Episode #41 – Resilience Forge – “Resilience in Mind and Steel”

Nate Bocker founded Resilience Forge in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia in 2013 to help wounded soldiers, veterans and their families learn new skills and foster a greater sense of community. Out of his 2-car garage on base, the active duty US Army Sergeant offers free knife-making classes dubbed “Blade Therapy” to soldiers and veterans of the US Armed Forces that are dealing with the effects of PTSD and TBI’s.  Now that the organization has received official non-profit status, Bocker is looking to expand and bring the therapeutic effects of blacksmithing to a wider community.

RF class Knife Students with educational meterial from the ABS

What We Talked About

  • Nate Bocker learned basic blacksmithing and bladesmithing in high school and found it extremely therapeutic when he returned to it as an adult hobbyist.
  • Bocker began working with the Warrior Transition Unit at Ft. Belvoir in 2013 when they were looking for extra-curricular activities for soldiers and veterans. 2 years later, he’s had more than 30 students at informal bladesmithing (knife-making) sessions.
  • Bocker finds that the work has a calming effect and promotes self-healing due to its introspective and meditative nature.
  • The hand-eye coordination involved in blacksmithing has been shown to use the same part of brain that’s affected by PTSD. It seems to help with Traumatic Brain Injury also.
  • Bocker would like to expand the non-profit beyond knife-making and into a broader array of craftsmanship such as pottery, ceramics, painting, photography, sculpting etc. He realizes that smithing not suited for everyone but that working with the hands in general is therapeutic.
  • He would also like to include all marginalized groups, including those with disabilities and those who are socially and economically disadvantaged by opening the group up to the wider community.
  • Resilience Forge was recently approved for non-profit status. Bocker had been funding the classes personally and with the help of donations of equipment and materials.
  • There is a Go Fund Me crowd-funding campaign for the organization at http://www.gofundme.com/resilienceforge .
  • Bocker loves the multi-generational appeal of Resilience Forge. “One of the coolest things that’s come out of this is realizing the community benefit. [The Vietnam veterans] are seeing this as a chance to make sure what happened to their generation doesn’t happen again and from our side, this is a chance to work with guys that were our heroes.”
  • Resilience Forge has been impressive as a community builder, bringing many different groups together. “While initially we’re working with veterans, it’s something we need as a country,” Bocker says. “We really need to reinvestigate the idea of talking and working out our differences and finding out that we’re really not as different as we think we are.”
  • Bocker currently teaches very informal sessions 3 days a week and students can drop in as often as they like.
  • In the 2-car garage, Resilience Forge contains a 3-in-1 mill; a vertical forge; two anvils and a post anvil; one forge (with two more being built); a heat treat oven; grinding station with three grinders;  woodworking tools; surface grinder; drill press; a finishing and polishing station.
  • Bocker would like to start Resilience Forge chapters in other locations and has materials available to anyone interested. He also welcomes other groups to start similar programs independently under their own name.

Guest Links

A Big Thank You to today’s sponsor – The Artist Blacksmiths’ Association of North America, ABANA

ABANA logo

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3 thoughts on “Episode #41 – Resilience Forge – “Resilience in Mind and Steel”

  1. Good evening, I wanted to see if there is any blacksmith classes in or near Indiana. I’m. A retired vet with PTSD and TBI and would love to participate in something like that.

  2. I have previously learned bladesmithing while I was in the army. After braking my back and severe bouts of ptsd I have realized I can calm myself by bladesmithing. I don’t have the funds for the things I need to get back into it, but am wanting to set up a not for profit org here in Tennessee for veterans like me and teach them and work with them through issues while moving metal. If you have any resources that could help me get what is needed I’d greatly appreciate it.

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