The Newsletter of the Houston Area Blacksmith’s Association Inc.


To Preserve And Promote The Art And Craft Of Ornamental Blacksmithing.


HABA Web Site: www.habairon.org


December 2001 Edition






David W. Koenig President

7418 Branch Point

Houston, TX 77095-2649




Larry Newbern Vice President

4918 Foster School Road

Needville, TX 77461




Frank Walters Secretary

13703 Larkway

Sugar Land, TX        77478




Les Cook

11222 Sagewillow

Houston, TX 77089-4536




Larry Hoff Treasurer


Houston, TX 77070-3747





JANUARY 19, 2002


MARBLE FALLS, TX JAN. 26 – 27, 2002




January HABA Meeting – Page 2.

Dec. Meetings Summary–Page 4.

February HABA Meeting – Page 7.

March HABA Meeting – Page 8.

Swage Blocks– Page 8.

Robb Gunter Demo. Page 10.

Tip For Cleaner Shop – Page 9.

Swage Block Stand DWG. -  Page 10.

NOMMA Convention – Page 11.

For Sale - Page 12.

Notice – Page 12.

The Fine Print – Page12.







HABA’s Third Annual Knife Making Workshop will take place at C&S Forge in Dobbin, TX.  Charles and Sharon Heathcock will host the meeting and Lee Oates will lead this workshop for the third time.  Lee is a great demonstrator.  The knife project this year will be a ‘Blacksmith’s Knife’.  This is a knife where the blade and handle are all in one piece.  The handle can be as decorative as you can make it. 


The plan is to build sheaths for the knives too!  If you want to make a sheath, bring $5 for the leather and rivets.  Lee will provide these items.


The stock for the knives will be a piece of hay rake tine or half inch diameter coil spring.


For those attending this workshop for the first time, there will most likely be plenty of resources like forge space and steel available for everyone to make his or her own knife.  Please do not stay away for any reason except a scheduling conflict.  This meeting is quit an event!


The January HABA Meeting will kick off with the Annual HABA Fund Raising Auction.  Part time auctioneer and full time blacksmith, Tom Lundquist, offered to call this auction for us and he does a good job.


Here is a partial list of auction items that can be remembered right now:


A beautiful iron bed made and donated by John Forsman.

An old two chamber bellows donated by Bob Collier.

A scribe, butcher and punch made by Ed Cotton.

A basket form made by Dave Koenig.

A stainless steel heart made by Guido Schindler.

A cast iron rivet forge pan and miscellaneous blower parts from Dave Koenig.

Numerous pneumatic hammer bits and chisels from Bob Collier.


Now is the time to finish making something or to dig out that old tool you rarely use anymore or to load extra bag of coal or coke you can live without and donate it to the HABA Auction.  Someone will make good use of whatever you donate and HABA will have the financial means to do a little more.




ü      Safety glasses with side shields (REQUIRED) and other personal protective equipment like gloves, apron, boots, etc. as desired.

ü      Lots and lots of money to spend at the auction of courseJ

ü      Something to donate for the auction if you can.

ü      A piece of hay rake tine or half inch coil spring or whatever else you would like to use to make your knife.

ü      A forge if you have one and the fuel, tools etc. to make a knife.  You might even bring an extra anvil to share with someone else…just like past workshops. 

ü      An extra $5 for the materials to make a sheath for your new knife. 



Charles and Sharon Heathcock will put together some kind of tasty lunch like Taco Stew.  Those who would like to partake of this tasty delicacy will have to remember to set aside about $3 of all that auction money for lunch.  You can also pack a lunch or drive a few miles to get a bite somewhere.


HABA will have water and soda available for everyone.



From the North side of Houston, go North on interstate 45 to Conroe.  At Conroe go West on state highway 105 about 20 miles.  You will go by Lake Conroe and the town of Montgomery.  About five miles West of Montgomery you will come to the town of Dobbin.  There is not much to see in Dobbin so you need to pay attention about now. 


There will be a caution light.  Slow down and continue through the caution light on 105.  You will be making a left hand turn.  Continue up the hill past the caution light to Mount Mariah Road.  Turn left on Mount Mariah and go south.  C&S Forge will be at the second drive on your left. 


From the West Side of Houston, go Northwest on state highway 249 (which turns into  FM 1774) through Tomball, Decker Prairie and Pinehurst to Magnolia.  FM 1774 will “T” into FM 1488 in downtown Magnolia.  Go right at the ‘T’ across the tracks and turn immediately to the left and continue Northwest on 1774.


