THUNDER BAY -- In a day and age when everything is mass-manufactured, the Pendziwol brothers make metal items the old fashioned way - with a forge and hand tools.
Colin started blacksmithing about 10 years ago at Fort William Historical Park, where he was working at the time. He and his brother Ryan had always helped their father, a “pretty big wood-worker” with carpentry and renovations and liked working with their hands. Fascination with blacksmithing seemed like a natural progression. Three years ago, the brothers started their business, Red Fox Forge, to continue honing their craft.
From a coal-powered forge made out of transport truck brake drums, they upgraded to a gas forge powered by propane. They now also have a belt grinder that Ryan made, and a couple of anvils. Along the way, they have found many fans of their work. “It’s definitely cool to be able to make something for people that they want,” says Colin. They have participated in Craft Revival four times already, and there is a growing interest in what they do and the items they make.
Their work starts by heating up the raw material - mild steel, wrought iron and other metals, depending on what they’re making - in the forge until it’s 2400 F. After that it’s all physical strength - while commercial manufacturers use giant power hammers and presses, at Red Fox Forge it’s all done by swinging a hand hammer or a sledge hammer.
While a simple coat hook could be made in 10 minutes, something like an axe or knife takes far longer. A Damascus chef’s knife, made of pattern-welded steel, could take five or six full days of work.
“It’s a lot of time, a lot of work, and a little nerve-wracking,” Colin admits. “We don’t take custom orders for knives because it takes so long. We just make them when we can, and they sell quickly.”
Currently, their products are sold at Ungalli Clothing Co. + Local Collective on Cumberland Street (where Crocks/Noodle Bowl used to be). While availability varies, there are usually decorative coat hooks (some in the shape of an octopus,) fire pokers, shelf brackets and bottle openers for sale, and if you’re lucky, you might spot an axe or tomahawk as well.
The brothers currently have their workshop set up in their parents’ garage, which can get a bit cramped, especially when a customer brings in large items to be repaired such as a trailer. They both have other jobs, but hope to one day expand Red Fox Forge.
“I think at some point, we’d like to start lessons,” Colin says of future goals.”People are interested, and this is something people would enjoy.”