ROSEBURG, Ore. — Scott Wadsworth has been fascinated by blacksmiths since he was 12 years old, when he kept running across descriptions of them in the Western books he enjoyed.
He was camping the first time he experienced the joy of shaping metal. He put some nails in a campfire, and once they were hot he started hammering them flat.
“I didn’t know what to do with them, but I kept doing it over and over,” he said.
Wadsworth went to Oregon State University, intending to study for an engineering degree, but dropped out to pursue a construction career. He owned Wadco Construction in Roseburg for several decades, married his childhood sweetheart Kelly (they met on a school bus in Glide), and raised four kids.
Twelve years ago he received a life-changing gift from former Douglas County Commissioner Bill Vian. Vian gave Wadsworth all his blacksmithing tools — tools he himself had received from Roseburg Forest Products founder Kenneth Ford in 1978.
The equipment is worthy of a museum, but Wadsworth has no intention of leaving it to collect dust.
“When Bill gave me these tools it really altered the course of my middle age,” he said.
Today, Wadsworth builds a wide variety of metal objects, from chandeliers to range hoods to swords.
His favorite creation to date is a set of gates patterned to look like dogwood for a design studio belonging to Jennifer Jackson of Sutherlin. It’s the type of creation Wadsworth likes to call house jewelry.
The next step in the journey he’s taken came when his son Nathan Wadsworth of Mesa, Arizona, a millennial in his early 30s, suggested his dad put up some videos on YouTube. That seemed like a horrible idea, Wadsworth said. He couldn’t imagine that anyone would be interested.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
In January 2016, Nathan shot some video about a large, 70-year-old power hammer Wadsworth uses to smash iron.
“He uploaded it, and it got a few thousand views, and that was intriguing,” Wadsworth said.
But that was only the beginning. After a few other videos, including one about a forge he designed and built, the two collaborated on a video in July 2016 about a blacksmith’s anvil. Over the weekend after it was posted, it received 100,000 views.
Wadsworth has several anvils, but one of them is his favorite among a shop full of blacksmith’s tools. It’s a 448-pound anvil manufactured by Hay Budden Manufacturing Co. in Brooklyn, New York, in 1909.
The anvil’s been well used over its 100-plus years, but it remains in top condition. Wadsworth can take a metal object, softened by heat from either his 2400-degree propane forge or his 3600-degree coal forge, set it on the anvil and start hammering until it takes the shape he has in mind.
It’s magic, he said, and it connects him to all of history. Every fastener, kitchen implement, printing press part, even the bits in the horses’ mouth, they were all hammered out on an anvil, he said.
“Everything civilization required emerged between the face of an anvil and the face of a hammer,” he said. “It connects me with life as it used to be.”
Wadsworth hopes to figure out how to make a living from his YouTube channel, called Essential Craftsman. Nathan visits about once every six weeks to shoot more videos.
Their latest project is to build a spec house from the ground up and record the entire process, something he said no one has ever done.
Wadsworth certainly has plenty of fans. Some of his videos have been viewed more than half a million times.
Learning to be a blacksmith revolutionized his life, he said, and finding out how many people were interested in what he was learning revolutionized it again.
Wadsworth found this new purpose at the age of almost 60.
“It feels like a last-minute chance to do something significant, as long as I keep the emphasis on the craftsmanship and not on me,” he said.
Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com