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Volunteer Highlight: WDM Saskatoon Blacksmiths

Blacksmithing was always something that interested Bryan Ryan. When the WDM offered its first Introduction to Blacksmithing Course in 1988, Bryan was one of the first to sign up. He has spent thousands of hours honing his skills in the Boomtown Blacksmith Shop and in his own shop. When new ‘smiths complete the training course, they need time to sharpen their skills. Bryan is one of the ‘smiths who volunteers to work with the new ‘smiths in the Boomtown Shop, sharing his years of experience.

Bryan started volunteering before the WDM Saskatoon moved from its 11th Street West location to Lorne Avenue in 1972. He had taken the WDM’s steam traction engine operation course and joined the Pioneer Threshermen’s Club volunteers to help operate steam engines. Since taking the blacksmithing course, Bryan and his wife Arlene have been regulars in the Blacksmith Shop on Sunday afternoons and during special events.

Arlene is a valuable part of the blacksmith team. While she doesn’t blacksmith, she greets visitors and shares stories and information. They both love to visit with folks from all over the world.

Arlene says, “I am glad visitors can ask questions to blacksmiths. It’s nice explaining things about the Museum and the Blacksmith Shop.”

Three blacksmiths in a shop
Zach Hauser, Brent Northey and Jon Carey, November 2023 Photo Courtesy of Bob and Cathy Anderson

Experienced blacksmiths Zach Hauser and Brent Northey also help to mentor the new ‘smiths. Zach started volunteering in 1982. Like Bryan, he was initially interested in steam engines but became intrigued by blacksmithing. He enjoys the company of the other ‘smiths and supports the work of the WDM, “I like the mission of the Museum. I have always been a fan of what it [WDM] does and what it supports. To volunteer and help that along, it is just a bonus.”

 

Blacksmith at the anvil with fire in forge off to the right
Rob Cates, February 2024

Brent was volunteering with horses at the WDM when he got interested in blacksmithing. After taking the course in 2015, he began working with Bryan and Zach to gain experience. Brent enjoys sharing what he’s learned with new ‘smiths and Museum visitors while improving his own skills.

Thanks to volunteers like Bryan, Arlene, Zach and Brent, new ‘smiths are being mentored. Rob Cates took the course a little over one year ago. He decided he was going to do all the things that he wanted to do as a child which included blacksmithing. Rob enjoys showing visitors what he has learned.

Woman in blacksmith shop
Ashlie Custer, February 2024

Ashlie Custer and Jon Carey both completed the course recently. They are enjoying the WDM experience. Ashlie loves to bring the Blacksmith Shop to life, “I like talking to all the people.

They are so excited [to talk] about blacksmithing.” For Jon, it’s about learning heritage skills and preserving the past, “Any art or trade that is hands-on has a steep learning curve. Without past generations, we can’t learn. You must keep passing it [knowledge] on or else it will be forgotten.”

There are blacksmith shops at all WDM locations. Thanks to the amazing crew of volunteer ‘smiths who share their skills and bring the WDM to life!

 

INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING AT THE WDM?

Find out more about volunteering at WDM Saskatoon here >>

For more information about volunteer opportunities at other WDM locations, visit Volunteering at the WDM.

 

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