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21Country: Markle blacksmith’s mission to keep ancient trade thriving in Indiana

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MARKLE, Ind. (WPTA21) - “A lot of people say this is a dying art, and at one point, it was pretty low,” Mark Thomas said, “there’s a lot of it coming back, but we’re not making the same stuff that we used too.”

He’s a full-time blacksmith, supplying Pierceton company Townsends with hand-hammered work.

“Forming things in your hand… its like superman,” Thomas told us, “he can bend bars of steel, I can too - I just got to heat it up first.

He was always inspired by Blacksmithing.

“I used to go to shows and festivals like the Johnny Appleseed and kept thinking, ‘I’d like to try this’”, he described.

When his family moved into their Markle home, he built a forge right next door, where he could hone his craft in the years to come.

Eventually, in 2003, he quit his day job and transitioned into blacksmithing full-time for his company MT Forge.

In addition to selling his creations through Townsends, he would attend up to two dozen fairs a year, instead, being an inspiration to others interested in the trade.

“I’ve got four daughters. Two of them I taught how to blacksmith,” he told us, “they used to go to shows with me and one of them was about six years with me full-time.”

His daughters have since grown up, married, and had kids of their own.

He says though they don’t have time to blacksmith like they used too, his grandchildren are showing interest now.

“She’s told her class at school she wants to be a blacksmith, and there’s no reason she couldn’t be,” Thomas said of 14-year-old granddaughter.

He’s an active member of the Indiana Blacksmithing Association.

The group is a network of blacksmiths across the state, but many meet each other in smaller “satellite groups”.

Thomas is a leader of the “Maumee Valley Blacksmiths” in New Haven.

Besides learning from each other, it’s a place for those interested to start blacksmithing themselves, no matter what resources they do or don’t have.

And like most businesses, 2020 was not easy for blacksmiths.

“Some people do this full-time, and they don’t have the income,” Thomas said, on the cancellation of events like the Johnny Appleseed Festival.

He only attend three fairs himself last year.

He’s grateful he has a client like Townsends to keep him busy, but admits he misses talking to people, performing with his hammer and anvil in front of amazed people.

“It’s nice to be in front of the public, and I really miss that,” he said.

Now, Thomas continues to mold and shape metal, like he hopes to do with future blacksmiths.

“I’m trying to train as much as I can. The more blacksmiths that are out there, the better business it is for me, and my customers,” he said, “I really don’t want this thing to lose the steam it already has.”

For those interested in the IBA, or learning to blacksmith, Thomas is encouraging people to reach out to him via his email to get connected: mark@mtforge.com

According to their website, the Maumee Valley Blacksmiths meet on the first Saturday of the month in New Haven.

More information can be found here.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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