AUBURN — Metalwork, the kind done with a flaming forge, a hammer and an anvil, is just like pottery — give or take a few thousand degrees.

“People can’t perceive that steel is a manipulable material, just like clay,” said Dereck Glaser, director the New England School of Metalwork. “But it only is once we have a full fire and a couple thousand degrees. And then it becomes soft enough and pliable enough to stretch and move into the form you want it to take.”

And since 2000, one of the best places to learn that craft has been just off the Washington Street Northbound whirl of the rotary: The New England School of Metalwork.

The school started as an adjunct of Maine Oxy, a place to train would-be welders.

The welding part is popular to this day, a more practical craft than its blacksmithing counterpart. It inspires numerous students from all over Maine to come and learn that marketable skill.

But the blacksmithing program inspires something else.

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“There are only two or three other places where you can get this kind of instruction,” Glaser said. “We really do have the best of the best coming to teach from all over the country.”

Its students have usually spent the better part of their life working with metal in some more practical way, as welders or other jobs. Some are excited by the challenge, some want to try something different and some have specific projects in mind.

“We have others who purchase old homes with colonial accents, and they want to learn how to make their own replacement parts,” Glaser said. “Things like strap hinges, slide bolts, door knockers. Think of things a mid-1700s-era home would need.”

And until this summer, the two programs shared the same space. Just this month, the blacksmithing program moved into its own space with multiple forges and anvil stations. The welding program will expand its space as well in the coming months.

“They don’t get more students, but their programs are longer,” Glaser said.

Blacksmithing is one of the only art forms where you make your own tools. From hammers to tongs to the anvil, everything a blacksmith needs, he can make.

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“The craft transcends the material because all of our tools are made here,” he said. “They are made of metal. All of them are made here in the forge. So we are self-sufficient in a way. Some other crafts are, but this one is unique because the material we are working with is the material that all of our tools are made of.”

In other words, a wood carver is not going to make a saw or chisel out of wood.

“It is the root of all crafts,” he said. “Most all crafts rely on the metalworker to provide them with instruments, tools and equipment to do their thing,” Glaser said.

Do you know a creative person with a technological bent? We’d love to talk to them. Contact Staff Writer Scott Taylor at [email protected], on Twitter as Orange_me or call 207-689-2846.

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