Continue Northwest on 1774 two miles or so to FM1486.  Turn right on FM 1486 and go North about twelve miles to 105.  Turn left on 105 and go towards the top of the hill.  Make a left turn on Mount Mariah Road.  The C&S Forge will be at the second drive on the left





This meeting was nothing short of an opportunity to take a look into the past.  Ray and Clarice Snokhous opened the doors of the family blacksmith shop in West, TX to the public for the first time since 1983.  Ray did some work to the shop structure and rewired the lights and motors but most of the tools and odds and ends remained where they were when his father passed away on February 7 1983.  The shop was open for business the previous seventy years.

Ray opened the shop doors right at 10:00 to a small group of smiths.  What a sight it was to look the length of the shop and see everything frozen in time. 


There was a thin coating of old leaves over almost everything.  The pathways through everything were obvious.  The patina on the iron confirmed that very little changed since 1983.  The new wiring, lights, two by fours and tin on the roof showed Ray spent some time getting ready for us yet not changing the feel of the shop.


The first walk through the shop overloaded the senses and imagination.  Questions raced through the brain.  What was that used for?  Wonder why the forges are so big?  What was that tool used for?  Look at that old swage block.  What did the big line shaft operate?  Wonder why all those old handled tool heads are still laying next to that anvil.  This is a big shop!  What was this part of the shop used for…and on and on and on…


When you got to the end and started back again nothing seemed to change.  The view looking from the back of the shop to the front was almost like looking at a different shop. There was so much to look at and wonder about that was missed the on the first pass.  One noticeable change was more people were coming in with the same look that must have been on your face a few minutes earlier.  The shop was pretty quiet until people made at least a few passes through the shop.  Then the greetings and conversations started in earnest.


Hundreds of pictures were taken throughout the day.


Sometime around 10:30 Ray started the tour outside at the back of the shop.  For the next hour or so Ray guided the group from one part of the shop to another.  He answered questions and told stories …one right after another….  about life in a blacksmith shop in West, TX. 


At the risk of over simplifying it became clear that there was nothing easy about earning a living keeping the draft animals and equipment needed for an agricultural community in running order.  In a lot of ways it became obvious nothing changed.


Ray’s stories ranged from his experiences in the shop like the times he and a friend would drive horseshoe nails in the front door threshold for something to do.  It was a good idea because the nails are still visible and the threshold is still there.  There were many stories about his father and how he worked…. long and hard.  There was a story about the acetylene generator exploding….again….and this time his father was blown out of the shop!  Or the times when an ornery mule would object to getting shod until a fist to the jaw below the ear would make the job go more smoothly.


We should have had a tape recorder and mike strapped to Ray!


Later in the morning a boyhood friend of Ray’s, Mr. Willie Rejcek demonstrated how to sharpen a cultivator point.  (A big thanks to Larry Hoff for providing the forge and tools.)  Willie still sharpens points for framers in the area using a Little Giant hammer.  Willie’s wife also brought out four iron sculptures Willie made depicting life in his family.  One was smithing.  The others were kolachi making, dominoes and sausage making. 


A little later and after a guided tour of the equipment around the front of the shop, Ray took us all across the street and treated us to a Czech lunch.  Before lunch of two different kinds of custom made sausage, sauerkraut, Czech potatoes, and a delicious piece of apple strudel was served, we all gave Ray and Clarice a big thank you for sharing their piece of Texas history with the rest of us.


Dave Koenig also took this opportunity to present Bob Collier with a Bill Bastas forging hammer in recognition of Bob being HABA’s first lifetime member.  It took a while to catch up with Bob because he and Cathy spent most of 2001 getting settled in a new home. 


Toward the end of the meal the head count around the table at the café was about 45 people.  The majority was smiths from each of he four Texas blacksmithing organizations, the Houston Area Blacksmith’s Association, Balcones Forge, East Texas Blacksmith Alliance and the North Texas Blacksmiths Association.


Towards the end of the delicious lunch Ray and Clarice came around the table and served everyone a sample of slivovice.  It was a perfect ending to a delicious lunch and yet another example of the warm hospitality extended to everyone by our most gracious hosts.


The lunch ended about 2:30 and people started home to the Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth areas in the rain.  A few hardy travelers took some additional time to visit The Homestead Heritage Traditional Crafts Village.  It is located just NW of Elm Mott about 10 miles south of West.  A beautiful gallery there showcases all kinds of crafts with a focus in iron, wood and clay.  Most or all of the work is done there.


During the first half of 2002, classes are offered in Agricultural Skills, Crafts and Skill of the Kitchen, The Making of Yarns, Fabric & Clothing, Traditional Workshop Crafts, and Woodworking.  For more information contact the Center for Essential Education, Box 869, Elm Mott, TX 76640 or 254-790-1480.


See the For Sale section below for additional information about blacksmithing classes.






