High-Quality, Hand-Forged Homestead Tools

The Dobkins family crafts long-lasting garden tools to sell from their blacksmith shop in the Ozarks.


| February/March 2018


A century after Will Dobkins’ great-grandfather sharpened his first plowshare, forgoing low quality for master craftsmanship, Dobkins continues to produce top-notch tools in that same spirit, using a blend of old and new techniques to craft, repair, and restore homestead tools. Dobkins’ business, Homestead Iron, is located in the Ozarks. Each tool he creates is hand-forged and meticulously crafted to ensure durability. In this interview, Dobkins describes the formation and maintenance of his bootstrap blacksmithing business.

What do you make and sell, and what goes into that decision?

My wife, Melissa, and I run a blacksmith shop that specializes in high-end homestead tools. Many of our tools are based on old, time-tested patterns. We spend time with the hand-forged tools in our garden at home before they go into production. We commonly make three or four prototypes before we settle on a design. And in deciding what to create, we rely on a combination of customer feedback and our own personal experience.

For much of our work, there is no replacement for hand-forging tools at the anvil. For larger projects, we employ some basic power equipment. The power hammer and press allow me to work faster and longer but can’t replace skill. Without a solid foundation of how to forge and how to move material, a power hammer will just wreck your piece faster.

How and when did you learn to blacksmith?

I grew up in the hot shop. My great-grandfather was a traveling preacher, photographer, and blacksmith. My dad was a welder and machinist, and he did some forge work as a hobby. I became interested in forging around age 15, when I was in a Civil War re-enactment group. This led me to make the metal bits of my kit. Soon, I was making picket pins, simple forks, and knives for other re-enactors. Many years later, when aviation maintenance jobs became hard to find, I took a job in a production forge. That rekindled my old flame for forging, and I haven’t looked back since.

Did you have to work an additional job during this transition?

farmlifer
1/4/2018 1:36:37 PM

I too have done forge work attempting make something saleable, mostly of artistic nature and ended up not selling the few I made ...lol. To see a more practical line of products to forge gets me excited to say the least! Rock on !! We are not the status queues bumper crop!






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