SOW: Ben Fox October 06, 2008
Teen looks to forge interest in blacksmith tradition
A plume of acrid smoke goes up, and a shower of sparks soon follows. It’s difficult for untrained eyes to cut through the fumes coming off the burning coal.
But Ben Fox is in his element, and he has no difficulty cracking smiles and discussing his craft while working with metal heated to 1,800 degrees.
With each swing of his hammer, each trip back to his forge, Fox is not only one step closer to finishing a coat hanger he’s making from a band of steel, but also keeping alive the ancient blacksmithing tradition.
“I use metal that people would normally see as trash, and I get to make it into something beautiful,” said Fox, displaying his work-in-progress. “I mean, this was just a stray piece of steel that was tossed aside.”
Nothing about the Fruita Monument High School senior’s appearance gives any hint about his respect for tradition.
Step into Fox’s blacksmith forge, which is just as much a museum of the trade as it is functional, however, and it’s another story.
Fox, a self-taught blacksmith, works with a coal forge instead of propane, not only because the fuel opens more blacksmithing opportunities, but also because it’s traditional to the craft. He cranks an antique, hand-powered blower to keep his coals hot and works metal across a genuine anvil.
“Blacksmithing is kind of a lost art,” Fox said. “But I love it. I love working with my hands.”
Blacksmithing survives because of people like Fox, and he is doing his best to instill the same love in others by starting a blacksmithing club at Fruita Monument, which is in its first year.
Fox’s hands will continue to have their fair share of work as well. He is training for his first mixed martial arts fight, and he plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.
The prospect of the martial arts fights doesn’t please Fox’s mother, Judy, but Fox isn’t a stranger to competition and hand-to-hand combat. He won a national tournament in stick fighting his freshman year, he said, and he dons the Wildcat mascot outfit on occasion for pep assemblies at his school to wrestle the Grand Junction High School tiger mascot in a skit.
Fox said he would like to take mechanical engineering into the military, which is why he is eyeing the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Fox said both of his grandfathers served in the military, but it would be less about following in their footsteps than serving the United States.
“I don’t want to sound cliche or anything, but this is a great nation.”
Parents: David and Judy.
Preferred college: Fox isn’t sure yet, but he is eyeing a future in the military.
In five years I want to be: doing cutting-edge research and development for a major company or the military.
Favorite music: anything with a beat.
Favorite TV show: “Future Weapons.”
Hero: “Dad. He started life with very little, worked hard, overcame obstacles and made a name for himself. Along the way, he never strayed from his values or forgot where he came from.”
I’m most proud of: my grades, activities and friends.