“I look forward to Fridays every week,” remarks Darren Bender-Beauregard about his apprenticeship with Orange County blacksmith Steve King. Darren started his training by making his own tools, including a set of tongs, and quickly progressed to forging damascus-steel chef knives.
As a farmer, Darren finds blacksmithing to be practical, and by using his grandfather’s anvil he is reconnecting with a family legacy of ironwork. Darren is driven by the idea of working with other smiths. “I think it's really cool to see how two people can work together and become a fluid machine that does amazing things,” he says. Today, few smiths know these collaborative techniques. Darren remarks, “we have more of an individualized culture of blacksmithing and art in general.”
Steve King began forging in 2003; he recalls, “I first got started by visiting with a blacksmith at an 18th-century reenactment.” Later, he met master blacksmith Billy Merritt who shared with him his deep knowledge of the craft. “He just took me in like a son,” Steve remarked. Inspired by Merritt’s willingness to share his techniques and skills, Steve has mentored several other smiths. He also holds an “Open Forge” on Thursday nights, where people can see experienced smiths at work and freely gain hands-on experience. “There's so much interest and in the rural community we live in, it's hard for people to pay two or three hundred dollars a day for a class,” Steve said. To continue this spirit of community and generosity, Steve and Darren plan to forge a traditional garden gate to donate to the Orange County Historical Society.