Episode #57 Finin Liam Christie “Building a Business With an Anvil Strapped to His Bicycle”

Finin Liam Christie is a blacksmith and carpenter in Southern Ireland who’s been blacksmithing since he was 16 years old. Originally from Dublin, he was a blacksmith apprentice for the national railway before working as the official contractor for the City of Dublin. A father of five, he owns his own forge where he specializes in steel and ironwork, primarily making gates and railings with traditional techniques. Finin is also a model steam train hobbyist.

Entry gate Gates Finin at the forge

What We Talked About

  • Finin’s grandfather, James Christie, was considered one of Ireland’s best blacksmiths and worked for the national railway. Although he died when Finin was just 5 years old, Finin had a five-year apprenticeship at the railway where he was taught by his grandfather’s apprentices. Finin says he received excellent training by these older blacksmiths just before their retirement.
  • After his railway work, Ireland had an economic downturn and Finin struck off on his own. He traveled by bike with his anvil on the back, his grinder along the crossbar and his sledge hammer across the handlebars. “I used to knock on every door in Dublin that had a bent gate and I’d ask them if they wanted me to repair their gates,” he recalls.
  • One year later Finin was able to purchase his own van and the next year he registered his own business and began getting steady work. “There was no work then, but I made work,” Finin says. “And I’ve been working for myself ever since.”
  • Finin’s specialty is traditional style railings and gates. He was the official contractor for the City of Dublin for about 16 years, working on government buildings, city parks and county council houses. He did a lot of restoration of old gates and had 18 men working for him.
  • He stopped working for the city about three years ago and now operates out of his own shop, which he says is about 40’x20′ and has three anvils. He teaches some classes out of his workshop, but finds it hard to entice young people into such a physically demanding and tedious trade.
  • Finin has a couple other hobbies he enjoys when he’s not smithing. He’s a boxer, and he has a gym on the other side of his workshop. He also builds model steam trains by hand.
  • If Finin could work with any blacksmith, dead or alive, he would choose his grandfather: “Apart from being my grandfather, they say he was one of the greatest [blacksmiths] in the country. He was a great man. He was ahead of his time,” Finin says. After a 53 year blacksmithing career, his grandfather died on the job. Finin still has his grandfather’s tools, which he treasures.
  • Finin’s 9 year old son has shown some interest in blacksmithing and they enjoy working on projects together.

Click below to watch a video of the interview!

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