Bout of the blacksmiths | AspenTimes.com

Bout of the blacksmiths

Mark Fox

Before he could shape his strip of metal, Tom Bennett of Walsenburg had to heat it. (Mark Fox/Aspen Times Weekly)

The Colorado Rocky Mountain School recently hosted the 21st annual Rocky Mountain Blacksmithing Conference, with nearly 80 blacksmiths from around the region attending. The conference was held in the blacksmith studio founded by Francis Whitaker, former artist in residence at the school and a well-known name in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The conference featured demonstrations by nationally renowned blacksmiths, but the highlight was the forging competition between approximately 15 smiths who demonstrated strength, speed and artistic talent with hammer, anvil, iron and fire. Each contestant was given a straight piece of metal – approximately 16 inches long, 1/4-inch thick and 1 inch wide. They had 20 minutes to take the straight piece and give it a right angle. As the sweat beaded up on their brows, they took hot iron and twisted, pounded and bent it, then heated it up in the forge and did it all over again.The title eventually went to Scott Kretschmer of Loveland.

It was a fascinating glimpse of a fading craft.For more photos, see the Aug. 13 edition of the Aspen Times Weekly.