The Vista Forge

Students in the California Blacksmith Association's training program get hands-on training

| October 2000

It's not unusual to find a working blacksmith at a vintage farm equipment show. It is, however, unusual to find a full dozen ... unless you're familiar with the Vista Forge of the California Blacksmith Association (CBA). 

The Vista Forge is more than a blacksmiths' organization. It also offers extensive training in the centuries-old craft. Currently, about 50 students (age 13 and up) are enrolled in one of three year-long programs. Each class meets once a month, on Saturdays, at a barn at the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum in Vista, Calif. (The CBA sponsors courses at 17 sites in California.) At the AGSEM spring threshing bee in mid-June, the barn was a hive of activity.

"We had 12 forges lit here on Saturday," said Dave Vogel, a smith and instructor in the Vista program. "We're looking for five more anvils and hand-crank blowers to allow us to expand and put to use forges which we'll locate outside, under the shed roof."

In the CBA program, students learn to use hand-crank blowers from the turn of the last century.

"That's the era we're trying to represent," Dave said. "Our objective is teaching how to do blacksmithing safely. We teach the basic techniques: Using the forge, welding, riveting, punching, drawing metal out. Those are the same techniques that were used 300 years ago. But we also hope to help a person be able to select equipment to outfit a shop and be able to start out and work safely."

The attraction is simple, said Bill Stone, another instructor at the Vista Forge.