General News

9 September, 2022

Skills keep craft alive

Blacksmithing has become a lesser-known trade in the modern world of machine smithing with only a select few blacksmiths still around today and with National Skills Week being celebrated recently, RHYS THOMAS spoke to a local who is keeping the ancient craft alive.

By Rhys Thomas

Herberton Historical Village curator and resident blacksmith Darryl Cooper loves to work with metal and inspire young kids with his work.
Herberton Historical Village curator and resident blacksmith Darryl Cooper loves to work with metal and inspire young kids with his work.

WITH a passion for shaping metal and inspiring the next generation of black-smiths, Darryl Cooper spends his days in the forge at the Herberton Historical Village keeping the ancient art of blacksmithing alive.

While not a blacksmith by trade, Darryl has been fascinated with metal working for decades after first being shown the art by his tin-mining father-in-law.

“It has never been a trade for me, it is just something that I have enjoyed doing for a long time – I am self-taught,” he said.

For the past 15 years, Darryl has been doing blacksmithing demonstrations at the Herberton Historical Village where he makes fire pokers, bottle openers and other small objects, and often gets kids involved to help around the forge.

The retired teacher is also the curator of the village and spends a lot of his time in the forge, doing demonstrations for visitors and creating keepsakes for them.

“Lighter things that people can carry because most of our visitors are travellers and they want things they can take with them that aren’t too heavy, like souvenirs,” he said.

“I do like to do things that are interesting because of the number of different techniques that are involved, you could demonstrate how to sharpen a crowbar but it’s all the same.

“Whereas when I do things like camp oven lifters, there are a whole lot of different things happening there, twisting of the metal, bending, forging points and that sort of thing is all in-volved in it.

“Occasionally I like to do a little bit of forge welding which is very spectacular because there are a lot of sparks and people like to watch it.”

Darryl was a School of the Air teacher based in Mt Isa and would often visit the stations of the kids he taught. It was at these stations that Darryl’s love for blacksmithing was truly forged.

“I learned a bit of blacksmithing out there because a lot of those station big properties we visited still had blacksmiths working on them,” he said.

“They are mainly doing horseshoeing but they were making tools and all sorts of things, I really got interested in blacksmithing from there.”

Putting a substantial amount of time and effort into what could be seen as a dying trade isn’t for everyone, but Darryl says he puts so much passion into it

because he wants to keep the art alive.

“It is a historic sort of art that has been going on for centuries, millennia – for thousands of years there have been blacksmiths,” he said.

“It appeals to me that it is something we are trying to keep alive through all this modern technology, it is an old

craft that people still enjoy watching, especially kids.

“Back in the day all the kids in town knew the blacksmith but these days the kids don’t get that opportunity and they are fascinated watching the blacksmithing at the village.”

Kids often get hands-on in the forge with Darryl, helping by turning the forge blower for him to get the forge red hot and ready to melt steel.

“They remember it forever, I’ve had kids that came in and turned the forge for me 10 years ago – they come back and say ‘remember me I came in and turned the forge’,” Darryl said.


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