This HABA meeting was a long time in the making!  It is going to be something entirely new.  The meeting location is the Tomball Museum.  HABA’s hosts are the members of Spring Creek County Historical Association.  HABA Member Jean Alexander is also the Executive Director of the Spring Creek Historical Association.


HABA is coordinating two talks for HABA Members, Tomball Museum Members and the Tomball Community.  One is author Kurt House of San Antonio.  Kurt recently completed two books about bit and spur collecting. 


The title of the first book he co-wrote with Ned and Jody Martin is Bit & Spur Makers in the Texas Tradition.  It is a companion volume to Ned and Jody’s earlier book Bit & Spur Makers in the Vaquero Tradition.


Kurt’s second book is titled Hand Forged for Texas Cowboys.  This book focuses on the life and times of loriner Joe Bianchi who made bits and spurs in Victoria, TX.  Joe’s work was unique because it was well done, had an enviable reputation and was backed up with a lifetime guarantee.  One reason his work lasted so long is because he began using stainless steel for his spurs in the 1930’s.


You will have an opportunity to see and purchase these books too.


Mr. Ray Snokhous will speak next about his days growing up in the family blacksmith shop in West, TX.  Ray’s stories describe what went on in the shop and the people who patronized it.  The shop had three forges, acetylene generators, Edwards No 10 iron sheer, tire shrinker, related hand tools and two line shafts.  One line shaft ran the trip hammers, grinding wheels, table saw, jointer, band saw and whatever else need turning.  The second and smaller line shaft ran a metal lathe and a reel sharpener for reel lawnmowers.  The shop also provided complete shoeing and acetylene welding services.


These two talks should be complimentary peeks into the past about making a living at the forge.  One will be based on research and the other on experience.


A rough agenda for the day looks something like this.  The HABA meeting will begin about 9:00 with a demonstration on spur making.  At 1:00 PM the talks will begin and finish about 2:00.  People from the community who came for the talks would then have an opportunity to see some spur forging.  Things will wind down from there.




MARCH 15 –17, 2002


The Houston Area Blacksmith's Association will host a treadle hammer workshop March 15 - 17, 2002.  Clay Spencer of course will be here to coach us.  This workshop will be limited to about 24 people.


Right now there are more than 24 people signed up for the workshop.  Thanks to all of you who expressed an interest.  The response to the workshop notice was much quicker than expected.


If you have an interest in the workshop, please give Les Cook a call and get on the waiting list.  You can get in touch with Les in two ways: 281-481-2457 and anvil@flash.net.


A lot of things can change in the next three months.  A few slots will most likely open up as people cancel and maybe a couple slots could be added because of the pre-work.  If they do and you are on the list you are in the workshop.  It would sure be good to be able to accommodate everyone who wants to take part.


The HABA Board will meet later this month to review some steel quotes, determine the workshop cost, plan some working weekends to do pre-work, and select a workshop location.


More particulars about the workshop will go out as they are confirmed.




First, a big Special Thanks to Jim Carothers of the Saltfork Craftsmen ABA for bringing 20 swage blocks to Houston at no additional charge.  Jim and Sherill spent the holidays in Katy.  The blocks arrived the Sunday before Christmas and about half are already in the hands of the new owners.  The remaining blocks can be picked up at the January meeting.


Nineteen blocks were prepaid before Jim loaded his trailer and the 20th block will be auctioned at HABA’s Fund Raising Auction and Third Annual Knife Making Workshop on January 19,2002.  See the January Meeting section above for details.


The sale of swage blocks is a fund raising effort of the Saltfork Craftsmen of Alva, OK.  Jim says that the sale to HABA brings their total swage block sales to 269.  They made a couple of trips to the foundry in Tonkawa, OK already and are thinking about another.


Well done Saltfork Craftsmen!  Thank you for your efforts to preserve and promote the art and craft of ornamental blacksmithing.




Balcones Forge will be hosting Robb Gunter for two days of demonstrations January 26 –27, 2002.  See the November Edition of The HABA Letter for more about Robb’s experience.


The cost of the two-day demonstration is $45 for Balcones members and $55 for non-members.  Make checks payable to Gerald Pollard and mail to Gerald at 14309 Friendswood Lane, Austin, TX 78737.  Contact Gerald at 512-301-4368 or rgpollard@earthlink.net.


Places to stay:

Hampton Inn on the Lake, 704 First St., 830-798-1895.

Ramada Limited, 1206 Hwy 281 North, 830-693-7531.

Best Western, 1403 Hwy 281 North, 830-693-5122.

