List of Blacksmithing Classes in Montana 2021 [Updated]
Montana is a state in the northwestern and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States. The state’s history of mining, cattle ranching, and homesteading account for the importance of blacksmithing in Montana both historically and in the present day.
Montana, as a “wild west” state, has had a deep connection to metalworking and blacksmithing since the mid 19th century. The first gold was discovered in 1852 and soon afterward, miners also found silver, copper, lead, and coal.
Cattle ranching became central to Montana’s economy in the mid 1800s, when notable ranchers traded their cattle with emigrants traveling cross-country along the Oregon Trail. Ranchers relied on frontier blacksmiths to make horseshoes and other necessary tools for raising cattle and maintaining permanent ranches.
New settlers arriving in Montana to claim free land offered the government in the Homestead Act of 1862 would have also relied on the local blacksmith for farming implements and household necessities.
Although the role of the blacksmith shifted with increasing manufacturing capabilities at the close of the 19th century, the rugged spirit of the traditional craft remained strong across the state of Montana. Blacksmithing never truly lost its influence in Montana due to the relatively low population growth of the state and the wildness that inspires many to pursue traditional crafts.
Blacksmithing thrives in Montana today. Craftspeople live, work, and teach across the state in private workshops, traditional arts schools, and major blacksmithing organizations. Below are some of the best blacksmith class offerings currently available in the state of Montana.
- Hoffman, Liam (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 162 Pages - 08/25/2017 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)
1) Ed Caffrey
- Type: Bladesmithing
- Classes: small group, private, weekdays, Saturdays, 3-5 day sessions
- Price: $350-$1750
- Website: http://www.caffreyknives.net/
- Telephone: (406) 727-9102
- Location: 2608 Central Ave. West Great Falls, Montana 59404
Ed Caffrey is an American Bladesmith Society Mastersmith who first fell in love with knives at the age of twelve. He sold his first knife in 1989 and earned his title of Mastersmith in 2000. He produces a range of knives for sale and teaches how to create them in private classes at his workshop.
Caffrey offers Basic Bladesmithing 1 and 2, Basic Damascus, Liner Lock Folders, and individualized lessons. There really is something for every skill level and interest, and smiths interested in expanding their knowledge of bladesmithing would benefit from any of the classes Caffrey offers.
Beginner students learn the basics of bladesmithing and leave Caffrey’s shop with ‘forged to shape’ knives that are ready for grinding and finishing. This is important to understand when considering Caffrey’s beginner series of classes. The knives you make will not be completed in class and must be finished elsewhere.
Some other things to think about before signing up for a class with Ed Caffrey is the price and duration of classes. Three to five days are required to complete Caffrey’s classes, even if you are taking the beginner class. While this allows for in-depth instruction and lots of time to practice and learn through doing, this may also be too large of a time commitment for people who work full time.
The costs of Caffrey’s classes are also considerably higher than other options in Montana. If they do fit your budget, however, you have peace of mind knowing you are training with a Mastersmith and will likely be getting what you pay for.
- Type: Blacksmithing
- Classes: small group, full day
- Price: $140
- Website: https://www.sentinelforgeclasses.com/
- Telephone: (406) 207-2280
- Location: 60 Mesquite Dr. Alberton, MT 59820
Sentinel Forge is owned by Frank McKinney, who began blacksmithing in 1988 at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota. He worked as a historical blacksmith for many years and learned horseshoeing in Bozeman, Montana. McKinney specializes in recreating historical blacksmithing objects and has been teaching classes since 2017.
Classes at Sentinel Forge are best suited to beginner smiths, or smiths wanting to strengthen their understanding of fundamental blacksmithing techniques. Topics covered in beginner classes include hammer control, forging techniques, metal identification, heat treating, and tool making. Students get to make three or four projects to take home.
If you are new to blacksmithing and want to learn more about the craft for an affordable price, classes at Sentinel Forge may be a great option for you!
- Type: Blacksmithing, Bladesmithing, Welding
- Classes: workshops, small group, 1-2 week long sessions
- Price: $800-$1700
- Website: http://www.newagrarianschool.org/
- Telephone: (406) 837-4208
- Location: 990 McCaffrey Road Bigfork, MT 59911
The New Agrarian School teaches blacksmithing and other traditional crafts in the mountains of Montana. The School’s curriculum is based in history and self-reliance to provide students with an authentic learning experience.
Workshops offered at the New Agrarian School are extensive and cover very specific and unique forms of metalworking. Some examples of the classes offered include Introduction to Blacksmithing, Sculptural Forms in Iron, Pattern Welded Chef’s Knives, Hand Tools for Farm and Garden, and Making Axes.
The length of workshops ranges from a few days to a few weeks, and the skill level of each offering is clearly listed on the website so you can rest assured that the class you sign up for will be appropriate for you. All basic techniques are covered in detail by instructors and the longer duration of classes allows you to experiment and work at your own pace.
Make sure you can commit to the longer length of classes at the New Agrarian School before registering. The higher tuition cost is another aspect to keep in mind when considering this education option.
Whether you are interested in historical blacksmithing, artistic blacksmithing, or bladesmithing, there is a class for you at the New Agrarian School!
- Type: Blacksmithing
- Classes: conferences, hammer ins, demonstrations, workshops
- Price: $25
- Website: http://www.hallowellco.com/nrba.htm
- Telephone: (406) 579-7694
- Location: 2200 West Dickerson Unit 33 Bozeman, MT 59718
The Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association serves smiths located in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. The NRBA is a nonprofit organization aiming to preserve the traditional craft of blacksmithing in the Northern Rockies region and supports its members through conferences, hammer ins, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities.
Members of the NRBA get to attend annual conferences that include demonstrations by guest blacksmiths, hammer ins, and networking with fellow blacksmiths. The Association is open to blacksmiths of all skill levels and members support each other in their growth as individuals.
If you are a blacksmith living in Montana or surrounding states who is ready to meet others in the field and further your education, NRBA membership may be a great choice for you.