Friday, December 24, 2010

Interview: Dave Custer/Blacksmith

This is the first of what I hope is a series of interviews - there are so many interesting people, young and old, and hopefully it is an encouragement to them!
And now, may I introduce: Dave Custer

(Dave and his sister,
Kayla Custer > )

"So Dave, can you tell me a little about yourself?"

Hi there! My name is David Edward Custer.
The first and most important thing about me is that I am a born again Christian. I am an independent Baptist and I believe that the Authorized King James Bible is God's perfect word for Christians today. As a Baptist, I adhere to the doctrine that the bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. Upon that one belief stands our entire faith!
I was born in middle Georgia in 1992, which makes me 18 years of age.
The first 16 years of my life were spent on a small, 17 acre farm in Zebulon Georgia, a little town fifty miles south of Atlanta Georgia.
For the majority of those 16 years, I worked at farming with my family. We raised our own meat: beef, chicken, and pork. We also kept chickens for eggs, cows for milk, and grew a large portion of our own vegetables.
When I was not working with the animals, I learned many different aspects of construction working with my dad on the various projects we had on the farm. These included rough framing, finishing, electric, plumbing, masonry, and more!
Of course I had schooling to do as well. I was homeschooled from day one, and the only time I have ever been in a school class room was as a teacher!
At an early age, probably around nine or ten, I developed an interest in the War Between the States, more commonly known as the Civil War. As a middle Georgian, my sympathies always lay with the boys in grey!
At twelve, I joined the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Southern history organization. I spent three years as an active member, helping to improve Confederate cemeteries around Barnseville Georgia by replacing the old headstones with new headstones. In many cases we were able to use hospital records to trace soldier's names and provide them with a proper headstone when they had previously been labeled only as "unknown." My other work in the SCV included speaking throughout the state of Georgia on different subjects such as the CSS Alabama, a Confederate navy ship; the first battle of Manassas junction Virginia; and the Confederate infantryman's uniform. I also taught students in living history days and even in the classroom!
Also around the age of twelve I became interested in being a Confederate reenactor. This dream was not realized until I turned fifteen. At that age I "took the field" as a Civil War infantryman, and spent the next three years portraying that branch of service with an occasional excursion to artillery! As a result of my experience in reenacting, I learned the tactics and drill of the 1860's military.

"How did you first become interested in blacksmithing?"

That is a good question! I know that somehow I took an interest in the art of blacksmithing before the age of thirteen, but I am not sure where this interest developed. Searching my memory, I think the interest must have developed from seeing a blacksmith at a reenactment. This would have been as early as the age of 10-12 years.
The first real spark of interest in blacksmithing that I can remember clearly, came at the age of thirteen. Our family took a trip to Stone Mountain Georgia and I saw a blacksmith demonstrate there. His name was Trent, and he is part of Purgatory Iron Works. He did a short leaf-making demo, and afterwards gave me the leaf, as we were his only spectators. I was quite taken, and started doing a little research on smithing. In the winter of 2005 I got my first anvil, blower, homemade forge, and a vice.
From there, with the aid of "The Blacksmith's Primer" by Charles McRaven, I began to teach myself how to work metal. By the spring of 2006, after smithing for less than six months, I did my first public demonstration. This took place at the Nash Farm Battlefield just south of Atlanta Georgia. The demonstration was part of a living history event, held for around 500 middle school students.
And so began my career as a blacksmith!

"What do you specialize in making?"

My specialty in blacksmithing? Hmmm! Well, you see, that is the very thing about blacksmithing! There isn't any one thing a smith really specializes in. Professional blacksmithing is composed of designing and creating custom artistic iron work for the client.
As a traveling smith I do have a varitey of stock items that I make reasonably large quantities of. These include things such as triangle dinner bells, J-hooks, hat racks, fire pokers, "roses of love," leaves, and too many more items to list! At craft fairs, I sell many of each of these items, so I have to be able to produce them somewhat quickly and consistently in shape and size. My best seller of stock items by far would be the dinner bell.
However, it would be extremely difficult to make blacksmithing a profession by selling dinner bells and J-hooks alone. No indeed! Blacksmithing is much, much more!
So to say what I specialize in making:
I create iron work of beauty and functionality, according to the need and desire of the client, using traditional techniques that provide higher quality and asthetic value to the piece. My work consists of solid materials, resulting in a stronger product than the mass produced items that are primarily constructed of cheap pipe and tubing.

