The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Forging demonstration lights up Baer Blacksmith Shop

Restored historical Cupertino shop holds monthly blacksmithing demonstration
During+a+pause+in+his+live+forging+demonstration%2C+blacksmith+Lester+Markarian+explains+the+techniques+he+used+to+create+a+handle.
Alyssa Yang
During a pause in his live forging demonstration, blacksmith Lester Markarian explains the techniques he used to create a handle.

The Baer Blacksmith Shop held its monthly demonstration on Saturday, Nov. 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restored Blacksmith Shop, located in McClellan Ranch, included exhibits on the craft of blacksmithing and the history of the shop, as well as a live forge demonstration performed by blacksmith Lester Markarian.

Markarian says the turnout for the demonstrations varies from month to month, but overall, he sees a lot of community interest in blacksmithing. For instance, the Blacksmith Shop’s beginner classes are currently fully booked through March of next year. He credits increased media exposure through shows such as the reality competition TV series “Forged in Fire” for renewed interest in blacksmithing.

“Everybody always asks me if I’ve seen it,” Markarian said. “I’ve seen it once — I thought it was really predictable. But it’s great that people are becoming more aware of blacksmithing based on those shows.”

However, one drawback that’s come with increased interest is that blacksmithing equipment has become much more costly, according to Markarian. For instance, the prices of anvils have risen sharply. Today, anvils sell for around $8–9 per pound, as compared to roughly $3–5 per pound for an anvil Markarian purchased decades ago.

Spectators explore the restored shop’s exhibit on various blacksmithing tools. Photo | Anika Bhandarkar

The forge at McClellan Ranch also features tools from the original shop, which was built in the 1880s by William T. Baer at the intersection of Stevens Creek and De Anza Boulevard. Although the original shop eventually gave way to an auto garage and later a modern gas station, the city of Cupertino was able to purchase the antique tools and create a replica that now stands in McClellan Ranch.

It took three decades before the restored blacksmith shop met modern building codes and the forge was put back into use. Markarian says he’s glad his demonstrations introduce people to blacksmithing. He himself began blacksmithing as a hobby after seeing it and thinking it would be fun to try.

“A little bit of blacksmithing experience can change your approach to any problem you might have,” Markarian said. “One time on Christmas Day, my clutch on a Honda Civic broke in such a way that I could go into my shop and make a little part to put it back together. Having the ability to make tools or have power over steel is quite an advantage.”

Markarian says that as a trade, blacksmithing is characterized by the sharing of knowledge between members of the community. He finds that as the amount of people who care about forging increases, so does the value of the trade itself. Thirty years ago, the Baer Blacksmith Shop at McClellan acted as a site for local blacksmithing organizations to gather and share ideas and techniques, and he’s glad to extend that to the people who come to the demonstrations now.

“A lot of people get really excited here,” Markarian said. “I don’t know how many times people have said, ‘I’ve never seen this place open before.’ People get exposed to blacksmithing — they realize it’s really hard dirty work, but the potential is incredible.”

About the Contributors
Anika Bhandarkar, Opinion Editor
Anika is currently a junior and an Opinion Editor for El Estoque. When she isn't running (or thinking about running,) she can be found playing piano, reading, or playing with her two dogs Luke and Leia.
Alyssa Yang, News Editor
Alyssa is currently a junior and a News editor for El Estoque. When she isn't in a dance studio (which isn't often) she loves traveling, assembling modeling kits and playing too many crosswords.
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