The ABS conducts Hammer-Ins each year in many regions of the county which are listed in the Events section of the website. An important component of most of these events is the opportunity for Youth participation in the Green Coal area where ABS Master and Journeyman Smiths provide hands-on instruction to those new to blade forging techniques.
The American Bladesmith Society's outreach program now includes an All-Youth Hammer-In. A very successful event is held in June at Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville, Tennessee. This year's event will be June 28, 29, and 30, 2013 and details are posted under Upcoming Events on this website. At past events in addition to Tennessee and surrounding states, students have come from homes much farther away, including Florida, Texas and Iowa. Accompanied by parent or guardian, both boys and girls ranging in age from almost ten through the later teens learned first about safety, the basics of metallurgy and the history of steel - where it comes from, and how it is made. A special treat was their own guided tour of the National Knife Museum which features items of cutlery history and evolution of the craft over several thousand years.
The work and hands-on learning continued as both students and instructors spent most of the weekend at the forges. Students were taught to first form a point at the end of a long bar of steel using the hammer. A distal taper was then hammered out and the point was profiled. The choil was pulled down and the cutting edge then formed. At this point, the blade was cut off of the bar and the full tang tapered handle drawn out. When the hammer work was over with, students were taught the importance of controlling grain size by normalizing the blade three times, and the blades were hardened using the edge quench method. Blades were tempered, rough-ground and made ready to accept a set of slab handles by the instructors.
The ABS Youth program is conducted under the leadership of ABS Board Member Houston Price, aided with the assistance of qualified Bladesmiths who generously donate their time and talents. Volunteer instructors at the Smoky Mountain Youth events have included ABS Bladesmiths Fuad Accawi, Ronnie Boydston, Wes Byrd, Ron Claiborne, Howard Clark, Eric Dincauze, Burt Foster, James Gibson, Larry Harley, Joe Keeslar, Len Landrum, and Gary Wheeler.
Under their guidance and encouragement the blade forging process was repeated as often as students desired and were able. Each student usually goes home with at least one blade that was hardened and ready to finish. In total, the students at one past weekend event made 50 blades that could be finished at home.
On Sunday afternoon each was presented with a certificate of participation and an ABS Logo pin. Young smiles were the uniform of the day, and those smiles were equally shared by the parents and grandparents who spent the weekend watching as the young bladesmiths gain confidence and knowledge right before their eyes.
Young participants will again have an opportunity to forge their own blades in 2013.
During the weekend of June 28 - 30, 2013, one-on-one instruction under an experienced bladesmith will again be offered at the Smoky Mountain Youth Hammer-In. It will be open to participants between the ages of 9 and 18, who must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, and will feature hands-on forging and finish work. Further details on scheduling, required safety equipment, costs, and lodging are available under the Upcoming Events tab of the ABS website.
The ABS is pleased to have expanded its educational outreach to aspiring youngsters across our country, affording them to experience and learn the art of blade forging under the supervision of Master and Journeyman Smiths. They believe it is important that each young student walk away from an event with something that they have made with their hands, be it a nail, fork, leaf, or their first knife.
Completion of this course in metallurgy and forging of steel requires special dedication, stamina and a true interest in learning the art and craft of the hand forged blade, and is a character-building experience as well. The ABS is truly meeting the challenge and the opportunity of working with an ongoing Youth Program of education and support.