Conner Prairie 21th Annual Traditional Arts and Arms Making Workshop
Blacksmith Shop

Conner Prairie 21th Annual Traditional Arts and Arms Making Workshop

The Conner Prairie 21st Annual Traditional Arts and Arms Making Workshop has just concluded. As you enter Conner Prairie to attend class you see CP’s new addition: a tethered balloon in memory of the aeronauts and the beginning of balloon flight in the 1800’s. There is more to Conner Prairie than the classes for black powder folks.    photo credits: Steve Chapman, Larry Pletcher   editor: Larry Pletcher

The classes at Conner Prairie are becoming a habit for me. I came to the fall classes in 2006 to take pictures for my web site. In 2008 and 2009 I took Art DeCamp’s horn making classes. This fall I came back for more photos for a web article. The classes offered are never a disappointment. I generally take pictures of a class thinking that I need to come back next year and attend the class. This year was no exception.

For each visit, the many chimmneys on top of the forge building are the first clue to the type of instruction found inside. The room houses 10 forges, and most were being used. If there is a better place to teach forging, I’m not aware of it.

Nathan Allen’s knife making class lasted the whole week. This year both folding and fixed blade knives were being made. Students forged the basic blade shape and used files to finish fitting the parts. By walking around you could see students in various stages of knife making. Folding knives used patterns to help in getting the fit just right. Fixed blade knife makers had more freedom to forge the style of their choice.

The forge room is large enough to run multiple classes. A class that built double set triggers had just finished the day before we arrived. For more photos from the forge room click on Forge Room #1 or Forge room #2.  (Use your “back” button to return to the article.)

Ken Scott’s bag-making class was next door. Ken’s class includes instruction about bag styles, including region, purpose, and time period. When we arrived the students had their bags cut out and were busy sewing.

Below is one of Ken’s bags that I saw at the CLA show in Lexington. This is one of my favorites.  Click on Shooting Bags for more photos.  (Use your “back” button to return to the article.)

Mark Wheland taught the gun stock carving class this year. Mark is a Pennsylvannia native and lives in an area rich in gun-making talent. He is a full time gun maker and won “best of show” at Dixons in 2005. Click on Gun Stock Carving #1 or Gun Stock Carving #2 for more photos.  (Use your “back” button to return to the article.)

A number of Mark’s students brought guns they had started at home. There is nothing like having the master look over your progress and advise you on methods and techniques. Styles chosen by the students varied, but all benefited from Mark’s expertise.

John Schipper has taught the engraving class at Conner Prairie for many years. I first met John and saw his work at the Conner Prairie Gun Show also many years ago. His considable skills are evidenced in the many examples of his work. The tables are full of guns that John has engraved and originals John brought to show engraving styles. His engraving book is finished and ready to be published.

Since I have no talent nor instruction in engraving, I can only marvel at the work done by John and his students. This would be an excellent class for a rifle maker wanting to shorten the learning curve with his engraving.  Click on Engraving Class #1 or Engraving Class #2 for more photos.  (Use your “back” button to return to the article.)

Art DeCamp taught the horn classes for a number of years. From the Tansel horn class in 2008, screw tips in 2009, and basic and screw tips in 2010, Art is the consummate teacher. This year the first half of the week was a basic horn class. The last half of the week was devoted to screw tips.

the class was working on screw tips while we were there. Some turned base plugs; others worked on the horn-turning and threading. If we were there another day, we would have seen the final shaping and dying of the horns and attachment of the base plugs. In this phase Art explains his secret ingredient and the extreme care he uses to measure it into the dye.

This was an impressive week of classes. The instructors were superb and must have had fun working with such motivated students. The equipment and environment provided by Conner Prairie was second to none. As I moved from class to class, I often felt that I need to come next year and take classes. Many of the students voiced this opinion. A high percentage of the students are returning former students. If there could be a better endorsement I don’t know what it would be. For more photos click on Screw Tip Horn Class #1 or Screw Tip Horn Class #2.  (Use your “back” button to return to the article.)

(Selected photos appear here with the article. The 2010 Conner Prairie Photo Gallery contains links to many more. The class photos are divided into 2 parts to make loading faster. There are no captions for these photos; I realized I knew almost none of the students’ names. If students wish to leave a comment or email me I will be glad to add their name to the photos.)


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