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High-Quality, Hand-Forged Homestead Tools

Get the quality you're seeking from the Dobkins family, which crafts long-lasting garden tools in an Ozarks blacksmith shop.

| February/March 2018

  • Blacksmith Will Dobkins crafts, repairs, and restores tools by hand the old-fashioned way. Will and his wife, Melissa, test each tool in their own garden before putting it into production.
    Photo by Homestead Iron
  • Homestead Iron’s high-end tools are based on time-tested patterns and customer feedback.
    Photo by Queren King-Orozco

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?

10/30/2019 12:58:28 PM

Where is the article about "high-Quality, Hand-Forged Homestead Tools?"

St. Funogas
10/30/2019 8:40:38 AM

Slightly off topic but, I bought one of Will Dobkin's Scuffle Weeders (AKA Diamond Hoe) and let me tell you, there is nothing like it! The biggest reason people give up on gardening is the weeds, and I am certain that this tool, all by itself, would keep most of those people from giving up if they just owned one. Think of a regular hoe: most of your motion is doing nothing. All of that up motion, and all of the down motion does nothing, until that final chop. With a scuffle hoe, it's like mopping a floor, every single inch of forward and backward motion you are cutting weeds. This past spring, I went out to my garden with my scuffle hoe, a clock, and my camera. I weeded an area 16 x 25 (400 ft sq) in 17 minutes. At 23 minutes I had everything raked up into two huge piles, and at 31 minutes, the piles were gone to the compost pile and I had gone back in with the scuffle hoe to clean up the stragglers. And they weren't baby weeds, some were 16" tall. It would have taken several hours with a regular hoe. The price of a scuffle hoe may seem a little steep ($75), but when it's going to put the joy back into gardening, and when you see how well it's made, the price is a bargain, even for a frugal fanatic like me. And one more thing. Most tool makers don't seem to realize that people have been getting taller over the years. Most of my tools have handles that are way too short. My scuffle hoe from Homestead Iron is one of the very few that matches my 6'2" and I don't have to bend over to use it. That alone makes it worth the money. :-)

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 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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