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Blacksmiths at work in Willow Creek for China Flat Museum Hammer-In

WILLOW CREEK- Dozens of blacksmiths from all over northern California are in Willow Creek Friday and Saturday, forging steel at the 15th annual Willow Creek China Flat Museum Hammer-In.

Blacksmiths are using hammers, propane forges, coal forges and blowers the next two days at the event.  Blacksmithing, organizers say, is an important part of American history.

"You couldn't go down to the corner hardware store and buy items that you can today.  If you needed nails to build a house, you went to the blacksmith and had him manufacture them for you.  Anything that needed repair, harnesses, wagon wheels, any of that type of material, the blacksmith manufactured," said Dick Kersh, a Co-Coordinator of the event and the blacksmith at the China Flat Museum.

Historically, blacksmiths had to make their own tools.  So for this year's hammer-in, blacksmiths are making their very own slot punches, which is a tool used to put holes in steel.

"Blacksmiths didn't have drill presses and modern equipment that's available now.  In order to put a hole in something, they had to heat the steel up and basically punch a hole through it, so we're building a tool to do that," Kersh said.

Some of the blacksmiths, like Bob Fulton, who lives in Petaluma, have been coming for years.

"I love it.  It's really a fun hobby.  It's really fun.  The people are really nice," said Fulton, how has been coming to the Hammer-In for 10 years.

Others, like Willow Creek resident Mass Leviathand, are blacksmithing for the first time.

"The steel is a little softer than I thought.  As long as you heat it up, you really can make anything you want, as long as you just take the time it takes," said Leviathand.

But the Hammer-In is not just about forging steel, it’s about forging friendships, too.

"They're going to be able to socialize with one another and just renew friendships.  A lot of these people have been around here for years in the blacksmithing industry...Some of the only times that they ever get together are events like this," said Kersh.

The event is also about creativity.

"There's no limit to what you can make.  You can take a piece of scrap metal that was going to be wasted and used for nothing and you can turn it into a piece of art that somebody will pay you hundreds of dollars for and cherish forever," said Willow Creek resident Adam Jorgensen, who has been a blacksmith for seven years.