, windows, locks and freezers.

Scotland estimated about 300 pounds of food was missing, along with two shopping carts that were stored in the kitchen.

Atlantic City police are investigating the incident that occurred overnight Tuesday.

Sister Jean’s continues to operate and stayed open on the day the burglary was reported, but several people have been reaching out to donate and replenish the food, Scotland said.

Volunteers at Sister Jean’s created a GoFundMe page to raise money following the burglary. About $2,500 was raised as of Monday evening.

Sister Jean’s is also welcoming monetary donations that could repair or replace equipment, doors and locks in the building that appeared to be damaged during the burglary.

Cash can be dropped off at the Community Presbyterian Church, 1501 W. Brigantine Ave. in Brigantine. Checks can be made out to Friends of Jean Webster and mailed to P.O. Box 5146, Atlantic City, NJ 08404.

Anyone interested in donating can call Scotland at 609-266-7942.

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority had announced in June that Sister Jean’s would be moving to the site of the closed St. Monica’s Catholic Church, and Scotland said they are looking to move to a site with better security.

The Police Department said anyone who saw suspicious activity or has additional information about the burglary can call the Criminal Investigations Section at 609-347-5766 or anonymously text information to tip411 (847411), beginning the text with ACPD.

Joe Martucci discusses morning storm on Facebook

Watch Meteorologist Joe Martucci live at 6 a.m. Tuesday on The Press’ Facebook page,, for continuing coverage of South Jersey’s third nor’easter in 10 days. Snow will wrap up early Tuesday, though there will be pockets of coastal flooding during the high tides. Joe will have the latest on conditions and school delays, as well as answer your questions.

Follow Joe Martucci at, on Facebook (JoeMartWx) or on Twitter (@ACPressMartucci).

Vernon Ogrodnek / Multimedia Editor  

MartuccI Joe Martucci, meteorologist for The Press of Atlantic City.