Published on May 10th, 2015 | by St Peter's College0
St Peter’s College student William Sexton breaks mould to become blacksmith
St Peter’s College has a reputation for turning out leaders.
Over 150 years, Adelaide’s answer to Eton, has trained future premiers, steady handed surgeons and pillars of the judiciary. It has also produced the odd scoundrel or two. But whether the elite school had ever forged a blacksmith until William Sexton came along is highly doubtful.
“I want to be a blacksmith. I love the idea of being able to create something out of seemingly worthless material and making something valuable out of it,” the 18-year-old said.
William’s passion for this most traditional of occupations had a thoroughly modern genesis. He saw a YouTube clip of blacksmith at work and was instantly hooked. William said his first attempts at bending steel to his will can be summed up in a word.
“Err horrible. … how about that?” he said.
“Yeah it was not good, but after a time of doing it I got a lot better at it.”
As evidence of his progress, William pointed to what he called exhibit A – an intricate forged steel rose. It took William just 10 hours to make the rose, but 18 months to gain the expertise and skill to do so.
Working blacksmith acts as mentor
Andrew Hood, a working blacksmith who lives in the same Adelaide Hills town as William, was crucial to the schoolboy’s journey. Mr Hood started by teaching William the basics
“Blacksmith 101, you’ve got to learn how to control a fire and use a forge,” Mr Hood said.
“Then you need to learn where to put the metal in the fire.
“If you put it too far in it oxidizes, if you put it too far up, it doesn’t heat up.”
Learning how to control the hammer, how hard to hit, and where to hit was also important. William said meeting Mr Hood transformed his work.
“That means a lot to me, the relationship with him,” William said.
“Without him I wouldn’t have been able to have a forge at my house, I wouldn’t have had the anvil, I wouldn’t have any of the tools that I have.
“He’s been instrumental in my development as a blacksmith.”
The single rose is just a start for William who needs to make another 11 for his final year 12 art project, which will make up 50 per cent of his final grade. There is a lot riding on the roses, but if William makes a go out of it, Mr Hood said he will have plenty to keep him occupied. Blacksmiths get asked to make arches, gates, fences, balustrades, tables, chairs and so on.
Mr Hood said while a good blacksmith can make virtually anything, changing people’s perceptions is something else.
“The number of people who say to me, ahh blacksmithing, that’s a dying art. My usual answer is, bugger off, I’m still doing it!” Mr Hood said.
School friends support ‘brave’ classmate
Perception is something William has grappled with too, especially as a student at an expensive private school. He was worried at first how his friends, who plan to become doctors and dentists, would take his decision to become a blacksmith.
“I was expecting them to be a little bit unsure,” William said.
“That they would have viewed it as an outlawish type of job.”
Emerson Krstic, a friend since year eight, understands William’s concerns, but thinks it is wasted energy.
“I like that he’s not afraid to be different especially in his choice to make blacksmithing his occupation,” Emerson said.
“I think that’s very brave because he’ll probably be one of the only blacksmiths in Australia by the time he’s through his course.”
William said his friend’s support means a lot to him. And if at some point in the future his works command huge prices, beyond the means of a humble GP, they can always count on him for mates’ rates.
See more of this story on Australia Wide on News 24
By Simon Royal (ABC 24)