Stoking the fire and keeping a dying art alive is forging a new future at Cooneana

Siobhan Mouncey, Tobias Tanskanen, Martin Geddes, Alex Wixted, Salvador Pace and Ingbar Masson at the Cooneana Blacksmiths Forge.


These days if you want nails, bolts and screws you just pop down to Bunnings and think nothing of spending a couple of bucks on a box of 100.


But back before the mass production of almost everything in the 18th century, anything made of iron was handmade by blacksmiths.


Very few forges remain, but Cooneana Heritage Centre at New Chum has kept the fire burning. The Cooneana Blacksmith Forge offers classes in blacksmithing, making tools, traditional joinery, knife making and even Australian gum leaf making.

Martin Geddes has been a metal tradesman for 39 years and has been blacksmithing for the past 23. Mr Geddes is passionate about the restoration of this lost skill and is the teacher who runs the forge.

“What first interested me originally was how two pieces of metal could be joined together without a welder,” Mr Geddes said.

“A blacksmith would use fire welding to seamlessly join them together. I did hundreds of them until I was happy that I had learned the skill.”

According to Mr Geddes, there are still plenty of projects today that require blacksmithing.

“I do a lot of restoration work here at Cooneana, restoring mining equipment that might be bent or worn,” he said.

“Toolmaking is another area I enjoy and it keeps me busy because your tools wear out so you have to remake them.

“Sometimes the job you’re working on may require a tool that you don’t have, so you make it. Traditionally blacksmiths made their own tools.”

There are only three trades where the tradesmen don’t actually touch their medium. Foundry work, glass blowing and blacksmithing.

“You have to feel through the tongs, it’s a real art form,” Mr Geddes said.

Siobhan Mouncey took part in a beginner’s class three years ago.

“I’m a creator and it’s something I always wanted to do,” Ms Mouncey said.

“I remember first seeing blacksmiths working at a display at the Ekka when I was little. I remember being dragged away. Plus, I love fire and I have always been fascinated by fire.

“I am currently working on a knife and an axe.”

You may have never been in a blacksmith’s shop, but chances are you talk like one.
There are many common sayings still used today that find their origins with these tradesmen.

• Strike while the iron is hot – don’t hold back or wait
• Too many irons in the fire – multitasking
• Hammer and tongs – going at it 100%
• It has a nice ring to it – it sounds good
• Forge ahead – move ahead despite difficulties

The next class at the Cooneana Blacksmith Forge will be on 26 May on the ABC of Tong Making. Click here for more details.

Ipswich First - Forging ahead

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