NRBA Fall Conference, 2012.  September 14 - 16 at Ann and Morris Hallowell's near Livingston, Montana.

The Demonstrator:    Mark Aspery, from Springville, California.

Mark had a motorcycle accident on August 1. He broke a couple of ribs and his shoulder blade. But, was discharged from the hospital and recovered sufficiently to demonstrate in Montana in September (with gracious assistance from Steve Fontanini). And the motorcycle is doing fine.


Mark's demonstrations concentrated primarily on making tools --- and then then showing how to use them to create finished products and design elements for larger projects.

       Mark lecturing 


Above & below: Mark forging tongs.


Making and using a chisel:

  Drawing out a taper from a piece of 4140 steel on the horn of the anvil to forge a chisel.

Heat treating the chisel (above).      Using the chisel to slice a piece of steel (below).



Forging and using a bottom swage:


Mark drawing a taper for the start of the hardy hole end.                                                                                     Forging the hardy hole plug into a square hole in a generic swedge block (to spare abuse of the anvil hardy hole).



Forging the concavity into the top of the bottom swage.                                                                                        Then, slot-punching for a hole in a round bar using that finished bottom swage.



Finally, holes hot-punched in four round bars and passed through each other to make a grille.


Forging and using a veining hammer:


Perfecting a veining hammer-head eye around a drift.                                                                                          Then, using the hammer, together with a stake he had also just made, to ripple the edges of a stylized "Water Leaf".



Steve Fontanini fullering a 2 1/2-inch square bar under the power hammer to isolate a cubic mass at the end.                                                                                                                                            Then, forging the cube into a ball in one heat.




Pretty good attendance..


  Jim Bollinger auctioneering


Entertainment by Keith Lowery and The Blokes on Saturday night.


Members attending:

Nathan Kimpell & Frank Donahue

Jem Blueher

Frank Annighofer


Previous demonstrations by Mark Aspery around the country:


Mark demonstrating at the ABANA national conference in Seattle, 2006. He also taught at the hands-on teaching tent at the NWBA Western States conference at Mt. Hood.


Mark running the Hands-On Teaching Installation at the ABANA Conference 2012 in Rapid City, SD.


Note the superb fit of his mortise & tenon joint.



Mark is Editor of the ABANA publication "Hammer's Blow". He teaches at the John C. Campbell Folk School and has written two books, Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing and Mastering the Fundamentals of Leaf-Work. He is currently at work on a third volume, Mastering the Fundamentals of Joinery.


From the ABANA website:

Mark currently owns and operates his own school for blacksmiths. His training as a smith started in the United Kingdom in 1976 after leaving high-school, working for a small fabrication/engineering firm that boasted a blacksmith shop. He has worked for a number of smiths as well as teaching in trade schools over the years.

Mark is a certified journeyman smith with the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, (a UK guild started in London in 1324) and currently an Associate of the company (AWCB) Mark is also a certified farrier with the American Farriers Association (AFA). He does maintain that these qualifications and a dollar will only get you a cup of pretty poor tasting coffee, but that the endeavors were priceless.

Mark owns and operates the 'Mark Aspery School of Blacksmithing' traveling the USA teaching classes for ABANA affiliates and giving blacksmith demonstrations. Mark is currently writing the third volume to his 'How to' blacksmith book series, The Skills of a Blacksmith Vol III – Joinery and related tooling. Mark is careful not to call himself a traditional smith, perhaps classical is a more apt phrase.

Mark likes to use classical joinery techniques where budget and design allow. An underlying ethos of Mark's work is 'make the tools before you can begin the job'. At this time Mark does not do any regular commission blacksmithing, just the occasional small job, and states "I am a little out-of-touch with that side of the profession. I think that the single most important event that has improved my blacksmithing has been to teach it – having to know the root of the skill or information."

Mark maintains that he is as much a student of blacksmithing as the next smith, and is ready to learn more – with a subject this vast, how can he say anything else.


