Columbia Basin Trust Powers Students’ Ability to Forge Ahead

December 8, 2023
Blacksmithing & Metal Art Class with New Forges

The ancient art of blacksmithing being taught at Selkirk College’s Victoria Street Campus has received a modern boost from Columbia Basin Trust.

The eight-month Blacksmithing & Metal Art Program relies heavily upon forges to heat the metal that ultimately results in impressive student projects. The experienced team of instructors and staff at the Nelson-based campus built the previous forges that were employed for learning over the last two decades. Utilizing funds from a partnership with Columbia Basin Trust that provides college learners access to equipment that might otherwise be out of reach, four new state-of-the-art forges were installed at the start of the semester. 

“It’s amazing, these new forges have changed the program and what we are able to teach the students,” says Kevin Kratz, the veteran instructor who teaches the unique program. “We are so appreciative of Columbia Basin Trust for helping us get the tools we need.”

Canadian-made by BC Mighty Forge out of Duncan, BC, the new additions to the blacksmithing shop are designed for the best outcomes with the all the latest safety standards for learning. Able to heat the metal to 1,260 Celsius, the new forges have enabled Kratz to introduce pattern-welded steel that assists in the making of items like knives and swords. Getting the metal to the lemon-yellow colour coveted in the craft, students are able to hammer out better projects.

Putting the Tools to the Test

With a semester of use now in the books, students in the certificate program are grateful to be learning on the latest tools in a program steeped in traditional methods.

Blacksmithing & Metal Art Student Sophia DePaoli
Sophia DePaoli is a member of the current cohort of students in the Blacksmithing & Metal Art Program have been putting the four new forges in Nelson’s Victoria Street Campus to good use over the last semester. The purchase of the latest equipment was made possible through a partnership with Columbia Basin Trust.

“The forges are easy to use and understand,” says Sophia DePaoli, taking a break from hammering out her designs. “They heat up quickly, which allows you to work faster and be more productive in the studio.”

DePaoli arrived to Selkirk College in September after completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University in Montreal. With sights set on becoming a working artist, the 23-year-old was told about one of only two post-secondary blacksmithing programs in Canada from a classmate in Montreal who is a Selkirk College alumnus. 

“The work I put into the degree was very important and it taught me a lot, but it’s nice to do this program and gain some very useful skills that will help me move forward,” says DePaoli, who grew up in High River, Alberta. “It’s a challenging program, which is really good. With the small class sizes, the hands-on learning and great instructor, the resources we are provided are important for achieving my goals.”

The ongoing partnership with Columbia Basin Trust provides an array of outcomes across the college that improve programs and services for students. With a price tag of just over $16,000, the new forges are an example of how Columbia Basin Trust is committed to building and enhancing the local workforce through post-secondary education.

“We are achieving tangible results for our students because of this vital funding,” says Tracy Punchard, the college dean responsible for the School of the Arts. “Providing equipment like modern forges strengthens the program and helps ensure the viability of this unique offering for current and future students.” 

Learn more about the Selkirk College School of the Arts programs.

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