I've always been really impressed by everything you've made ~ if you could pick a favorite piece, what would it be?

That question there is dificult simply because of the last question's answer. Of course I enjoy making the stock items I do, but after spending a day making 20 dinner bells, all nearly identical, that part can get a bit monotonous.
At the same time, it is difficult to have a favorite piece out of custom work! Every piece is different with special work, so it's hard to pick a favorite from that.
I think maybe my favorite pieces to do are heart hooks and hat racks. The heart hook requires advanced techniques like forge welding (a process used to fuse two pieces of metal into one,) and incorporates precise hammering to manipulate the metal just right to keep the heart even!
The hat rack that I do utilizes metal texturing and playing with light reflection on metal. Each set of hooks that I do for the hat rack come out a bit different which requires them to be mounted differently each time.
So the hat racks and heart hooks provide a little challenge with each individual piece.

You are interested in old-time music, are you not?

Yes that is correct! I am a traditionalist all of the way around! Old church hymns and old Scotch-Irish tunes are my favorites.

Do you play an instrument?

Yes I do! I play a traditional mandolin. My mandolin was chosen for its traditional appearance and mellow sound that seems as if it just stepped out of a misty Scottish glen. While my main interest and devotion is to the mandolin, I also play around with the harmonica. One of these days I'd like to get around to learning the bagpipes as well! One of these days!

Have you ever done any performing or do you plan too?

Yes! My sister and I played twice on stage with the Cherryholmes family band at the Hoofers Gospel Barn in Lagrange Georgia. Other than that, our family has played for a few churches.
I think it would be neat to do some singing and finger picking on the guitar for churches. I enjoy singing very much and to do so for the Lord would be a privilege indeed.

Working on the family farm sounds like a whole lot of fun. Is that what you plan to do ~ farm, or something else?

Working on the family farm is a lot of fun! I enjoy working with animals and raising a garden. Unfortunately our society has become removed from their food, and I am afraid that if there were a sudden food shortage in the United States there would be many people who would starve to death, simply because they would have no idea how to provide for themselves. We have become a dependent people. If we are dependent it means we are no longer independent. But I am getting away from the question and talking politics! I do not plan to grow a garden or raise meat animals as a source of of income. I hope that blacksmithing and metal fabrication will be my living through which, Lord willing, I will be able to provide for a family.
Nevertheless, I still wish to keep a small, self-sufficient farm......perhaps raise a cow, a couple of hogs, and a score or two of chickens for the use of myself and family.

If someone was intererested in smithing, what are some resources you would suggest?
The above link is a GREAT resource for beginner blacksmiths. Over 12,000 smiths worldwide!
There are some great books out there that have been really helpful. These include "The Blacksmith's Primer" by Charles McRaven. It is an excellent source and shows a new blacksmith how to use cheap sources to make a good forge! It instructs the new smith on how to find metal sources, anvils, and other tools.
"The Backyard Blacksmith" is another good instructional book for a beginner. It has many good step-by-step projects with clear color pictures. It is fun reading and just a great book!

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

Thank you so much, Dave!

~ If you are interested in following more of Dave's doings, visit him at his blog and be sure to drop him a note! (And by the way, make sure you check in his shop. I have a couple of his pieces - they are amazing! ~


Anonymous said...

Hey I remember Dave! He used to be on HSA. :-) Do you think you could post his blog address? Thanks, Kate!

Lady Amanda

~Miss Kate~ said...

Yes - actually, it is posted. :) The word "blog" is a link :)

Anonymous said...

Okay, got it. Thanks! :-)

Lady Amanda