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Victoria resident self-taught himself blacksmith hobby (video)

Sept. 5, 2013 at 4:05 a.m.

Bob Howard shapes a mild steel rod into a table leg using a fly press, another nontraditional tool. Though mild steel is very hard when cool, Howard said, "You get it hot, and it's like clay."

It's hot in South Texas, but Bob Howard is in a shed in his backyard, firing up his propane forge.

Most mornings, the Victoria resident spends a few hours in the shed, which is filled with machinery, tools and dozens of plain, steel rods of varying lengths and widths.

In this backyard workshop, while 1960s pop music blasts on a stereo and his dog, Rip, watches, he transforms the rods into furniture, home decorations and more.

Howard, 61, is a modern blacksmith.

"I always kind of wanted to be creative," said the former welder and chemical process operator. "When I retired, I wanted to stay busy and keep doing something."

Howard discovered blacksmithing on the Internet and developed his skills by studying online tutorials and taking classes with master blacksmith Gordon Williams in Camp Verde, Ariz.

The Internet, specifically the craft marketplace website Etsy, is also where he sells some of his creations, such as hat and coat racks, dinner bells and coffee tables.

He collaborates with local woodworker Woody Lowrance to produce the tables, which Howard has shipped to buyers as far away as Massachusetts though he mostly sells them locally.

"That tickled us to death," Howard said. He and Lowrance have also donated two tables to the Wounded Warrior Project.

To make his products fast enough to keep up with his orders, Howard uses some nontraditional machinery in addition to his hammers and anvil.

His process may be considerably different from that of a blacksmith from times gone by, but the objects he produces are of a very similar quality.

"I'm too old to swing a hammer all day long," Howard said, laughing. "The Lord blessed us with all this technology. We can still use it to make something beautiful."

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