South Florida Blacksmiths Hone 'Post-Apocalyptic Skill Set'

Feb 17, 2017

Blacksmithing as an art is alive and well in South Florida. And those who practice it see it as more than a hobby.

“I’ve been teaching classes here about five years,” said Shaun Williams, who runs Dark Angel Armory & Forge in Pompano Beach. “About two years ago, I got to the place where my classes were booked out — two or three months in advance.

Up until about 150 years ago, anything made of metal - an iron railing, a spoon, even a nail - was made by a blacksmith. The industrial revolution mechanized a lot of that production. But the art persists.

Blacksmiths forge at Dark Angel Armory in Pompano Beach on Feb. 7, 2017.
Credit Peter Haden / WLRN

“There’s a tremendous satisfaction with knowing if things were suddenly to change --  Katrina, Wilma, anything like that where you needed to be self-sufficient -- this is one of those skills that would be tremendously useful under those circumstances,” said Williams. “We’re not learning a hobby. We’re learning a post-apocalyptic skill set.”

Pembroke Pines police officer Tommy Burgs has been learning knifesmithing at Dark Angel Armory for eight months.

“I make my own bread. I make soap. I grow my own vegetables,” said Burgs. “So if we lost electricity and power and had to live off the grid, I’d like to think that I’d be okay.”

But not everyone’s into making weapons.

“I prefer candleholders and girly things,” said Fort Lauderdale real estate agent Amy McGrotty. She makes custom wall hooks to give her clients at closing.

“That’s their housewarming gift — where they can hang their new house keys,” said McGrotty.

The Florida Artist Blacksmith Association’s southeast regional conference runs Feb. 17-19 at The Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach.