Blacksmithing in the Backyard

There’s something captivating about an anvil ringing in the distance and Zac Holter is set on being a part of the captivating atmosphere.

Holter’s interest in ironwork began when he first started tuning into the show Forged In Fire. “My daughter was born in October 2020 and that was nine, ten months into COVID,” Holter said. When he took the night shift to watch the baby and let his wife get some sleep, Holter became invested in the series. “For Father’s Day the following year in 2021, my wife bought me a spot in a class to go down to Doug Lockhart at Lockhart Ironworks in Logan,” Holter said. “I took my first class there and that’s how I got hooked.”

Forged metal campire roasting stick created by blacksmith Zac Holter in Lancaster, Ohio.

Forged metal campire roasting stick created by Blacksmith Zac Holter.

Holter has experience in making hooks, bottle openers, and even hairpins. Currently, he says his best seller is probably his roasting sticks for campfires. “I make campfire cooking tripods or it can be a stand if you want to cook like a pot of chili over a fire. I’m trying to start getting into more utensils, I want to try to start maybe some spatulas and ladles.”

While he’s actively selling his work on social media, he also makes the effort to visit as many trade shows and ren fairs as his schedule will allow. “I did pretty well at the Fairfield County Genealogical Society Fair last year, I think I’ll try to be there again,” Holter added that he’s also going to try to make it to the Berne Union Craft Fair.

Forged metal hairpin created by Blacksmith Zac Holter in Lancaster, Ohio.

Forged metal hairpin created by Blacksmith Zac Holter.

The main contender for his attention is his family and life as a stay-at-home dad. “Since my youngest – he’s 4 months old, he was born in January – I haven’t been able to do any forging at all. The dynamic going from one kid to two kids really changed up a lot.” Holter said when it was just his daughter, he would do his work while she napped or when his wife was home. For now, he’s focusing on creating an Etsy shop, acquiring time-period equipment for fairs, and learning more about new designs. “I’ve missed being able to be out there and making stuff but also just having this time with my kids is irreplaceable. I’ll never get it back and I just want to take advantage of it.”

Forged metal campfire tripod set created by Blacksmith Zac Holter in Lancaster, Ohio.

Forged metal campfire tripod set created by Blacksmith Zac Holter.

One of the main advantages Holter found when starting his craft was how welcoming the community was to those that held an interest in blacksmithing. “There’s no shortage of knowledge and everybody’s so nice to help you with anything you need,” Holter said. The community has also helped him to find ways to cut down on costs when it came to starting the hobby.

“You do not need all the big, expensive fancy stuff right away. I’m sure there’s someone that you know or somebody knows somebody that has an anvil sitting in their barn or sitting as a lawn ornament. You can even use a piece of railroad track to get started, that’s a much cheaper option.” Holter said just by looking at marketplaces, junkyards, and asking around, new blacksmiths should be able to keep their start-up costs under $500. “So you don’t need the 2×270 belt grinder or all the fancy tongs and hammers, you can just start with a pair of vice grips, ball peen hammer, and some old anvil or railroad track, that’s kind of how I started.”

Forged metal banana hanger created by Blacksmith Zac Holter in Lancaster, Ohio.

Forged metal banana hanger created by Blacksmith Zac Holter.

While he gathers information from YouTube videos and groups on Facebook, he also tunes into the #1 blacksmithing podcast on Spotify, Forgecast. “The runners of that show are open to any and all questions at any time,” Holter explained he’s reached out to the co-hosts before and has even gained some insight on business practices. While he recommends taking a class before diving into the hobby, YouTube and community groups are his two top suggestions for information and skill development.

Inspired by the helpful community and the wisdom he gained from Lockhart’s classes, Holter mentioned he would like to provide his own classes one day in the future. “I think I’d like to take on a couple of people at a time and kind of, maybe train them the way I was “trained” with that class.” Holter explained that even though it was a one-day, 8-hour class where they just made some S hooks, the knowledge he gained from the experience was “invaluable” and something he’s been able to carry into everything else he creates.

For now, Holter says, it’s still a satisfying hobby. “It’s still fun, that’s how I want to keep it.” He says while he wants to be able to continue balancing family life by not spending 12 hours a day forging, being able to turn it into a sustainable business is the ultimate goal.

While he says he’s still creating a solid business model, Holter is currently taking commissions, selling his creations, and offering custom orders. Besides his website Holter Ironcraft, Zac Holter can be found on Instagram and Facebook and the blacksmith says he’s available for any questions and requests.

Filed under: Books, Arts & Music, Featured, Homepage Showcase, Life, Meet Your Neighbors, News, People
Blooming hosta

By Eleanor Mathers

Eleanor Mathers is a lead contributor to The Lancaster Herald. As a freelance writer with a special interest in the arts, Eleanor contributes stories about the arts and artists. Besides running her blog and services at EleanorTypes.com, they can be found behind bookshelves and at coffee tables around Lancaster.