There’s a unique classroom at Haywood Community College right now that’s filled with students that spend their days in jobs such as a hand surgeon, computer architect, jewelry maker, and nurse. The class that brought them together is one of three taught in the United States. The Introduction to Bladesmithing class is sanctioned by the American Bladesmithing Society and is taught by a seasoned, reputable Master Smith.

“Since there were no classes in my area,” explains Allen Chu who drove to the class from Oregon, “I decided it would be worth making the trip.  It’s a better class than others I have researched and it’s a fraction of the cost. This class is one-of-a-kind. You won’t be able to find this kind of attention from a Master Smith unless you attend one of these classes.”

Chu has a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego and is a computer architect. He likes working with his hands and the history behind hand-forged knives.   

For Clarence Jackson, the trip from Florida was worth it to take back to his home forge what he is learning from the class. “I knew that the ABS was the premiere Master Bladesmiths in the United States and to learn the specifics from a Master and to see what I could do with the right tools, it was worth it. I am learning that so much is possible.”

Jackson has a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from Florida State University. He has been forging for six years and makes a living by crafting jewelry.  

Instructor for the course is Jim Crowell from Mountain View, Arkansas. He started bladesmithing in 1980 and became a Master Smith in 1986. “Bladesmithing is something that has been done thousands of years,” Crowell says. “It is the precise intent of ABS for this trade to not be lost. It’s why ABS was started. Most everyone uses a knife every day but there’s nothing like using a good one.”

Crowell’s assistant for the course is HCC student Beverly Devereux. She is currently taking hand-wrought metals courses at the college from David Burnette. She has taken three ABS courses and would like to become a journeyman through ABS. “I am learning so much as an assistant. These instructors are so generous with their knowledge.”

 According to Crowell, most students come to these classes because they enjoy using their hands. “These classes teach the basics but you can build your skill level.”  

It’s not too late to check out this unique trade. HCC will host the Great Smoky Mountain Bladesmithing Symposium Fall Hammer-In this weekend. Bladesmithing enthusiast from all over the country will be at the college sharpening their blades and demonstrating. There will be a free knife show from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 19. All other events cost $65 and include blade forging, cutting demonstration, hands-on green coal forging, and more. For more information, please call 828-246-9233.