Young blacksmith apprentice keeps hope alive for craft

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.

 

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It’s Radio-Active: Charlotte amateur radio club transmits message to Iceland

By Michele Dotson: Staff Writer

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 1.33.09 PMMembers from the Charlotte Amateur Radio Club set up their equipment every other Saturday in the Assay office at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village in Mint Hill.  Their priorities are to provide information to the public about the history of ham radio, and to help those interested learn how to begin their hobby by offering support from the club which meets once a month.

The cost of getting into the hobby is not exorbitant and are mostly incurred over time.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of money to get into ham radio,” says club member and vice president Joe Ducar. “The antennae is the most important part of the set up, and it’s fairly inexpensive. You can get one for about $45,” he says.

Other expenses are associated with purchasing the radio, a “to go” box, if you plan to use your radio in remote locations, instructional manuals, and fees for taking the FCC tests. In the United States there are three kinds of ham radio licenses; the technician class, the general class and the extra class. Each class requires more extensive knowledge of ham radio operation and theory, and provides the user with access to more frequency options worldwide.

Gone are the days with the need for huge, unsightly towers that are restricted in many neighborhoods.  Websites offer advice on how to “stealth” your antennae so it is still effective but not unsightly on your property, like what has been done at the assay office.

“Conditions here at the assay office are not always the best,” says Ducor.  “We’re here at a fixed time, and that can be a disadvantage. But we have made contact with so many places around the world. We have even talked with people from Iceland and Greenland.”

But in this age of email, Twitter, Skype, and iPhones, it seems unlikely this hobby would survive much into the 21st Century. Surprisingly, though, the latest FCC information posted in August 2012, indicated that there are over 755,000 licensed operators in the United States alone, which was an increase of 30,000 from the year before. Some attribute the increase to the phasing out of the Morse code test as part of the licensing requirements. But for others, it is just the right time to get started.

John McDermott has been involved with ham radio for less than a year. After fostering an interest for many years, McDermott decided it was time to do something about it. He located the club through an internet search, and was extremely impressed by his first visit.

“I can’t say enough about the club,” says McDermott. “They were willing to help me get started, and answered all my questionsInside the assay office, posted on the wall, is a world map full of pushpins. Each pushpin on that map represents a successful contact like the one in Iceland. That’s a person-to-person contact with someone from another country; another culture, and a personal connection to another fellow human a world away that shared the same desire to reach out and make a new friend.It’s easy to see why this hobby is enjoying a regrowth of popularity.The Charlotte Amateur Radio Club meets Thursdays at 7:30 pm in the Salvation Army headquarters building located at 501 Archdale Drive, Charlotte. For further information, contact www.w4cq.us

 

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Adventures and history in herbs

by Derek Lacey / Staff Writer

The herb garden at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village. The doctor’s museum is in the background. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

The herb garden at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village. The doctor’s museum is in the background. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

 

At the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village, right next to the Doctor’s Museum, which showcases historical medicinal techniques, there sits a small herb garden.

Roses, Foxglove, Thyme, sage, lavender, oregano, peppermint, and even catnip all grow in the garden, and all have medicinal properties and were once used by doctors.

In 1997, Virginia Frazier helped a Girl Scout, Blair Gutledge, with her project, an herb garden at the Mint Hill Historical Society.

After Gutledge grew out of girl scouts and moved on, Virginia and her daughter Brenda Dills would resurrect the neglected herb garden every year, to keep the plants growing and healthy. They decided it would be smarter and easier to just maintain the garden themselves, which they still do today.

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Hospital tells chamber timeline on track for 2014

Carol Timblin and Larry Ferguson, outside the general store at the Mint Hill Historical Society’s Carl J. McEwen Historic Village. PHOTO BY DEREK LACEY

“Step Into History, The Carl J. McEwen Historic Village,” a 12-minute video produced by the Mint Hill Historical Society, earned statewide recognition last month, winning a Paul Green Multimedia Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians.

It started with a need to take something to schools and other organizations, to show them what the Historical Society and the Historic Village had to offer.

With a matching grant of $2,500 from the Arts and Science Council, work was underway, with Historical Society co-founder Carol Timblin writing and producing, and member Larry Ferguson serving as director and videographer.

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