Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 17, 2014
Blacksmith and wood turning highlighted at Wilson Museum
Blacksmith Joe Meltreder demonstrates the craft of blacksmithing at Wilson Museum in Castine, Maine in July 2014.
by Peter Cooperdock
There have been some changes at the campus of the Wilson Museum on Perkins Street in Castine. Buildings have been moved around and are adjusting to their new surroundings. The earth is exposed and new pathways have been sketched out on the ground. But the demonstrations offered for so many summers past are continuing again this year.
Blacksmithing and wood turning demonstrations can be viewed on Wednesday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Blacksmith Shop and the Education Center, respectively. Both of these buildings are among those moved around on the lot across Perkins Street from the Wilson Museum. The Blacksmith Shop was next to the museum and was moved to make room for some drainage improvements and the location of the much anticipated Schoodic Sculpture.
Joe Meltreder is the wizened prototype of a blacksmith. Having left his native Hungary shortly after the Hungarian Revolution, Meltreder followed his grandfather, father, and uncles into the family trade of blacksmithing. After some 40 years in Connecticut making shoes for horses, he settled in Brooksville to explore the craft in his own way.
Standing at the hearth, Meltreder operates the hand bellow to stoke the coal fire before him. With a multitude of tools within easy reach, he grabs the heated metal and manipulates it into the shape he wants. Young and old seem fascinated by his easy movements around these time-honored, hand-powered machines. He offers endless bits of information for all to enjoy and even allows some children a chance to pump the bellows.
Next door in the Education Center, Temple Blackwood is leaning over his lathe, carving a new bowl. Wood chips accumulate below as the interior is carved. He speaks in easy tones, concentrating on his task as the conversation with the audience covers many topics, including wood turning. His long associations with wood, the Wilson Museum, Castine, and education become apparent as the bowl comes into shape.
Blackwood, who keeps plenty busy with Highlands Woodturning on the Castine Road, has been doing this work since 1969 along with the day job of running private schools. Now full time in Castine, he gets to enjoy his passion for wood and share it with anyone who shows a little interest. The facilities at the Education Center limit the size which can be made in that location, but the audiences get an opportunity to witness the basics and wonder about the possibilities.