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Seven blacksmiths work to smelt iron at Eric Sloane Museum

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KENT – Iron was smelt and forged on the grounds of the Eric Sloane Museum for the first time in 132 years May 18 to 19.

Blacksmiths Eric Dennis and Steve Mankowski shape the red hot iron May 19 at the Eric Sloane Museum. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

The smelt was run by Master blacksmith Steve Mankowski from Virginia and Eric Dennis, with assistance from Allan Curboy, Ian McCarthey, Bob Valentine, Nevan Carling and Andy Sistrand.

“We were thrilled about the turnout and hope to repeat the event next year,” said Andrew Rowand, administrator and curator of the museum.

The red hot iron right after it was pulled from the bloomery furnace May 18 at the Eric Sloane Museum. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

The two-day event involved a bloomery furnace using traditional methods and techniques. The first day they spent four hours tending the fire and adding hard wood charcoal and iron in layers to create a temperature of 3,000 degrees. A large 15-pound core of iron was produced and then cut in half.

On Sunday, the blacksmiths reheated it to soften it for several hours and then pounded it into the shape of an ax head. Several hundred visitors were able to watch the process evolve over the two days.

Blacksmiths shape the iron into the shape of an ax during Iron Works Weekend at the Eric Sloane Museum May 19. Photo contributed

Marge Smith, curator of the Kent Historical Society, gave tours of the grounds that is home to the Kent Furnace that operated from 1826 to 1892. Also collaborating with the museum were the Connecticut Mineral and Mining Museum, Sharon Historical Society and the New England Blacksmiths Association.

The final product, an ax head, of the blacksmiths’ work during Iron Works Weekend at the Eric Sloane Museum May 19. Photo contributed
Lynn Worthington
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