NRBA Spring Conference 2013 at Jem Blueher's Anvil Wagon Works in Livingston, Montana with Croatian-trained blacksmith, Joe Delisimunovic, demonstrating.
Joe Delisimunovic, demonstrating splitting the ends of a flat bar for a sign bracket faceplate:
Joe fitting a collar with the two-hammer technique:
Joe inletting a piece of forged iron hardware into a equine single-tree the easy way---with fire:
Hot metal under the Little Giant:
The many faces of Joe Delisimunovic
Frank Annighofer striking for Joe:
Joe giving sight to a horse head:
Firewood tongs by Frank Annighofer:
Firetool Set by Eric Dewey:
Sign bracket by Joe Delisimunovic:
Spurs by Dean Ellis:
Members in attendance:
Frank and Annette Annighofer
Terry Melton and Martin Hildreth
Frank Donahue spotting at the fund-raising auction:
Auctioning one of Joe's demonstration pieces, a lassoed horse dinner triangle:
Auctioneer, Scott Roberts
Joe Delisimunovic at his home forge
Joe started his smithing at age of 13 with his Grandfather, Mijo Delisimunovic, in his home village of Petricko Selo in Croatia. Grandfather Mijo was the area blacksmith - from making knives to broad axes, farm equipment-example; plow & potato harvesters. The way of life at that time was very primitive. There was no electricity. Any binding, fusing or riveting was done in the forge. Grandfather also made black powder rifles. He was the area gunsmith as well. Joe started helping with pushing the bellows and now & then help to strike. Joe spent 2-3 hours a day after school with his Grandfather. He did this for about 2 years until his Grandfather passed away. Since he couldn't learn his trade from his Grandfather anymore he had to go away at age 14 to learn his trade. In the next 3 years he was in 3 different shops. Each shop specialized in different processes of smithing. Two of the shops were in Croatia and 1 in Slovania. To go to the shop in Slovenia, Joe first had to learn to read & write the language. The whole trade was regulated by the Yugoslavian government. In the trade school there were 8 months practical and 4 months of theory studies. The trade school was in the winter time when the apprentices were not needed so much in the shops. The trade school about 18 km away from the shops where he learned his trades. Joe rode his bicycle most of the time to the trade school in the morning & back at night. They couldn't buy any inner tubes for the bike tires so he braided rope from straw & forced it into the tire in place of the inner tube. This would last about 5 days and then he would have to repeat the process again. The 18 km took an hour or longer each way. On the weekends they worked in the shops to make some money. During his three years they were shoeing horses and oxen for their practical experience. The last 6 months of study they learned the theory of being a farrier. This included structure of the oxen & horses feet - They learned the correct positioning of the shoes for the comfort of the animal for the purpose they were being used for & for the different seasons.
Once training was complete, Joe returned to his village and worked his blacksmith shop for 2 months. At this time Joe traveled with a friend over the mountains to Austria. It took 8 months to straighten out their papers. Once paperwork was in order, Joe joined the French Foreign Legion and was in Algeria for 2 years. When his 2 years was up he went to Germany. In Germany he worked in a blacksmith shop for 18 months. They did decorative work - railings, gates, wall units (sconces, etc), chandeliers etc.
Joe then chose to immigrate to Canada. He first worked at Rocky Mountain House in Alberta as a farrier. Prior to coming to Canada Joe spoke Croatian, Slovanian, German, Ukrainian, and some Russian. Many of the Ranch Hands (cowboys) spoke some Ukranian because of their backgrounds so Joe was able to communicate with the cowboys. Joe then was hired on as a Blacksmith in a logging camp in Gold River, BC. Because the existing blacksmith wasn't retiring for 6 months Joe first had to learn to drive logging trucks. He was glad when the 6 months was up so he could stop driving truck and get back to his trade. Joe worked there for 9 years until the camp shut down. Joe moved to Vancouver, BC and opened his own Blacksmith shop. At his shop he did mostly artistic smithing and sculpture. The opportunity came to sell his business & shop to a competitor. Joe then moved to Vernon, BC in the Okanagan Valley. Joe opened another Blacksmith business doing work for Elk Bay in the film industry. He supplied props for filming movies such as Dudley Do-Right, 13th Warrior starring Antonio Banderas & Omar Sharif, Eyes of a Cowboy and others. Joe has seen his props from these movies show up in others than the movie they were made for. Joe's company did the complete iron work for Kevin Costner's estate in Aspen, Colorado. This company "Lost Art" shut down about 5 years ago when Joe semi-retired.
Joe currently takes on projects that interest him. He loves to make horse drawn coaches, buggies and wagons. He also does artistic railings, spiral staircases, connecting plates for post & beam structures. Handles, locks, hinges, towel holders, chandeliers, lamps etc., take form at Joe's forge.
From 1988 to 2004 Joe yearly ran Blacksmith classes -average was 4 students. These were held on Aug & September weekends and ran 8-10 weeks. On occasion Joe has also conducted harnessing & driving classes.
Joe was the first one to organize a Can-Iron Blacksmithing event which was held at O'Keefe Ranch as Caniron I in 1997. He has demonstrated for the Western Canadian Wheelwrights Association and for 8-10 times for the Vancouver Island Blacksmith Association. He has demo'd for the local college, for the Boy Scouts of Canada and as special demonstrations for local Exhibitions. Joe's boys have taken some of the trade as 2nd generation metalworkers. Joe's youngest daughter has also worked with him in his shop using some of her talents in smithing.
Joe owns the family homestead in Croatia and is again setting up in his old Blacksmith shop. Joe will be "shining up" his Grandfather's anvils and "making some noise through the Village" when there visiting. In Croatia there isn't a "man in the moon" - there isn't a "rabbit on the moon" when it is full - But there is a "Smithy on the Moon". If you look closely you can see the Smithy raising his hammer above his head ready to strike his anvil.
Joe enjoyed visiting NRBA for the Spring Conference and sharing some of what he has learned over his 53 years of Blacksmithing.
Northern Rockies Blacksmith Association.
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