visitors with unique craft
Vernon, Ind. A step into Ray Seases blacksmith shop, located
behind Vernons Historical Museum in the town square, is like a
step back through time. If the ancient building with its enormous
barn beams engraved with dates as early as the 1840s isnt
evidence enough, just look to the antique blacksmiths furnace,
the tools used to shape the metal and the man himself. With his flowing
graybeard and quite polite manner, Sease has embodied the art that he
makes his living with. Its easy to forget where, let alone when,
you are. That is until you look around to see some of the more modern
works of a man keeping an ancient tradition alive.
by Libby Richards
Sease works a piece
of metal that will
a decorative wizard.
Although Seases set-up is in conjunction with the
historical museums location, much of his work embodies custom
designs upon request. Popular are his reproductions of courting candles,
a candleholder in a twist design that enabled control over the amount
of time a young couple spent together. By turning the handle of the
holder a person could lengthen the burning time of the candle, thus
lengthening or shortening the time the couple could spend together.
Other pieces include plant stands and hangers, wick picks, letter openers,
fireplace sets and custom designed gates and entrances.
Sease uses a hand crank blower to stoke the fire to heat the metal being
formed. With the help of the blower the fire can reach temperatures
up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the sight of the intense fire
is hypnotic, Sease warns that you shouldnt look directly into
a fire that intense for an extended period of time for fear of damaging
Some of the tools used by Sease are actual antique pieces that were
easier to find when he started blacksmith work. Other pieces are made
out stock known as UTA, or unknown truck axle, a tough metal that you
can usually pick up for free. While small pieces can be forged by one
man, larger pieces (3/4 to 1 inch) of steel require a two-man team.
One man turns the metal while the other is the striker,
repeatedly hitting the metal in the same spot until the required shape
Hot metal, Sease says, works like modeling clay. In fact many blacksmiths
practice on clay before working on more detailed pieces.
Currently open two days a week, next year he hopes to increase that
time to four days. When open Sease is visited by not only people off
the street, but classes of students often tour the shop for a taste
of what it was like to see hand forged blacksmith work at its
finest. Captivated by the glow of the coals and the working of the metal,
the children oh and ah over every strike of his hammer. On most days
when children visit, Sease makes them a metal leaf that can be worn
on a chain as a gift. It always amazes him how impressed the children
react when they receive the gifts. No big deal to a man who hand forges
such intricate works as wizard letter openers and multi-layered intricate
leaf patterns that adorn his custom works.
Born in Salem, Indiana, Seases interest in blacksmith work began
as a child with his Great Uncle, Earl, the last practicing blacksmith
in Washington County. Earls shop still stands today, unfortunately
Sease never got to actually see his uncle practice his trade. Fascinated,
however, it was something he always expressed an interest in. After
decades as a machinist, Sease became a blacksmith full time.
A member of the Indiana Blacksmiths Association, Sease and his colleges
have started a satellite group that meets in his shop the second Saturday
of every month, where members exchange ideas and techniques.
Youd be surprised how many blacksmiths there really are
out there, Sease said. Theyre just kinda like termites,
you only see one every now and then.
To schedule times for student groups call (812) 522-7722.
Back to November 1999