Art

Learn Ye Olde Blacksmithing Skills at the Dark Angel Armory & Forge

Years ago, Shaun Williams began hammering his own armor out of cold sheet metal to wear to a Renaissance festival at Snyder Park in Fort Lauderdale. He later graduated to a blowtorch and eventually found himself drawn, inescapably, to blacksmithing.

These days, you can find the 47-year-old (who is from Montreal but moved to South Florida at age 6) in his Dark Angel Armory & Forge — a metal art school and custom ironworks shop nestled among warehouses on the west side of Pompano Beach. In addition to running his shop, Williams serves as regional coordinator for the Florida Artist Blacksmith Association (FABA) Southeast Region, a nonprofit organization committed to preserving the nearly lost art of blacksmithing.

“Making your own hammer, as a blacksmith, is a rite of passage.”

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After picking up a bachelor’s degree in history from Florida Atlantic University — with a specialization in medieval studies, of course — he devoted his life and attention to everything blacksmith-related. He holds a journeyman level blacksmithing certification and is working toward his master certification. Williams is mostly self-taught and passes his knowledge on through classes at his Pompano studio.

When I arrived, Williams — six-and-a-half-feet tall, with hazel eyes — was in the process of making a hardened blacksmithing hammer for one of his internet clients. He says that it takes about five hours to make a hammer and that doing so uses up about an entire tank of propane for the furnace. “Making your own hammer, as a blacksmith, is a rite of passage,” he says. He offers a hammer-making class for $175.

   Williams’ business manager and romantic partner, Sylvia Andrassy, is a semiprofessional artist and aspiring blacksmith working to obtain her journeyman certification. Together, they host classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced skill levels. In addition to teaching Boy Scouts and homeschooled kids, their “Introduction to Blacksmithing” class is offered on the second Saturday of every month. This five-hour class costs $150/person, which includes safety equipment and the cost of materials. Each participant will take home a completed project — usually, a decorative hook — which teaches five of the nine basic skills of blacksmithing: cutting, drawing a taper, scrolling, bending, and twisting.

Another interesting class they offer doubles as a date night. Their “Couples Wine-down” forging night is offered once a month from 6 to 9 p.m. This three-hour interactive evening brings couples together to create memories as well as mementos. Williams and Andrassy will select a special project for each couple to work on, and by the end of the evening, each couple will have forged more than just steel. Hors d’oeuvres will be served, and participants are encouraged to bring their favorite refreshing beverage. At $100 per couple, the cost is on par with that of an average date night. Some of the hand-forged projects usually selected for this class include wine keys, spring-themed paperweights, bottle openers, and iron flowers. They will occasionally select a mixed-media project, such as a slumped glass cheese tray with a hand-forged cheese knife.
Dark Angel Armory & Forge is also expanding its arts programs to include casting, ceramics, and some simple forms of glass art. Williams envisions it as a space for artists, makers, and crafters to learn and grow, with knowledgeable and friendly teachers on staff — a place where no idea is too big and no project too small.

Williams is also getting ready to roll out a four-week class on swordsmithing. For this, he plans to team up with his casting expert. He plans on teaching the blade portion of the class, and the casting master will teach students how to make the hilt and handle. The cool part is you get to keep the sword once it’s finished, and of course, the bragging rights that go along with having made your very own combat-grade work of art.

Dark Angel Armory & Forge also offers an assortment of other monthly free events. March 18 to 20, the FABA annual conference will be held at the Tanah Keeta Boy Scouts of America Campgrounds, located at 8501 SE Boy Scout Road in Tequesta. There, Dark Angel Armory will be crafting a Viking sword throughout the event that will then be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The proceeds will be applied to the FABA scholarship fund.

So whether you are looking to become the next master blacksmith or just to try something new, the team at Dark Angel has got your back. It’s also never a bad time to brush up on your civilization-rebuilding postapocalyptic survival skills, is it?

Dark Angel Armory & Forge
2600 Hammondville Road, Bay No. 20, Pompano Beach. Call 954-998-3473, or visit darkangelarmory.com.

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