Throwing sparks

Published 10:02 pm Monday, June 25, 2012

Daily Star photo/KATIE ROHMAN Blacksmith Frank Takace says he is a “hammer freak.” He makes most of his own tools.

“My first anvil was just a small, miniature one,” said Frank Takace as he held one up at his blacksmithing shop. “My grandfather found it in the garbage. I was about 6.”

Takace, a retired technician, restored trucks and autos as a hobby until his retirement, when he pursued blacksmithing with a passion.

Daily Star photo/KATIE ROHMAN Crosses are Frank Takace’s favorite subjects to create.

“I’ve always dabbled in making things in metal and woodworking,” Takace said. “A lot of it is teaching myself. I learn a lot by going to shows.”

Blacksmithing may seem like a lost art, but Takace said interest is growing in the art.

Takace, whose shop is located at his home on U.S. Highway 12 in Milton Township, grew up on a Granger farm, which his family still owns.

His trademark business sign in his front yard is fastened to an old manure spreader from the farm.

The sign, in addition to business cards, are how Takace promotes his business. People contact him to make parts that aren’t made anymore, create art and restore anything from toys to furniture.

His favorite subject matter is crosses. He has made several for hospitals and nursing homes, and designs tiny ones for children.

Takace has made walking canes using doorknobs and horse harness parts; painted carousel horses; chiseled intricate animal figure tomahawks; restored furniture; and made and sold iron tractor seats.

Takace said in addition to many projects he has going at any time — he recently made a cross for St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and restored a motorized pedal tractor to sell to the Amish — he serves as a mentor for budding blacksmiths.

“There’s a lot of people who are interested,” Takace said.

“It doesn’t require a whole lot of money.”

That is — if you make your own tools.

“You make a lot of your own things as you go along,” said Takace, a self-proclaimed “hammer freak.”

He often makes his own tools because the ones he wants don’t exist. It also saves money.

Takace and his wife, Carolyn, regularly attend sales and auctions, where he buys items to restore and tools like anvils. His largest anvil is 300 pounds.

“I try to get these guys interested in metal, and doing the blacksmith thing, and I try to get this equipment for them,” Takace said.

Takace prefers to teach blacksmithing one student at a time. He even mentored a young Indiana University college student. The woman created a small, wire horse head in an art class, and she wanted to make a full-size figure. Takace was impressed with her natural talent.

“I told her, ‘you could make a good living,’” he said.

Takace and a group of local blacksmiths established the Indiana Blacksmithing Association. A satellite group, the St. Joe Valley Forgers meets monthly in the South Bend area.

Takace said that blacksmiths are a cherished part of our history, particularly in medieval times, when blacksmiths would work for kings.

“They were supporting him in his gaining of land,” he said. “He had men going out and searching for iron ore. It was a big trade thing in the beginning.

“If it wouldn’t be for the blacksmiths, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Takace said.

To contact Frank Takace about his business or his blacksmith training, call (269) 684-4355 or