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The Escondido Blacksmith Guild

The Escondido Blacksmith guild is a unique organization dedicated to preserving and teaching the art of blacksmithing, and is located in historic Grape Day park in downtown Escondido, California. We offer beginning and advanced classes in blacksmithing.

The Bandy Blacksmith Shop and Wheelwright, home of the Bandy Blacksmith Guild was opened in April, 1993. The shop is a green corrugated metal building with three main areas and an office: the teaching facility, the forging equipment and blade making shop, and the wheelwright and woodworking extension. The guild hosts a number of skilled artisans, hobbyists and professionals, who specialize in everything from knives and swords, to tool making and architectural work.

Our teaching area, named after a donor Arie De Jong, has five forges; each with a Champion 400 hand crank blower, post vise, and 150 lb anvil. The center of the building features the instructor's brick forge and demonstration area, including a 256 lb Peter Wright Anvil. This part of the shop also includes a collection of historic hand tools and a historic line shaft driven Little Giant Trip hammer and drill press; these pieces are from the original Bandy Shop on Kalmia St. Some of the modern equipment the guild has include an 88 lb air hammer, 24 ton hydraulic forging press, precision belt grinders, a mill and lathe, welders and plasma cutters. The reconstructed shop office includes the original ranch brands burned onto wood by brands originally made by the shop, the roll top desk and wooden cash register. The wheelwright shop includes a variety of equipment suited for making wagons including workbenches with vises, wood lathes, a mortising machine with hub indexer, 20" thickness planer, spindle sander, 20" disk sander, and a 20" band saw, to name a few.

Revolving on a four week interval, classes are offered at the Bandy Blacksmith Shop through the Escondido History Center. A handful of students at a time learn the art of blacksmithing by working five hours each Saturday, each with their own forge. One on one advanced teaching and shop time are available each Saturday afternoon, from our advanced instructors. Phil Ewing taught blacksmith classes for fourteen years until the wheelwright shop was constructed. John Kowaleski, one of Phil's former students, taught classes for a number of years until his untimely passing. Classes are now taught primarily by Waltteri Vakki and other guild members.  For information about classes, call the Escondido History Center office or stop by on a Saturday and see what it's all about.

Beginning blacksmith students learn to make some simple household items and tools. The basic instruction includes building and maintaining coal fires, an introduction to the tools and their use and general safety in blacksmithing. Students will make a church key bottle opener, railroad spike steak turner, punch and chisel and finally a pair of tongs. Once the basics are mastered, students work on a wide variety of individual projects of their choice. Intermediate students bring in their own projects or can be assigned projects by the advanced instructors. Typically, intermediate students do their work in the open forge time, which is Saturday afternoons. We have a broad range of skills and talents spread across our member base. We have knife makers, sword smiths, tool fabricators, architectural smiths and the rest. Out of notable projects, one student made a power hammer, which works like a trip-hammer, while another one made an 8 foot long sword. We even had a student fold and forge-welded the barrel for a 4-gauge shotgun using soft iron.

Students in the wheelwright classes are taught to build wheelbarrow wheels similar to the ones instructor Phil Ewing learned to build while stationed in Germany in the army (1962-64). Most of the wheels constructed by students have Sarven hubs, although a few have built wheels with PA bolted hubs. Students have built several miniature wagons and two- wheeled carts. The shop is in the process of building a large dray wagon to hold a portable blacksmith shop for demonstrations. Blacksmithing skills are a prerequisite to taking the wheelwright classes. For information about wheelwright classes call the Escondido History Center office at (760) 743-8207.