Raising Blue Hell and Forging Fresh Steel

Christopher Daniel’s ever-popular blacksmithing studio breathes new life into the ancient art.
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Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Christopher Daniel’s Blue Hell Studio doesn’t look like the medieval blacksmithing shops of yore. But at this Roselawn warehouse, you’ll still find anvils, quenching barrels, and all the well-worn tools of the trade that have kept this ancient art alive and well—and stunningly popular. Hundreds of students come through the studio each year to prove it.

The longtime sculptor and former Hasbro toymaker fell into blacksmithing somewhat by accident—out of boredom, really—when he was running the metal shop at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. “Nobody ever came down to use the metal shop,” Daniel says. “So I’m sitting around. There’s a 50-pound anvil and a couple torches. Let’s try some blacksmithing. And so I taught myself.”

Today, he and his team balance a growing list of contracted projects and teaching responsibilities at the studio-slash-blacksmithing school, where just about anyone can enroll in 10-week courses to learn the tricks of the trade. But overzealous Forged in Fire fans, beware. “Most people come in wanting to make knives and swords,” Daniel says. “You can’t just jump into that.”

Pointing to a very full wall of sample work, Daniel explains the journey students take from simple taper to intricate scroll, using the very same techniques that have been used for centuries. “I think there’s more of a push, really, for people to want to work with their hands,” he says. “There’s a mystique to what we do.”

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