The Story so far.....
During the Middle Ages a legend was written about a British warlord known as Vortigern who had fled to Wales to escape Anglo-Saxon invaders. He found a large hill to build a castle on and had his men lay the foundation for several towers. The men worked all day but the next morning when they awoke all of their work was destroyed. This went on for several weeks.
An advisor of Vortigern told him to seek the help of a special boy in the kingdom who was born of a human mother and sired by an incubus. The boy they found was named Myrddin (Merlin) who told the king that the destruction of the castle was caused by two fighting dragons that were buiried under the hill after being tricked by an acient king. Vortigern had his men dig until the dragons emerged, one white and the other red. The red dragon represented the native Brittons because it had lived on the island longest. The other dragon represented the invading Saxons. They continued to fight until at last the red dragon of Wales was victorious. From this time on this dragon has been the symbol of the people who would be known as the Welsh. This is where my known ancestry originates.
Sometime around 1720 my great (X9) grandfather left Wales and his job as a coachmaker and sailed to Philadelphia where he married and started a family. Within a few years he moved to a Welsh settlement in South Carolina. Later during the American Revolution my great (X7) grandfather served with the South Carolina Militia under Francis Marion who was given the title of The Swamp Fox by the British officers who fought him. His job for the militia was to forge swords. Later, another grandfather would become a blacksmith who helped rebuild South Carolina after the Civil War. My great, great grandfather was also a full time blacksmith in Texas. I have a picture of him on this site.
In 1854 my great (x6) grandfather Rees passed away after a long life and his widow along with a few of their children decided it was time to move to the open spaces of Texas with two other families who they had close ties with. The very next year these three families found a nice area to continue their cattle business halfway between Houston and Galveston. They became the founders of the city where I live and continue blacksmithing, art and teaching.
Since 2006 I have been working at the blacksmith forge at the Texas Renaissance Festival. Several times a day I do demonstrations for the guests and burn myself to their amusement. This is the largest fair of its kind in the world and if you find yourself there during one of the nine weekends in October and November then stop by to say hey! Several years ago I also started demonstrating smithing at various museums and events.
Yes, I wear a kilt during the fair. My mother is a Campbell so that is the color I wear. I made my own kilt too. Here I am making a quick "S" hook for use at one of the other fair booths.
This is my great, great grandfather who was a full-time blacksmith in Texas. I am the fourth generation in my family to smith since the American Revolution.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sesion 8
One day I get a call from a nice lady in Hollywood who explains that she is a lead designer for a show called Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. She heard about my experience in making unusual items for museum shows and exhibits and would like to know if I could work with them on their largest project ever that will be a few miles from me and starting in a few weeks. In the end I spent nine days on the project anywhere from 14 to 22 hours per day. The first step was to meet the real designers on the show, a very talented group of young ladies who you never see on camera. We went over several of the room concepts with the lead carpenter (also a very talented and creative person) and made a plan for construction. For the next several days I worked in Art World on the lot next to the home being built with agreat group of volunteers and we created most of the wild items in each room the show is famous for.
On the last two days we were working on a small room for two young boys that would look like a fort made from scrap wood and lumber. This called for special items to be made so I brough a small forge to the job and got busy. You can see several hooks hanging on the tub already. They said I was the first and only blacksmith to be on the show and filmed me working from time to time. The next day brought rain so I moved into the large tent to work. Soon the special guest of this episode came in and they wanted to film us working on the anvil. So I ended up shooting a scene with Jessica Alba for 30 minutes teaching her how to make a simple hook. She did very well and now and then one of the show hosts would jump in for a bit of comedy like Ty (you know him) trying to toast a bagel in my gas forge only to end up with a ball of fire on a stick.
None of the stuff we filmed made it to the final cut though. Oh well. However, I do have a little clip of us working together.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sesion 9
Several months later I get another call from the Home Makeover crew and they want me to be at a new home building in Houston. The first thing I did was call my friend Mark who is the master blacksmith I learned from to see if he would bring his skill to this project. On the second day one of the build they ask if we could make an iron gate to go inside the house. Here is a picture of the finished iron work just prior to paint.
Mark fine tunes a newly shaped piece of iron while I soak some iron bars in the forge for bending.
Talking with one of the hosts of the show about where this gate will be mounted. A camera crew is also filming this and it made it in the show. Mark is back there trying to cool off. It was a very hot week.
Finishing this bar with a nice twist then it gets welded on the gate.
Here is my main anvil setup. The chain around the anvil reduces the ring of hammer blows. The round magnet does the same and gives me a place to hold tools. This anvil was made about 1920.
You can see a small gas forge I use often. It keeps a constant temperature of around 2200 degrees. Most everything here is designed to be moved with one person and a dolly.
Here is a coal forge setup with an electric blower. A coal forge can reach very high temeratures that will destroy any iron resting in the air blast. A little distraction is all thats needed to ruin any piece being worked on.
San Jacinto Day
For the 175th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto in Texas I spent the day doing demonstrations for many of the 20,000 visitors to the San Jacinto Monument. There were many questions from the crowd and I ended up spending nine hours straight hammering and talking. Here I am working on something that would be given to one of the kids watching. Look for me again for the 2013 event in April.
In this picture you can see my Hay Budden 120# anvil, Buffalo blower going into the coal forge and wine barrel quench tub. The tub has to soak for about 24 hours prior to use before it will hold water. Other than the safety glasses, I am in a period costume. A big thanks to the crew at the Monument for providing such a nice location with a great shade providing canopy!
Doing a demonstration for kids on Galveston Island for a local history museum.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition sesion 10
One last time. Although the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show is no longer, I was called to once again help create some original items for a final build not far from San Antonio that would air as a Christmas special. I spent 9 days on site making several iron items. Here I am set up in a large tent ready for some long days and nights. Here is a short video of my work area and a few things I made for the house.
Michael came in and we shot a few scenes together. He was in good spirits and had some fun playing around.
Paige came by the next day to also shoot some scenes. We talked about this "K" I was working on to go on the side of a stable behind the house being built. The first take was good, the second take was great and we did a third to be sure. Then the director had us do a few various things on camera so it could be edited together. I put this project on hold until the last day.
Here is what it looked like finished and mounted.
Here is a pot rack made for the house.
Some curtain rod hangers made on the last day.
I had fun making this stocking hanger. The base is decorated with vines and leaves. The whole thing is made to come apart for storage. Every liked it so I might make a few more sometime.
Not long before the family came back to see their new home, Micheal did a walk through to make sure everything was looking great. He gave a very nice compliment on the fireplace item I made and thanked me for all the work done for the house.
They gave me a sign to make a hanger for.
Tattoo Rescue sesion 2
Working on a new show called Tattoo Rescue where a team upgrades a tattoo business. This is for one of the episodes that will be part of the first season and will show on Spike TV network as a sister show to Bar Rescue that has already been running a few seasons.