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End of era for Seymour Forge

Steve Wolfe's Seymour Forge will close aftermore than 35 years of turning metal into art when his blacksmith equipment goes under the auctioneer hammer in February.

JENNA BISHOP January 23, 2014 4:21am

Steve Wolfe will be closing down Seymour Forge after 35 years.


For more than 35 years, metal masterpieces have decorated the walls of the Seymour Forge, however, February 1 will signal the end of an era for the workshop when its contents go under the auctioneer’s hammer.

After nearly 50 years of turning lifeless metal into creative works of art and horse shoes, the forge’s owner and blacksmith Steve Wolfe has decided to swap the forge for the farm and concentrate on his 17ha cattle and hay enterprise at Tallarook.

‘‘All good things must come to an end,’’ Mr Wolfe said.

‘‘It’s about having control of your life. I want to go back on the land as a farmer before I go on the land as fertiliser.’’

Mr Wolfe said he had been involved in the agricultural industry working on properties across Victoria ever since he left school at 15 and combining the two was getting harder to manage.

‘‘My life is just getting unbalanced. I can’t do what I used to do, timewise,’’ he said.

Mr Wolfe has collected an extensive array of tools during his career, all of which are set to be auctioned.

Among the many are four historic anvils, one of which is at least 200 years old and a coke forge, which runs on the byproduct of propane gas.

There’s also an assortment of 104 sets of tongs and hammers which Mr Wolfe has created to suit any shape of metal.

‘‘People think working with metal is hard, but when you heat it up, it’s like playdough,’’ he said.

During the forge’s busiest times, Mr Wolfe employed five apprentices and welcomed exchange apprentices from across the globe, including Germany, California, England and South Africa.

Life working at the forge hasn’t exactly been easy for Mr Wolfe — he’s now got a metal hip, back and foot, which he said created havoc at airports.

It’s an irony not lost on the man who spent most of his life working with metal.

‘‘After all the years with shoeing horses and them stepping on my feet, the bones were all crushed. I kept working through it and all the bones fused together, so they fixed it with metal,’’ he said.

 

‘‘I was the first person to put shoes on yearlings, it had never been done before,’’ he said.

In the 1960s, there was no formal farrier apprenticeship, so Mr Wolfe developed his skills working alongside experienced tradesmen.

Later, he became a foundation member of the Farriers and Blacksmiths Association of Victoria and was one of the first 10 Victorian farriers to gain trade accreditation in 1986.

Mr Wolfe said the farrier trade has also changed considerably since he began — 33 years ago it cost just $7 to shoe a horse; in 2014, the price is $140.

In addition to shoeing horses, Mr Wolfe also specialised in correcting leg deviations in foals, including building a unique mobile restraining table for horses to lie calmly on.

‘‘There was no way of holding them down, because they’re wriggly little buggers, and so I built the table,’’ he said.

 

In 1997, Mr Wolfe decided a change of direction was in order, and began concentrating on decorative ironwork.

His works are displayed across the shire, including the St Mary’s College fence, Lighthorse Park gates, the All Abilities Playground, the Habitat Tree at Lions Park, the big metal shark, and several decorative chairs at Tallarook Hall.

Mr Wolfe said he enjoyed the creative side of metalwork, and had entered items in numerous competitions, as well as judging state and national farrier and blacksmith competitions.

He spent many hours working with students from VCAL and other community organisations, helping them develop practical, employable skills while creating metal art for display in the region.

‘‘I really like helping people and working with the students,’’ Mr Wolfe said.

‘‘It’s interesting to look back on all the things I’ve done, and wonder how I did that.’’

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