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A Truckee forge sends blacksmithing instructors way off the beaten path

At Mountain Forge, Jennifer Standteiner sits on a piece of the Bay Bridge that she and her colleagues plan to make into a public sculpture.

At Mountain Forge, Jennifer Standteiner sits on a piece of the Bay Bridge that she and her colleagues plan to make into a public sculpture.

PHOTO/KRIS VAGNER

In what might be the most pleasant industrial park ever, in a thickly forested neighborhood a few miles from downtown Truckee, the blacksmiths at Mountain Forge are celebrating their 50th anniversary. And they’re definitely not marking the occasion with a day off.

“We are year-round, full-time,” said Jennifer Standteiner. Her father-in-law, Hans Standteiner, started the forge in 1968. He soon became busy making guard rails, gates and signs all over the area. The forge staff still make such fixtures—and now they also host journeyman apprentices, teach occasional workshops, give tours to kids on field trips and make large public sculptures. One recent one is a trio of metal musicians downtown. Upcoming projects include a proposal for a piece at Google and one slated to be made from a massive steel chunk of the Oakland-side span of the Bay Bridge, built in the 1930s, dismantled in 2014, and partially divvied up by CalTrans to artists with public sculpture plans.

On top of that already full schedule, in August, the artisans of Mountain Forge pack up eight anvils, a coal forge, chisels, tongs, safety equipment, 500 book-sized, water-jet-cut steel robots, and some camping gear. This is all so that they can set up a drop-by blacksmithing workshop at Burning Man. The team attended the festival in 2016 to build a large pair of metal wings. They brought along their equipment and made a semi-successful attempt to engage the public in the production of feathers. (The wings are now at the Playa Art Park in Reno.)

“We thought, ‘Wow, all the blacksmiths had the most amazing time,’” said Standteiner. “They met so many people. We thought, ‘You know what, instead of bringing one more thing for people to look at, we should bring back the blacksmith shop, so people have something to do. They can create something. They can interact. It’s a much more interactive piece.”

For anyone who wants to learn to pound on red-hot metal and not pack up all their camping gear and drive all the way to Black Rock City, Mountain Forge will also set up an interactive display at the Truckee Maker Show June 10.

Despite the unforgiving workload Standteiner described, she did not sound at all like she was bluffing when she said it’s OK for visitors to drop by the forge during business hours to check it out.

To keep up on upcoming workshops and events, follow #mtnforge on Instagram.