About Mark Aspery: www.markaspery      To gain some appreciation of Mark's abilities, view some of the videos at:



Thursday, Sept 13:

Afternoon: Setup our large tent, two complete forging stations, food service equipment etc. Help was most welcome from nearby members.


Friday, Sept 14:

8:00am: Breakfast: Bacon & eggs cooked to order by Dean and Betty Ellis. Assorted toast & muffins.

9:00am - 12:00am: Mark Aspery demonstrations

12:00noon - 1:00pm: Lunch: Beef stew in red wine by Ann Hallowell. Brownies. Ginger snaps.

1:00pm - 5:00pm: Mark Aspery demonstrations, assisted by Steve Fontanini

5:30pm: Dinner: Baked ham, rolls and sweet potatoes, salad, gingerbread.


Saturday, Sept 15:

8:00am: Breakfast: ham & eggs cooked to order by Dean and Betty Ellis. Assorted toast & muffins.

9:00am - 12:00am: Mark Aspery demonstrations

12:00 - 1:00pm: Lunch: Beef stew in red wine by Ann Hallowell. Rolls and brownies.

1:00pm - 5:00pm: Mark Aspery demonstrations, assisted by Steve Fontanini

5:15pm: General membership meeting

6:00pm: Feast catered by barbeque pitmaster and original Bridger Blacksmith, Terry Morvay with succulent, slow-cooked barbeque pork, roast chicken, brats, fresh corn-on-the-cob and his special secret-recipe baked beans. Gingerbread.

7:00pm: Fund-raising Auction with Jim Bollinger as auctioneer.

8:00pm: Entertainment by Keith Lowery and his band "The Blokes"


Sunday, Sept 16:

8:00am: Breakfast: ham and eggs cooked to order by Dean and Betty Ellis. Assorted toast & muffins.

9:00am - 12:00am: Mark Aspery demonstrations

12:00noon - 1:00pm: Lunch of everything that remained of the previous days' feeds.

1:00pm: Teardown and cleanup.



The Town:

Livingston, Montana is the original gateway to Yellowstone Park via the Northern Pacific Railroad. Located on Interstate 90, 110 miles west of Billings and 25 miles east of Bozeman. It is a small ranching town of 7000 people undergoing the throes of gentrification. The Yellowstone River runs through town (and indeed the movie "A River Runs Through It" was filmed here). See more about Livingston                        



Other Information:

AUCTION - Members brought along something for the entertaining post-banquet Auction---something they made, some tools or machinery or supplies they hadn't used in a while, some special metal left over from a completed project, books already read, or anything remotely of interest to other blacksmiths. The entertaining auction helps defray the cost of putting on conferences and helps keep dues and conference fees low. Members take a $10 discount from the conference fees for the pleasure.

TAILGATE  SALES - Tailgating was encouraged. It was an opportunity to clean out the shop and make some easy money selling stuff no longer needed. Tailgaters used the profits and went home with someone else's treasures. The was a priority closer-in parking area for well-laden tailgaters.

GALLERY - Show off your skill. Bring something you have made for the Gallery. See if you can out-do Scott Roberts. Let other members see your work, be impressed---and learn from it.

REGISTRATION - Pre-registration for the conference helped provide some idea of how much food to prepare.

DOGS - Leashed dogs welcome. No dogs allowed in the shop.

CLOTHING - Blacksmiths should wear natural fibre clothing: cotton, wool, linen, leather; not fleece or any kind of synthetic because random flying molten slag or sparks can burn and melt it into your skin. Not a pretty sight. The natural fibres can smoulder a bit, but they don’t generally ignite.

SAFETY - Ear protection is recommended in the shop. Safety glasses are required.

HANDS-ON - Forging stations were set up for members use, but everyone was too entranced by the demonstrations to take time off to make things themselves.


Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association.  

NRBA Home   Blacksmith News   Board of Directors   Past Conferences  Future Conferences   Library  Touchmarks  NRBA Articles  Membership Application   Links  

Web editor: