By Michele Dotson: Staff Writer
In medieval times, blacksmithing was considered part of the set of seven mechanical arts. Today it is often referred to as the king of crafts. The job of a blacksmith is not an easy one. It’s hot, dirty, smoky, and physically demanding.
The most serious injury many teens today might encounter is carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitively texting with their thumbs. That’s why it is so impressive to walk into the blacksmith shop at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village and see 15-year old Cuinn McDermott hammering and sweating over a glowing hot piece of steel.
“I was part of History’s Kids and we spent some time at the Schiele Museum where I watched a blacksmith at work,” says McDermott. “I took an interest and started helping the blacksmith there.”
McDermott worked there for a couple of years and now works under the supervision of Mike McRae at the Mint Hill Historic Village.
McRae spends time at the blacksmith shop doing demonstrations for school children and works with Cuinn whenever he can.
“There are not too many kids his age that show an interest in this kind of thing,” he says. “Cuinn has a natural ability and a dedication to blacksmithing I’ve hardly ever seen.”
For centuries the apprenticeship program has stayed pretty much the same. It takes dedication and education. Today, apprentices can get some of their training, especially in working with fire to cut steel, and learn the properties of flame building and heat by attending a community college. But every committed blacksmith eventually joins a journeyman program and trains in a professional blacksmith shop.
McDermott says he’ll probably head in that direction in the future.
“It’s fun,” he says. “It takes a while to learn the different techniques, so I learn a little more each time I come out here.”
McDermott is a student at Trinity Christian School.
blacksmith 1: 15-year old blacksmith apprentice Cuinn McDermott stokes the fire at the blacksmith shop on Saturday, July 27 at the Carl J McEwen Historic Village in Mint Hill.
blacksmith 2: Cuinn McDermott (right) watches as blacksmith Mike McRae of Mint Hill demonstrates proper technique for stoking the fire for maximum effectiveness. McRae readies a piece of steel for work on the anvil.