For the love of red-hot metal

Errington blacksmith knows good steel when he sees it

Metal worker David Friesen shows off his forge and anvil at his rented smithy in Errington.

Metal worker David Friesen shows off his forge and anvil at his rented smithy in Errington.

When David Friesen sees an old, rusty  lawnmower blade, he doesn’t see a piece of junk. What he sees is a piece of high-carbon steel.

And he knows just what to do with that.

Friesen uses those castoffs to create his own brand of unique metalwork that is starting to attract a lot of attention.

Friesen, who runs Crossed Heart Forge,  makes knives, as well as shawl pins and kitchenware from recycled steel and copper, pounding it out the old fashioned way, with a forge, hammer and anvil.

He began his love affair with metalurgy when he was just a young teenager.

“I got involved in blacksmithing with a broken kitchen knife my parents had,” he said. “I spent hours making it into a miniature Japanese sword.”

It was clear he had found something that fired his imagination, so his parents decided that if he was going to handle red hot metal, he should probably learn to do it properly.

“They sent me to learn with an Amish blacksmith for two weeks,” he remembered. “My grandpa found an anvil and old forge at a farm auction and that’s the beginning of the story.”

Like many passions, metal working doesn’t necessarily pay all the bills at the start. Because of this, Friesen supplemented his income doing web page design, eventually leaving his blacksmith tools in storage and moving to Japan, where he taught graphic design.

He missed Canada though and just over a year ago he and wife Tamaki moved back to Canada, where they took up residence on Vancouver Island.

“Lots of stuff was changing in the economy and we realized we wanted to be somewhere more like the Island in the long term, rather than the big city,” he said. “This a good area to do the art thing and we realized we  were either going to talk about this for the rest of our lives or do it — so we’ve been doing it.”

After displaying his unique pieces at craft fairs and a small number of other venues, people have started to take notice of his unique creations.

“People really appreciate something that doesn’t look like it came out of a machine,” he said. “We even make the charcoal that fuels the fire. We make it from construction scrap. Every part of the process using something that was going to the landfill. Now that we’ve been here for a year, people are getting aware that we’re in the business of slow recycling.”

He said the reaction to his work has been gratifying — and lucrative.

“People are just blown away at the difference between what we start with and what we finish with,” he said.

“We can tell them this knife was once a rusty lawnmower blade, but when they see them together they say no way — that’s amazing. If I was buying bars of steel and making knives out of them it would not be nearly as interesting as finding a rusty old harrow tooth and making something out of that.”

He’s not alone in his efforts. Tamaki has also been bitten by the metalwork bug and she creates her own line of metal buttons — which are probably the couple’s biggest seller.