By Trey Youngdahl
Unbeknownst to some, Mena is home to a vibrant community of blacksmiths, specifically those who practice “old school” blacksmithing techniques. The Rich Mountain Blacksmith Club was founded by Matt Hughes with the help of Ted McCauley in 2017. Hughes, a long-time hobbyist blacksmith, started the group after attending the Bladesmithing School in Texarkana, using the club as both an outlet for his creative itch, as well as a tool to teach those desiring to learn the art.
In his classes, the projects range from forging basic ‘S’ hooks, steak flippers and even hand-tools that students will use for future projects. Students also get the chance to work alongside seasoned blacksmiths, who are always happy to help and coach along the beginners. Working with the more experienced blacksmiths gives the students an opportunity to explore advanced projects and introduces them to the blacksmithing community. In addition, students and club members are given the opportunity to demonstrate their blacksmithing abilities in shows at several festivals throughout the year, including The Viking Festival in Heavner, Oklahoma, and The Bigfoot Festival in Honobia, Oklahoma.
The purpose of the club was never to make money. Hughes’s goal in creating the class was always to pass on the skills and knowledge of this ancient trade to ensure it’s life in the next generation. Because of this, it is free to join the club and class. However, a Bladesmithing and Knifemaking class is available for a fee. To join the class, please contact Matt Hughes through the Facebook group, ‘Rich Mountain Black Smith Club’.
Photos By Trey Youngdahl