Samford Valley Steiner School: Sky Iron Festival of Blacksmithing

Samford Valley Steiner School

Year 12 Hardcraft elective students participate in the Sky Iron Festival of Blacksmithing


On the first weekend of September Samford Valley Steiner School’s Year 12 Hardcraft elective students were invited to participate in the Ipswich Historical Societies’ inaugural Sky Iron Festival of Blacksmithing.  This was a gathering of smiths from around South-East Queensland and New South Wales, celebrating the fast dwindling art of manipulating metal by hand.  Attending were professional wagon makers, farriers, coopers, copper smiths, knife makers, wheelwrights artists and many more.  SVSS students represented the only school in attendance and there was much interest by the professionals and public alike of a school that is still keeping these skills alive.

The Year 12 assessment this year is focussed on jewellery making.  Students have been learning and using all sorts of techniques to make varied styles of jewellery including forging, casting, wire work, lapidary and creating timber rings and moulds as well.  They were lucky enough to have a masterclass in casting from the SVSS community’s Mark Finlay of Red Beard Tactical who provided the secret to ‘Nordic Gold’, and they have been working hard all year.  For the SVSS display at Sky Iron, they took their Hardcraft shed and smithy on the road, so students could continue to work on their assessment projects as a sort of ‘window into the classroom’ and talked to the public about their work.

There were two competitions over the weekend, a ‘long draw’ where each participant was given a 20mm diameter piece of 100mm long steel and had 15 minutes to draw it out to as long a piece as possible, and the second competition was to make a knife in 4 hours.  Again, each competitor was provided the same initial piece of carbon steel to work with.  This competition was won by a 19-year-old professional smith from NSW, but SVSS students all took the next three places as they each made incredible knives in such a short time.  For many it was only the first or second knife they had made before!

A big thank you is owed to Wayne Schmidt of Cracked Anvil Forge and the Ipswich Historical Society for organising the event. Also, a special thanks to Martin Wynne-Hughes, Samford’s own blacksmith and Copper Smith who worked closely with some of the SVSS students, and to Wim Smit and friends from the Queensland Metal Artisans Collective (QMAC) who took the SVSS students under their wing and provided guidance and advice during the knifemaking competition.  It was a wonderful weekend for all involved, the students met professional smiths and opened many doors should they wish to step through.   Wim, the QMAC chairman who hosted SVSS in his workshop for the competition, felt moved to write to the school via their website the next day…

“…I was absolutely blown away by how polite, inquiring and competent they [SVSS senior students] are. An absolute credit to your school, their parents and themselves. I’d be happy to host your students anytime in the future and offer our club facilities for use at any time. You are doing a great job. I thought you’d like to hear this.

Regards Wim Smit
Chairman, Queensland Metal Artisans Collective.”

Andy Currey