Axes, Hatchets, & Tomahawks

Intermediate Blacksmithing

with Versatile Blacksmith Shawn Cunningham

We understand that a blacksmith is one who shapes and forges iron with hammer and handle. The artist blacksmith does this so as to unite the functional with the aesthetic, realizing that the two are inseparable. - Alex Bealer

Come learn to hand-forge an axe, hatchet, and tomahawk in this intense and information packed 20 hour blacksmithing course. Regain or advance your blacksmithing skills as we leap into the forging environment. Our initial forging will result in a railway spike tomahawk. As we progress, students will have the opportunity to create an axe out of composite steel and forge weld a high carbon bit into a soft iron-bodied axe following traditional construction methods. Students will then continue with the final shaping, hardening, and tempering of metal. A four-layer forge welded farriers-rasp hatchet finishes off this course on the last day. 

This course will equip you with the knowledge to return to your own blacksmith shop and practice the very rewarding creation of your own projects.


  • Critical Blacksmith Shop Safety

  • Ergonomic hammer techniques for sustainable blacksmithing

  • How to start and maintain a coal fire.

  • Forging techniques: draw down, upset, hot cut, fuller, swage, punch, drift, forge weld

  • Scrapyard steel identification

This course can be catered to a wide range of skill levels – from the beginner to the more experienced. Some blacksmithing experience is required with a basic understanding of the process & concepts, basic blacksmithing techniques, & hammer control skills. 

Date: Tues., July 2nd – Fri., July 5th, 2019

Price: $620

  • Early Bird Course Price $495
    20 Hours of Course Time
  • Material & Equipment Fee of $125
  • Daily “Boreal Bites”  
  • Morning Yoga
  • An unforgettable experience

Inclusive Price: $620 – $1070

Inclusive Price varies based on chosen meal plan & accommodation during your time at forestART

Contact Us
We are happy to help answer any questions you have about forestART!

Phone: 306 480 9010
Email: nesscreekforestart@gmail.com

Your Instructor : Shawn Cunningham

Shawn cannot recall a time when he wasn’t fascinated by fire and metal. His first distinct memory of the combination of the two was watching a blacksmith at Upper Canada Village make a nail that he gave to Shawn, 40 years later he still has that nail. The ability to transform what many see as a cold, lifeless material into an organic, almost living entity has captured his imagination for his entire adult life.

During university, he began hobby smithing on the front step of the various houses he rented. By the time he graduated with a Bachelor of Education, he knew what he wanted to do and he knew that teaching would always be a part of his blacksmithing career. Shawn makes artwork, commissioned wrought iron work, specialty tools, and has enjoyed the joys of teaching forge work for over 20 years.

He has taught extensively in Alberta at SAIT, Red Deer Arts College, and NAIT where he continues to teach to this day. He is the founder, owner & operator of Front Step Forge. Find out more about him and his work by clicking HERE!


A few friends and I took a course from Front Step Forge about 10 years ago. I have been hammering away since then. It's been amazing to have the mentorship and ongoing support of Shawn. I definitely recommend him as a teacher.
Pat Steffes
Past Student
Shawn is a fantastic teacher and builds beautiful and functional things. He is always welcoming and supportive.

Hogan Brimacombe
Past Student / Customer


FAQ & More Info

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for blacksmithing is mostly common sense. Cotton and leather clothing, no synthetics that melt in high heat or spark. Steel-toed boots are highly recommended.

CSA approved clear safety glasses. A larger version or goggles can be used over prescription glasses.

Gloves help protect you from burns and blisters. Snug fitting leather gloves offer better dexterity and control while a much looser fit can be flung off in a single motion if required. Gauntlet style gloves are ideal.

Hearing protection is a must. Disposable roll-up foam earplugs or the over-the-ear cup-style hearing defenders; both are fine.

Many smiths employ a leather apron or chaps. Canadian Tire, Lee Valley and sometimes Princess Auto sell leather aprons.

Headgear keeps ash from the coal fire out of your hair. A hat, bandana or no head gear is your choice.

This week is going to be intense! You’re going to walk away from the week with a railway spike tomahawk, a composite steel axe, and a farriers-rasp hatchet.

Tuesday 1pm:             Official Start / Group Orientation

Tuesday PM.                – Shop orientation, safety, light coal fires, 

                                       – Railway spike tomahawk demonstration, begin tomahawks.

Wednesday                 – Railway spike tomahawk completion

                                      – Composite steel axe demonstration
                                      – Begin steel axes 
                                      –  Shaping, hardening, tempering

Thursday                     – Complete steel axes

                                    – Begin farrier-rasp hatchet.

Friday                          – Completion of all projects


  • Optional yoga prior to breakfast
  • Journaling and drawing, forest walks 


  • Early evening
    Palette Cleanse social hour with complimentary boreal bites, an opportunity to socialize and interact with all the other art course participants to be inspired and make connections!
  • Optional sauna, camp fire time, storytelling, walks, swimming, etc.

Supplied by the student:

  • Leather and cotton clothing (no synthetics)
  • Leather footwear – steel toed strongly recommended
  • Safety eyewear
  • Hearing protection
  • Hat or bandanna (optional)
  • Thermal mug / water bottle
  • Note/sketch book
  • BYOB

Supplied by the Instructor – included in $125 Materials & Equipment fee:

  • A fully equipped blacksmithing shop in the bush! 
  • Coal forges
  • Blacksmith coal & flux.
  • Anvils on stands
  • Leg/post vises
  • Tongs, chisels, punches, swages, & fullers, & jigs.
  • Hacksaws & hammers
  • Angle grinders & grind stone flap wheels.
  • All the metal need to practice on and for your projects.

It’s choose your own adventure, with options to suit every budget! You can cook all your own meals, pay for lunches only, or get the full meal deal. You can camp with or without power, bunk in with some fellow artists in shared accommodation, or rent a private cabin. 

Full Details on our Food & Accommodation Options can be found on the main forestART page or when you go to register!

Are You Joining Us?

We look forward to seeing you in Axes, Hatchets, & Tomahawks with Shawn Cunningham!

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