June 29, 2018
First Thing Fridays, Vol. 6 w/ Kati Forner and Sarah Lesher | Allison Shoemaker
Allison Shoemaker
Allison from Ludlow Kingsley talks blacksmithing and answers a question about living up to her name

One of the last times I was home, a few months ago in April, I was sitting around with my family and we were watching this show called Forged in Fire. Not sure if anyone has heard of it or seen it on the History Channel — it’s like Chopped of the culinary scene but for blacksmithing where guys will come together for this competition and they’ll have to make a knife or blade out of this random piece of material.

Allison Shoemaker

Someone will be kicked off and then the rest are tested to see who’s blade performs the best, and then someone else is kicked off, and the last two people go home for a week to prepare for the final home forge challenge, then they pick a winner. It’s really exciting to watch, and my Uncle, who was sitting with us at the time, was super into it. And I realized that this is what he does — he has his own blacksmithing shop at his home and it’s what he’s always been into. So, after watching this show I was super curious about all of that — I've never seen him in action — so I asked him to teach me, and I spent the next day in his shop. 

We had this grand plan to make a cool snake figurine. Although, that’s not quite what came out of our day. This is what we made: it kind of looks like a post-apocalyptic weapon. I’ve been watching a lot of Walking Dead lately and I feel like this is something they’d fully use on the show!

We started by taking a piece of scrap metal and then cutting it in half. With each of the halves we torched the center and folded them, then welded the two pieces together at the base so that there were four prongs. With a torch, I would heat the base and he would braid and bend the metal all the way up. My Uncle uses charcoal in his forge and we started a fire to then heat up the braided material we had going. 

He also has this large industrial forge hammer, which I got to try out. You have to slowly hammer out the metal so that it can get this cool, smooth scale effect. But then he left for a second and I accidentally melted the piece in the forge and goofed a few things up, so we couldn't quite get it into the snake shape like we wanted, so we just decided to just put a spike on the end and call it a day. For the top, it was welded together at one point, and we just split it up to turn it into this curved handle. We then dropped it in oil and polished the piece at the sanding belt. It became this mystery item, but it was fun spending the whole day working in his shop and learning about the process and all the machines.

For the hammer machine, there’s a foot petal at the base and depending on how much pressure you use to push down, the faster the hammer will go — similar to how a sewing machine runs. It’s a matter of heating the piece in the fire and then running over to the machine to pound it where it’s red. I’m really weak, and also have balancing issues, so I had a really hard time! I don't know how Forged in Fire makes it look so easy!

If you could launch a brand that isn't graphic design-related, what would it be?

Shoes. I’ve always felt that I should live up to my name, Shoemaker, so I should've been a shoe designer. I’d make sneakers, or platform shoes, or better yet, platform sneakers. 

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