ALVARADO — On an ordinary day, John Jobe walks about 15 steps to his job, which is in a small shop he built himself.
Within those four walls in Alvarado, Jobe heats iron to almost 1,600 degrees before twisting, bending and braiding it into intricate patterns and creating everything from household items to works of art.
A blacksmith, Jobe specializes in metal art and iron furnishings and the shop houses all of his tools. He creates his work with two power-hammers, treadle hammer, swage block and a forge he built out of a freon tank. The shelves and cabinets are filled with hammers and other tools – some he purchased, but most he built himself.
“I have to keep costs down in order to compete in the market, so that’s why I make most of my tools,” said Jobe, who, along with his wife, Susan, sets up booths at different arts and crafts shows.
“I started welding when I was 13 years old,” Jobe said. “My dad owned an office supply business in Burleson and I worked for him for about 20 years, but when he retired and sold the business, I decided to go to college, where I got a tech degree in industrial art at Hill County College.”
After Jobe graduated, he worked for a company in Waco that specialized in structural ironwork. One day, he walked into an ironworks shop in Waco and his life changed forever.
“I was watching this guy making artwork out of iron and he asked me if he could help me. I told him, ‘Just keep on doing what you’re doing. I want to learn to do what you do,’ ” Jobe said he told the man.
Jobe was informed there were no openings at that time but that he would be contacted when a position came open.
“A couple of months later, I got a phone call from the man who told me that one of his men left and I could come to work for him if I wanted to,” Jobe said. “He was a great guy, but he was a lousy teacher. He would demonstrate some of his (techniques) and then he would have me to try it, but he had absolutely no patience with me if I didn’t do it right.”
Jobe began searching the Internet for everything he could find about blacksmithing and began to develop some tools to use in creating ironwork art and furnishings.
“I built a forge out of a brake drum and started heating it up with charcoal I bought at the store and used just a plain blow dryer to heat it up,” Jobe said, noting his first anvil was a piece of railroad track. He started learning techniques such as hammer control and began working with wrought iron, a chemically-treated iron that is softer than regular iron.
Jobe said the blacksmith image has been distorted by Hollywood.
“You see these shows where this big, bulky blacksmith is working in a shop with no shirt on and sweat pouring off of him and he’s portrayed as just a horseshoer,” said Jobe, explaining that a farrier shoes horses, but a blacksmith builds a wide variety of iron products. Jobe also said it’s unrealistic that a blacksmith would be without his shirt because hot metal particles are always being scattered from an anvil and forge.
“Thomas Jefferson had a nailery at his place and he hired 10-year-old boys to work for him making nails. And those boys could turn out about 25,000 nails each week. It would take them seven years to become (blacksmith) apprentices,” Jobe said, saying he uses the same techniques that were used back then.
Jobe demonstrated his power hammers in his shop, one of which dates to 1923 and pounds iron with 50 pounds of pressure, while another power hammer he built has 25 pounds of pressure. He also demonstrated a treadle hammer, which is operated with a foot pedal.
Jobe has an assortment of utensils that emboss different patterns into the iron and an instrument he called a swage block, which enables him to create bowl-shaped articles.
He talked about making a complete iron bed that weighed in excess of one-half ton. The bed was polished to perfection and was to go in an upstairs bedroom of the buyer’s residence.
“As we were taking the pieces up the stairs, the woman told us to wait a minute. She told us that the bed looked good, but she wanted it to have the hammer marks in it to give it a rustic look,” Jobe said, noting he told the woman he could take it back to his shop and do it, but it would cost her an extra $1,000.
“I thought that would discourage her, but she immediately said, ‘OK, so we took it back to the shop and did the work. But with all the labor that went into it, I ended up losing money on it,” Jobe said.
He has created such items as a fireplace screen with utensils, iron tripods that are used on open campfires and triangle-shaped dinner bells. He also is making a baker’s rack for his wife. Although Jobe could make items cheaper by using a drill and doing some welding, his handmade items are very popular and sought after.
“I am the blacksmith for the Beaumont Ranch and I also teach a continuing education course on blacksmithing at Hill County College,” Jobe said.
For more information about Jobe Metalsmiths, call 817-783-3379, log onto the Web site at http://groups.msn.com/metals or e-mail email@example.com.
E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org