Local blacksmith and farrier artist Jim Keith finished eighth overall at the World Championship Blacksmith’s Competition in Calgary, Alberta recently. Keith and his helper, Mark Milster, also took top prize in the creative forging category at the international competition.
Keith said the creative forging category was divided into two parts. “First of all we had to submit a piece prior to the competition,” said Keith. Then we had one hour at the competition to forge three large pieces of plate steel, flat steel and round steel into a work of art employing five different techniques.. We chose to fashion a large flower and we won.” In the farrier arts, or horseshoeing competition, Keith had to forge different types of horseshoes in a very short amount of time. “It was a brutal competition,” said Keith, “but I gained some points which put me in top ten standing.” Keith explained the difference between blacksmithing and farrier arts. “A blacksmith is anyone who works in iron and steel,” he said. Farrier arts, or horseshoeing, is one part of blacksmithing.”
Keith began horseshoeing in the late 1950’s. “I started working on a ranch and back then when you worked on a ranch you had to shoe your own horses,” said Keith. “A person can learn how to make a functional horseshoe in a few weeks, but it takes about five years to gain a high level of proficiency. I still am seeking to improve my skills.”
Keith is known throughout the world for his blacksmithing and farrier skills. He has been written up in horse magazines from as far away as Brazil. “I have given several clinics in Brazil,” said Keith, “and I have also given clinics to veterinarians there. I’ve also shod Clydesdale horses alongside the river Clyde in Scotland” Keith, 62, said he keeps competing because it keeps him in shape. “‘I was the oldest competitor to make the top ten at the world championships,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge. I notice that I feel better physically after competing.”
Keith said blacksmithing and farrier arts are lifetime pursuits. “I’ve worked with iron and steel most of my life,” he said. “In my travels around the world to various competitions I have been around many different kinds of blacksmiths and their work has kind of rubbed off on me.” Keith owns a blacksmithing shop and tool making facility, Jim Keith Tools, at 905 West Railroad Avenue. He publishes a catalog of his custom made blacksmithing tools and accessories. The web site for the company is http://www.jktools.com