People say nothing good comes from video games, but Chase Proctor, a sophomore at Gonzaga Prep, has proved them wrong after he was inspired by “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” a 2011 fantasy RPG, and an eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., to take up the hammer and anvil and forge a variety of items including swords and knives.
Proctor’s path to becoming a blacksmith began after he started playing Skyrim when he was in fifth grade. He has long had a fascination for weapons in the fantasy genre, such as those in “The Lord of the Rings.”
“I always loved blacksmithing in Skyrim, it was just something I always thought was a really cool and awesome thing, but I never actually knew that it was a real thing that you could actually do until my eighth-grade class went to Washington, D.C., for a field trip,” Proctor said.
During the trip, they visited Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia, where Proctor was able to see blacksmithing in action.
Sometime after returning from the trip, Proctor said that he had heard that someone bought a railroad spike knife and that he wanted to make one because there is an old railroad near his home in Elk where the materials to make them were available.
“After I came back from Washington, D.C., I looked on YouTube how to make a forge, and I built my own and I started forging,” he said.
In getting the forge and equipment, Proctor said he was surprised by how easy it was to get everything together because of the amount of metal and scrap he was able to scavenge from around his family ranch.
Besides gathering supplies from his ranch, Proctor said that antique shops and garage sales have been great sources to get tools and materials.
Not only that, his family has a history in metalworking, woodworking and other activities involving machinery.
“I just looked up on YouTube, and I found different ways to make forges out of bricks, out of metal,” he said. “And I started using wood and then that worked up to using coal and briquettes.”
Even though blacksmithing was difficult at first, Proctor said videos helped him the most. He said he would spend hours learning about different techniques, tools and other tips to help him with it.
Besides the videos, he has encountered other people who have had experience with blacksmithing and has learned from them as well.
Proctor said he forged his first sword using only a file and a hammer and has made two other swords since then.
Other items he has made include a shield, a javelin, knives, tongs and hammers. He has attempted to forge axes but has not been successful yet.
“There’s two really hard things about that (axes) because, either way, you have to drift a hole, which is where you get a large stake, basically, that you drive through the hot metal to make the opening for the handle,” he said. “Or you have to take two pieces of metal and use a really complicated technique called forge welding where you basically get the metal hot enough to melt or weld to itself. I haven’t really gotten to the point yet where I have necessarily a good enough forge or the skills to get that done, but I’m hoping to soon.”
Not only that, Proctor has done woodworking where he has made stools, chairs and other kinds of furniture.
“Since then, I actually ended up building my own shop, which kind of turned from a fort and into a shop,” he said.
Proctor has used his blacksmithing skills to make decorative art pieces for his parents’ homes, as gifts and as props for the Gonzaga Prep club Destination Imagination. He has sold some of the items he has forged to family and friends.
He plans to do a community service project making tables, park benches and other things for the community and eventually have it grow into a community service project for other schools and churches.
Proctor said that he plans to use his hobbies in blacksmithing and woodworking for future careers, particularly in architecture.
“When you start blacksmithing, it ends up changing you and you start to look at things differently,” Proctor said, “and instead of seeing what most people would see as a rusty piece of metal that has no use that most people would throw away … you start to see what you can do with things and the possibilities.”
He added that this relates to life because when people see things where there is no hope and no future, blacksmithing shows there is always a way to fix things up and change them into something beautiful, even though it may take a little pain and fire to do it.
“Video games, I know there’s a lot about them, about what they can inspire, and I’m not saying that you might learn things like this (blacksmithing) from Grand Theft Auto,” he said, “but Skyrim, specifically, it’s taught me a lot about medieval history and … I think that there is a lot of helpful and useful things in video games as long as you don’t get too wrapped up in them.”
For those interested in taking up blacksmithing, Proctor said there are lots of videos that can tell them where they can get all of the materials necessary and how to use them. He added there are some safety risks that people should research before they start.
“If you have a knack for creating things, if you like to build and you kind of like to experience blacksmithing from Skyrim first-hand, it’s not very hard,” he said.