Greenfield Forge blacksmith shop helps people learn new skills
Published: 01-09-2024 12:40 PM
Modified: 01-10-2024 2:08 PM
The first thing anyone notices walking into the Greenfield Forge, Vinnie Anfuso’s blacksmith shop in the center of Greenfield, is the massive, coal-fired forge.
Anfuso has four forges at his Greenfield shop – two coal, two propane.
“For our size shop, we’re a powerhouse. We have a lot of fire,” Anfuso said.
The coal forge can burn up to 3,500 degrees.
“At that temperature, the fire will actually liquefy steel, it will just evaporate,” Anfuso said. “So a lot of the time, I have this one going with wood. Coal burns way hotter.”
The smaller propane forges, which emit almost invisible blue flame, burn at lower temperatures and render iron soft enough to be molded, twisted and shaped.
Anfuso’s blacksmithing classes have been filled steadily since Greenfield Forge opened. He also offers classes at his Milford location, which he has operated since 2000, and works with schools and homeschoolers. Greenfield Forge is a vendor of the Children’s Scholarship Fund of New Hampshire.
“We had a group of kids from the Well School in here recently, and it was just fantastic. We love working with kids and young people, and they think it’s so cool,” Anfuso said Monday.
Greenfield resident Monica Lehner, attending a Monday night class with two friends, said it was exciting to learn a new skill.
“It’s really nice to not even have to leave Greenfield to do this,’’ Lehner said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. It takes serious upper-body strength. Vinnie makes it look easy.”
The Greenfield Forge came about when Ray Cilley purchased the building in 2019 and approached Anfuso, who lived and worked in Greenfield for many years, about returning the building to its original function as a blacksmith shop.
“This shop, how it has changed and evolved over time, is a textbook example of American history,” Anfuso said.
The building at 1792 Forest Road was built as a blacksmith shop around 1820 and remained the village blacksmith for 100 years, taking care of the needs of town residents, who were primarily farmers.
“Then the automobile industry came in,” Anfuso said. “Then, instead of a blacksmith making parts for a wagon, it was all about machines making parts for other machines.”
The Greenfield blacksmith at the time quickly got into the automobile business, and the building was a mom-and-pop car dealership until the 1940s. When the industry changed again, with large dealerships pushing out small auto shops, the building became an auto repair business, and remained a garage until the last mechanic retired in the 2000s.
After buying the building, Cilley spent several years upgrading and restoring the structure and the surrounding property. The property, which abuts wetlands in the back, also required some environmental mitigation and restoration. The building was totally unmodernized and required floor-to-ceiling upgrades and repairs.
“This building was totally unimproved when Ray bought it,” Anfuso said. “It didn’t even have plumbing. He called me and asked if I would be willing to open a blacksmith shop in there and I just thought it was a great idea.”
The Greenfield Forge is now fully renovated and modernized, with spaces for blacksmith classes and a retail space, where the public can purchase handmade items, including fireplace tools. The bulk of Anfuso’s business is custom wrought iron metalwork, including fencing, gates, handrails, knives, J-hooks and specialty items.
“We’re booking out into next year for custom metalwork,” Anfuso said. “People come to us when they have items they can’t get off the shelf, special things they need to fit – rackets, railings, hooks, anything like that.”
About one-third of Anfuso’s business is blacksmithing classes. Anfuso said the History Channel show “Forged in Fire” has made blacksmithing wildly popular.
“I always ask if people have seen the show, because I have to manage their expectations a little bit,” Anfuso said. “Nothing is like it is on TV.”
Anfuso encourages anyone interested in blacksmithing to also stop by his Milford location, which has a hydro-power station and a large new power hammer.
“Milford is where the big stuff happens; we have some serious machines in there,” Anfuso said. “But Greenfield has the coolest atmosphere and just this great historic vibe.”
More information about the Greenfield Forge is available at greenfieldforge.net.