A Blazing BlacksmitHER – Susan Szczepanski

Blazing BlacksmitHERs are ladies that are forging their own path in blacksmithing and sharing their story.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” John Quincy Adams


Susan Szczepanski

Where in the world are you?

Alabama, US

How did you start blacksmithing? Did you take classes?

A local college offered a one-day Intro class taught by two Master Smiths.  I’ve been swinging a hammer for years doing DIY stuff and have always loved metal so I thought it’d be a great way to spend a Saturday – turned out it was a great way to spend thousands of dollars!  I was hopelessly hooked from the first pigtail we were taught to curl that day. Then came tracking down an anvil (rare as hens teeth around here!), finding a forge, finding steel suppliers, etc, etc, etc.  I tell people I really don’t want to know how much this “hobby” has cost me, but in the end it really doesn’t matter.  I’d spend every penny of it again, it has brought that much joy into my life. Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

Are you a beginner, hobby or professional blacksmith?

I’d say I’m both a beginner and a hobbyist.

What is your favorite blacksmithing technique? Even if you are beginner, what do you enjoy doing the most?

One of the things I make that is the most popular with people are split crosses, which I make in both necklace size and “desk” size (those from railroad spikes).  I’m branching out into larger crosses made from a variety of materials and techniques, many mounted on wood.

Do you have a favorite tool? What is it?

My Peddinghaus hammer!  Before I bought it I was using an old hammer that I felt was a bit too heavy for me, at 3.5 pounds.  I switched to a 2.5 from Peddinghaus and was so surprised to find it fit like the proverbial glove.  It was a lesson to me in finding tools that fit me instead of me trying to fit to the tools.

What is the worst thing about blacksmithing?

Well, the burns of course!  🙂   And the fact that, at least in this area, it’s really not likely that you’ll ever be able to quit your day job and pursue blacksmithing full time.  There just aren’t opportunities for that here.  It physically and mentally HURTS me to turn off the forge on the weekend and get ready to go back to my “real” job.     Big sigh……

Are you a member of a blacksmithing association? If so, which one? What does it do for you?

I belong to the Athens Forge Council (Athens, AL) and to ABANA.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I have been astonished and touched by the generosity of time and attention other smiths give to complete novices like me.  All the smiths I’ve met are so willing to stop whatever they’re doing and help you solve a forging problem, answer a thousand pesky newbie questions or demo a technique.  The smiths I’ve encountered have been so generous to me, and I’m also touched by their seemingly oblivious lack of attention to the fact that I’m a woman!  It matters not, not one tiny bit, which is remarkably refreshing!

This is a cake set Susan made for a Christmas present
This is a cake set Susan made for a Christmas present

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