Made of wood and stone, the blacksmith’s shop had few solid walls. Beams held the weight of the roof, and kept the weather from hounding them. Heat filled the space during the day, emanating from the coal forge, and defeated winter’s chill.
The sound of hammering called to her, a siren song for her soul, and she raced from her room to join her father in the welcome heat. Throwing on one of the thick leather aprons, she came to his side, watching the scale fall off the scalding metal.
“Hey now!” her father said when he finally spotted her, “Get out, Gwen! I’ve told you a thousand times, blacksmithing is not woman’s work!”
“Please!” she cried, pleading with the large man, and tears formed in the corner of her eyes, “Just let me try!”
Grumbling, he threw his arms up and moved away from his anvil. A hand grabbed a piece of steel, thin and long, and he set it in his tongs, placing it in the forge. As it warmed, he turned on his insolent daughter, “Fine. You can make hooks. Lord knows I could use more of them.”
Gwen’s face lit up and even her father scoffing at her could not ruffle her feathers. Pulling on a pair of gloves, she found one of the lighter hammers, checked it had a flat face and went in search of another. This one’ll do, she thought, carrying a ball peen hammer to her anvil.
Balancing the tongs in her gloved grasp, she took the metal from the forge, its bright orange colour beautiful to her. The tongs kept hold of the heated metal and she lifted the flat faced hammer in her grasp. I have to round the edges of the tip first, she determined and swung time and again at it. Spinning the piece when needed, she only got a couple strikes in before it had to be placed in the forge again.
The cycle repeated itself longer than it would have for her father, but she persisted. Sweat beaded on Gwen’s young brow, her arms aching from the exercise, but she refused to disappoint him. The metal cooled with every hit from the hammer, stealing its warmth, but she managed to draw out the metal with time.
Again, Gwen placed the metal in the forge, and wiped the sweat from her brow. A glance in the distance brought the sun, and the extra light would help for the next part. The metal heated through again, she placed it on the horn of the anvil and used its roundness to create the curve of her hook.
The years of watching her father had paid off, begging to hammer metal, and wear his leather gear a dream come true for her. This will be the best hook ever made, Gwen told herself, glad her brown hair was tied at the back of her neck. Once it was out of the forge again, she balanced it flatly on the surface of her anvil and gripped the ball peen hammer. One swing was all it took to create the indent she needed for it to hang from.
One more step, Gwen thought, placing the almost finished product in the forge. In these moments she watched her father create measured horseshoes, his project for the day. Though he ignored her, she enjoyed these periods of time in the day, thankful to be out in the heat instead of inside with her mother.
Focusing on the task at hand, Gwen put her metal over the pritchel hole and hurried to punch a hole before it cooled. With a punch in one hand and her hammer in the other, she swung clean and true, popping the piece out in ease.
Gwen used the tongs to lift it again and doused in the bucket of water always kept full in the shop to quench it. Steam rose from the water and the hissing sound summoned her father. Placing it on her anvil, she let him inspect it, waiting for some sort of comment.
“It’s crooked,” her father said, the fact obvious to his seasoned eyes, “Try again.”
Those words were music to Gwen’s ears, a form of permission she had never hoped to receive, and she began the process again.