The Vista Forge

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

| October 2000

  • Bob Nett at work at the Vista Forge
    Bob Nett at work at the Vista Forge. Students in the Vista Forge classes represent a diverse group: Men, women, young, old, father-and-son, welders, farriers, artists, professionals, craftsmen.
  • A decorative piece produced by a student in the Vista Forge adult education program.
    A decorative piece produced by a student in the Vista Forge adult education program.
  • Bryan Brazeal (left) and Ed Brazeal (right) at work during the June show at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum
    Bryan Brazeal (left) and Ed Brazeal (right) at work during the June show at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum. Instructors at the Vista Forge have completed the program there and are certified by the California Blacksmith Association. The smiths at Vista routinely lend a hand to their host, the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. "We do projects for the whole museum," said Bill Stone. "They're always bringing things up here, stuff they've broken. There's a lot of equipment out there, and it gets banged up."
  • The smith's artistry
    The smith's artistry. The blacksmith shop at Vista is always a crowd pleaser. "During the shows, some people come watch, listen, breathe the coal smoke, and stay all day," said Dave Vogel. "They never get a chance to see the tractors."
  • A work in progress at the wheelwright's shop
    A work in progress at the wheelwright's shop, which shares space in a large barn housing the Vista Forge.
  • 15 hp Mogul kerosene engine
    A 15 hp Mogul kerosene engine powers the lineshaft in the blacksmith shop. This one, dating to 1917, is one of only four 15 hp Moguls known of in operating condition. It previously powered an ore crusher at a mine in California.
  • Vintage equipment and machinery on a lineshaft at the blacksmith shops at Vista.
    Vintage equipment and machinery on a lineshaft at the blacksmith shops at Vista.

  • Bob Nett at work at the Vista Forge
  • A decorative piece produced by a student in the Vista Forge adult education program.
  • Bryan Brazeal (left) and Ed Brazeal (right) at work during the June show at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum
  • The smith's artistry
  • A work in progress at the wheelwright's shop
  • 15 hp Mogul kerosene engine
  • Vintage equipment and machinery on a lineshaft at the blacksmith shops at Vista.

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.



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