There, in a town called Lebanon, not too awfully far from Nashville, a little historical village sits. Made up of a collection of old cabins and tiny shops, all donated by various patrons, it's a special place we call Fiddlers Grove. In that village, one of the more active spots you'd see there is the blacksmith shop. On my last trip back there, I popped in to say hello to some of the wonderful men my Grandfather called friends and fellow smithies. It was a beautiful day, the kind of Spring day when folks can open up their doors and let the fresh air in. In this case, the door might've been pushed wide open to let the smoke out! As I peeked in, the guys at the Fiddlers Grove Blacksmith Association (or FGBA) were busy chatting away with one another, working on projects, stoking flames in their coal forges and pounding away at the anvil. Immediately, I felt at ease there.
Amongst them, was Bret Hampton, a member of FGBA for 7 years, whose day job consists of working mostly with marble and granite, showed us a project he was working on. Using an old piece of wrought iron a few kids from his neighborhood found, and three railroad spikes, Bret was in the process of making a rustic coat rack. Since I had my camera with me, I thought I'd take a few photos.
I honestly was mesmerized by the whole thing. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay long enough to see the whole piece completed. With "metal art" running through my veins, I seriously could see myself picking up the trade, which delighted my Uncle Vince of course who proceeded to set aside tools and supplies for me. So, I asked Bret, who also helps with instruction there at Fiddlers Grove, "If I was someone who wanted to take up blacksmithing, specifically here in Middle Tennessee, what would I do?" First, he told me that I should look into ABANA, the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America. Then, after finding some papers for me that gave both the history and specifics of FGBA, he mentioned that once a person joins the association ($50 per year, which includes both the annual dues and costs of materials) you can sign up to take the Green Coal Class, a beginner's course that introduces one to the basics of blacksmithing, which takes place every Tuesday from 7PM to 9PM. There is also an advanced class that takes place on Friday evenings, also from 7PM to 9PM. There is no charge for the class, however, students must come prepared with the basic tools. A list of these tools are available for those who are interested.
So for anyone who may want to delve into the ancient art of blacksmithing and happen to be in the Middle Tennessee area, contact instructors Danny Parsons at (615) 444-4431 or Broadus Weatherall at (615) 773-4436 for more information. Also, the famous Wilson County Fair is only a few months away, and these guys will be in full demonstration mode throughout that week so be sure to stop by!