River View RV Park, 200 Old River Road, 830-693-3910


The location is Larry Crawford’s shop in Marble Falls, TX.  Hammerfest Forge is on the North end of Marble Falls just off Hwy 281.  Going north, turn right on Commerce between the funeral home and Johnson Ford car lot.  Look for a row of warehouse buildings on your right across the street from the Jehovah Witness church.  Parking is available along Commerce St.


Dave Allen, Editor Appalachian Blacksmiths Assn.


One of our members, Jerry Allen, was tired of the dust in his shop once the doors were closed for cold weather.  Dust from coal--dust from grinding--dust from the chop saw, etc.  So, he hung his 24" summer fan near the ceiling and taped a standard furnace filter on the back of it.  He runs the fan at low speed. 


Amazingly, most of the fine dust gets trapped in the filter.  He says his shop is noticeably cleaner.  Before, when the sun shone through the window, he could see dust particles floating around.  Now, he says, the air looks clean as a whistle.



Text and Sketches By:

Jim (Paw-Paw) Wilson, pawpaw@paw-paws-forge.com

Jim Carothers, colonel@fullnet.net


The swage block stand as drawn below is basically a simple angle iron frame with cutouts arranged so that the swage block can be used on any of the 6 faces.  The dimensions given are for a generic rectangular swage block.


The top frame is made from two long and two short pieces of angle iron cut to form a rectangle that is about 1/4 to 1/2” bigger than the swage block is long or wide.  The 1/4 to 1/2” extra is to allow the block to fit into the inside radius of the angle iron.  Quite possibly the block was cast with outside radius corners and the angle iron frame can be made tighter.  The corners are mitered at 45^ to make a good joint.


Stand the swage block on its side in the center of the rectangular frame; position it parallel to the dimension noted “L”.  Mark the bottom lip of the angle iron at both ends and make the cutouts.  Now do the same thing with the block standing on end and parallel to the dimension noted “W”.  Mark the bottom lip of the angle iron at both ends and make the cutouts.  These are the four cutouts shown at “t” width in the sketch.

Now is the time to decide about legs.  If the swage block is not very big, you may want to taper the legs out from the four corners to give the stand more stability.  You might also want to consider a three-legged stand with tapered legs.


With reference to the sketch, it is suggested that you make the height of the stand, dimension H1, such that the face of your swage block is level with the face of your anvil.  This will make a comfortable working height with the block flat, but with the block turned on end or on its side the swage surface will be a little high.  Making dimension H1 such that the swage surface is equal to the height of your anvil will also let you use the swage / stand as a support for long stock on the anvil.

Decide on the length of the legs and weld them to the frame.  Install the legs straight or tapered to suit yourself.  Make and install the shelf.  As shown, the shelf is solid, but it could be an open frame or just have some holes for scale to fall through.  The distance from the swage block support surface (top of angle iron lip) to the top of the shelf, H2, is set to 1/2 x the width of the block (W/2.0).  This will give you good access to the outside contours of the swage block but won’t position the block too high for comfortable use.


With the block lying flat in the rectangular frame, you can turn it to either face for access to the patterns.  With the block on its side, it will fit into the slots long ways and be supported by the shelf.  With the block on its end, it will fit into the slots cross ways and be supported by the shelf.  This stand gives access to all 6 surfaces.





The National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association is meeting at Moody Gardens in Galveston, March 5-9, 2002.  For those of you who would like to take advantage of all the educational opportunities and related activities there will be a cost of $160 for NOMMA members and $200 for non-members. 


It is HABA understands that the vendor section of the conference will be open to the public.  There is quite a line-up of vendors.  This conference date is worth marking on your calendar.

For all of the details see: www.nomma.org.





Rivet Forge with Blower

J. Garrett has a square cast iron forge with blower for sale.  This is the same forge A. J. had up at Oldenburg in October.  For more information give A. J. a call at 281-456-0253.


Blacksmithing Classes

Three basic smithing classed are being offered in February and March at Homestead Heritage.  One day classes are February 2 and 16, $90 each.  A weekend class is March 1 &.2, $175.  Lynn Fritzlan will be instructing.  For more information call 254-799-1488.




Lee Oates, knifemaker, will be demonstrating at the East Texas Blacksmiths Alliance meeting on Saturday February 9, 2002.  The meeting location is the Heritage Museum on Hwy 190 just east of Woodville, TX.  The museum is on the north side of the road.  Lee will be making a completely steel folding knife from recycled jack knife blades and small railroad spikes.  You are all invited.  Call Tom Lundquist for more info.  936-646-4985.



The use any of the material in The HABA Letter is at your own risk.  All persons associated with this material disclaim any responsibility or liability for damages or injuries resulting from the use or application of this information.  They assume no responsibility or liability for the accuracy, fitness, proper design, safety or safe use of any information presented here. 



Dave Koenig

7418 Branch Point

Houston, TX 77095