White collar worker ditches Brisbane for a blacksmith's apron in Tassie
If there was a job made for winter, it would have to be working inside a forge as a blacksmith.
On a historic property in northern Tasmania, Alex Norton is oblivious to the icy wind whipping around the open workshop.
He spends night and day standing over hot coals, hand forging wrought iron that can heat up to 1,200 degrees Celsius.
The young blacksmith, who left a corporate career to take up the trade full time, describes it as his happy place.
“It’s just an absolute joy,” Mr Norton said.
“It’s one of those things that makes the world just drop away.
Out of the fire and into the forge
Mr Norton grew up on a farm and always had an interest in making things with his hands.
Seven years ago he started to dabble with the art of blacksmithing in his backyard in Brisbane.
“Usually I get a lot of turned heads when I say I’m a blacksmith,” he said.
It was the Queensland heat that triggered the move back to Tasmania with his wife, two months ago.
In that short time the young blacksmith has been inundated with work.
“Some of the hunters locally want knives made, or even people who do meat work for a living,” he said.
“The fireplace poker is a big one, because everyone has a fire.
“If you’ve got to use a tool everyday, why not use a beautiful version of it?”
Old tools for the old school
The custom designs and forged ironwork are all crafted by hand.
A reconditioned blower from 1926 pumps air into the forge to heat the coals.
Mr Norton uses hand tools — some of which he has made — to hammer, shape and bend the steel as it heats up.
Most of it comes from recycled materials on surrounding farms, or from local farriers.
“There’s a poetry to something that’s been beaten out of something using nothing but muscle-power, Mr Norton said.
Industrial manufacturing replaced the need for local blacksmiths decades ago.
Sparks of joy and inspiration
However, the return of a blacksmith to the Hagley area has sparked some interest from locals who can still remember the village smithy.
He fixed wagon wheels and springs on the old carts when they came through town.
Since settlement, generations of blacksmiths would have serviced the many iconic Georgian estates in the area as well.
Mr Norton hopes he can re-create some of the ornate ironwork that once embellished these heritage homes.
“Many people won’t invest in it, because there’s so much work involved,” he said.
“Getting to do it, is such a joy.