Frequent visitors of Satchel’s Pizza may recognize the kilt-wearing bartender with a long, red beard.
But many wouldn’t know that Jordan Borstelmann has spent nine years honing his skills as a blacksmith.
The 34-year-old said he hopes to distribute his skills throughout the community by offering forging classes. His first class was on March 15 at Leslie Tharp Designs and focused on transforming a ball-peen hammer into a camp axe.
“Most people think of metal, and especially iron, as immovable and indestructible, but everything is mutable,” he said. “I really enjoy the idea that I make tools that other people actually use.”
By limiting his use of power tools, Borstelmann tries to stay close to the 1,000-year tradition of blacksmithing. He does as much as he can using only a hammer and an anvil, a block used for striking objects.
Borstelmann began forging in 2006 at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. In 2008 and 2009, he was apprenticed to Yaw Owusu Shangofemi, a Hawthorne-based blacksmith. One of their projects was the Gate of Philip, which sits on the corner of Northwest Fourth Street and 10th Avenue in Gainesville.
Shangofemi himself was an apprentice to the famous old-time blacksmith Philip Simmons, whose gates can be found on display at the Smithsonian Museum, the South Carolina State Museum and around China and France.
Five years ago, Borstelmann built his own workshop, a crooked little hut with a dirt floor and tin roof, which he calls Crooked Path Forge.
“It sort of leans to one side, and I am forever chasing our chickens out of it,” he said. “I love it.”
The inspiration for the name, he said, came from his own crooked path in life. Since moving to Gainesville after high school, he has held jobs as a musician, a zookeeper, a bartender and a blacksmith.
Borstelmann said he will continue to teach one workshop a month at Leslie Tharp Designs studio. His next class will be held on April 26 and will focus on bladesmithing, or making knives, which is his specialty.
Leslie Tharp, a 29-year-old metal sculptor and metalworking teacher, typically centers her classes around artistic projects such as creating bottle openers, plant hangers, wall hooks and fire sets. She said collaborating with Borstelmann on more practical objects meets the need in the community.
“Everyone asks me all the time to make a knife, and it’s a really time-consuming and particular process,” she said. “(Jordan and I) work really well together, so if we get a group of students interested in a certain topic, there is a lot of potential there to bring some of these crazy ideas to life and have some fun.”
Wade McMullen, a Satchel’s Pizza co-worker who participated in the first workshop, said he was particularly excited by the process.
“I got to play with red hot metal, which is something that I would never do otherwise,” McMullen said.
He said he was impressed with Borstelmann’s teaching style because he was able to explain the complex chemical reactions in a way that was easy to understand. He was also able to describe the reason for each step, McMullen said.
“There’s a lot of times where you’re just heating it up and letting it cool, and that’s all you do,” McMullen said.
He said he learned a lot from the class including that the seemingly tedious and repetitive process of heating and cooling is called “normalizing,” and it is crucial for transforming the metal.
“The coolest part was after (normalizing),” he said, “We shock-cooled (the axe) in canola oil, and that just cements all those crystals in the metal where you want them, and bam! It caught fire. It was awesome.”