Note: This story was originally posted in May 2020.
DOUGLAS, Okla. (KFOR) – There was a blacksmith shop in Douglas about a century ago and there is still one nearby, just a couple of miles north, still working a forge and power hammer.
“My original shop was in Douglas,” says blacksmith Tom Nelson. “This one is all right but you always want more and bigger tools, and more room.”
If he was learning now, Tom Nelson might find out a little bit of blacksmithing knowledge by watching YouTube.
35 years ago he had to buy a book.
Then he had the learn by watching other blacksmith’s tricks of the trade.
“I had always liked working with metal and I like history,” Tom said. “I’d been interested in old farm machinery and wagons for years.”
Nelson still farms a little, he plays with a few cows.
He used to teach history, but now he keeps coal and coke in the forge or making simple things like tent stakes and key chains.
Hammering out a leaf shaped key ring, Nelson says, “We’ll give it a little bit of texture to give it life.”
He admits, “I’m still pretty slow at this stuff though.”
Every once in a while though, someone brings him and old wagon they want to get working again.
Nelson knows how to change metal tires, refit the fellows, and change out the spokes.
If the hub is good then everything falls right into place.
“If the hub is good,” he echoes, “then you get the spokes to fit the mortices.”
Of course, there’s a good reason why his wagon wheel business is a mostly solitary pursuit.
Cars are faster.
Electric welders and cutting torches have replaced the forge.
But it’s a comfort knowing there are still a few people out there who retain the kind of knowledge that connects us to another time when slower was good, and one man could still get a whole lot done.
Tom’s shop is called Cross Around Forge.
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