CHETWYND – In this technology-driven, fast-paced, online world, there’s something to be said for the old ways.
The clanging of metal, the hiss of water and steam, the smell of molten metal: it’s all in a day’s work for Chetwynd blacksmith Justin Urbantas.
In the Northern Lights College shop in Chetwynd, Urbantas is assisting one of his students in heating a black rod of steel over a glowing yellow furnace until the metal turns neon red.
Urbantas hammers, twists and heats the rod again and again, while hammering and twisting the metal and narrating to his students what he’s doing.
His students that day are working on several different projects; knives, hooks, hand tools and even a medieval crossbow.
Urbantas, who is an archaeologist by profession and a blacksmith on his days off, has lived in Chetwynd for two years.
In those short two years, Urbantas is known for his metal work and is sharing the love of his art with others thanks to an opportunity from Northern Lights College to teach his trade to others.
Urbantas said the love of such an ancient trade was stemmed after he attended a historical reenactment event when he was 14.
“I was walking through the tents and heard the ‘ding ding’ and it kind of drew me in like a little dinner bell.”
Urbantas said he sat and watched for a few hours and was hooked.
“I bugged him with all the questions I had, and I spent some time with him over the weekend and at the end he offered to sell me his forge and anvil.”
Urbantas jumped on it and $60 later he was set.
“A set up like that is worth hundreds – he wanted to get me into it,” he said. “I got a couple of books – the same book my students are using – and I just starting doing it.”
Urbantas said mistakes were made and mistakes were fixed, but he never gave up.
“I just got better and better,” he said.
Fifteen years later, Urbantas still loves his art and is known for his metal-working. Not only that, but he’s happy to share his knowledge with others.
“I teach about the different types of forges: propane versus coal, the benefits and the disadvantages to both of them. We talk about the different hand tools: chisels, tongs and hammers and the different way they are used.
“Basically we go through all the techniques such as the drawing out, riveting, hammering. I try to encourage my students to choose projects that incorporate a lot of the basic techniques so they can get a feel for it.”
For more information on Urbantas and his work check out https://www.facebook.com/Meskairon/.
To sign up for his class at NLC, contact Kathy Hecker at 240-788-2248.