Blacksmith and Family Forge Strong Ties

Danielle in the shop with a neighbor's kid. Doug de-horns kids with a hot iron, just like blacksmiths always have.

Danielle in the shop with a neighbor’s kid. Doug de-horns kids with a hot iron, just like blacksmiths always have.

The Makers of Hand Forged Iron.

Doesn’t that sound like a lovely name for a business from a century ago, all done in curlicue writng? But it’s not a nostalgic memory. It’s the name of the business that’s kept the Lockhart family in Logan, Ohio busy for over 30 years.

Led by patriarch Doug, with his wife Berta serving as office manager, and with contributions from their children/apprentices, Annah Lockhart, Danielle Russell, and Benjamin Lockhart, this family works–hard! Both Danielle and Benjamin have national awards for their work as youth blacksmiths. “It’s kind of hard now, though,” says Danielle, about entering competitions. “I’m going up against adults, because I’m out of the 18 and under class now. I’ve learned a lot, though, and I love to do artistic work.”

At Lehman’s, we’re beneficiaries of their hard work and talent. Doug and Danielle provide us with beautiful custom wrought iron pieces that are made to be used. Take the fence stretcher, for instance. That’s not something a working farmer is going to hang on a wall!

Forged iron fence stretchers being made.

A batch of fence stretchers in progress. Each will be marked with Doug’s maker’s mark, a lock inside a heart.

Lockhart’s been working full-time as a blacksmith since the early 1980s. After stints as an instructor and a living history exhibitor, he decided open his own shop in 1985. After some time in a series of cramped quarters, he landed in Logan, Ohio, and worked out of a historic building there.

Doug and Danielle talk over the day's work while the forge warms to working temperatures.

Doug and Danielle talk over the day’s work while the forge warms to working temperatures.

A few years ago, he built a manufacturing shop next door to the family’s circa 1824 three-story log home. He holds classes at the shop too, for beginning and intermediate blacksmiths. “It’s no sin for a man to work with his hands. You should be proud of the work you do, no matter what it is,” he says. He does all sorts of smith work, from nails to hinges to bridge rivets and beams.

His most popular items here at Lehman’s, especially at our store in Kidron, are ringing triangles, hooks, hinges and shepherd’s crooks, made for hanging baskets.

The shop’s forges fire under propane, but Doug and Danielle forge on coal. The family even has a portable forge they take to shows and demonstrations in Ohio and neighboring states.

Danielle started working full-time with her father about two years ago. “I just like it so much. It’s so great to do, taking something plain and making it into something useful.” She’s also an avid gardener, and is hoping to launch a small herb stand in addition to her work in the forge. Watching her at work is like watching a dancer—there’s both strength and grace in her movements, and it shows in her finished work.

The family home. It's one of largest log homes in the Midwest.

The family home. It’s one of largest log homes in the Midwest.

The Lockharts live very nearly off the grid. Their home, tucked into the beginnings of the Appalachian Mountains in southern Ohio, is one of a kind. Doug found it in Lancaster, dismantled it, marked each piece and moved it to the the family’s land, and rebuilt it, installing a 500 gallon gravity cistern on the third floor.

It’s the largest single-room span log home in Ohio, with original beams running 36 feet across. That open feel is evident in the family’s first floor space, which holds their living area, dining table, kitchen and (lovely) modern bathroom.

Doug rough shapes a piece of bar stock that Danielle will later bend into a standing hook.

Doug rough shapes a piece of bar stock that Danielle will later bend into a standing hook.

“Just because we’re living out doesn’t mean we have to suffer,” jokes Berta. “The water supply is such that we can use a low-flow commode, and we have a system for hot water showers too. Off the grid doesn’t mean you eat beans out of a can, you know?” Surrounded by the home’s original chestnut and oak timbers, warmed by a wood stove, visitors will be comfortable.

Outside, the acreage is planted in garden vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, popcorn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and Danielle’s herbs. There’s an orchard with apples, pears, almonds, peaches, black walnut trees, silver and sugar maple trees that are tapped for syrup in the springtime, strawberry beds and thickets of blueberries and raspberries. Berta and her daughters do a lot of preserving.

“I don’t really belong in the 20th century,” says Doug. “For a while, I even ran the business from a wagon, with draft horses I bred myself. There’s nothing on a buggy or wagon I can’t remake. Can’t say that about my truck,” he says, laughing.