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21st Century Iron Age

  • The Interval at Long Now, Fort Mason Center 2 Marina Blvd San Francisco, CA, 94123 United States (map)

21st Century Iron Age
with James Austin - Blacksmith, Viking axe expert, metal arts educator
Tuesday, June 2, 6:30-8:30PM
The Interval at Long Now, Fort Mason Center,
2 Marina Boulevard, San Francisco


James Austin is a working and teaching blacksmith based in Oakland whose specialty is making axes of the Viking age using traditional methods. For over thirty years, James has practiced artistic metalworking and continues to research and to teach historical blacksmithing techniques. His formal blacksmith training was in Bavaria, Germany where he served a traditional three-year lock making apprenticeship.

Recently back from a teaching and research trip to Sweden and Norway, James will discuss the history of his craft and the important role that iron has played in civilization for millennia. In conversation with Long Now's Alexander Rose, he will talk about the skills of metalworking in the context of the Manual for Civilization and the importance of preserving these techniques for the future. James will discuss traditional and cutting-edge methods for documenting and teaching these skills.

You'll see how James makes traditional tools like Viking bearded axes, and he'll explain the close connections between the metalworking, woodworking and building traditions of that era. Centuries-old log buildings made by these tools still stand today.

On a very special night at The Interval, James will bring many examples of his work and give us all a lesson in how to a traditional Viking axe is made. We'll have his work on display and James will be there to explain it from 6:30PM, before the show.

Join us to learn about a great local craftsman who is keeping important traditions alive. And learn more about the history and future of iron and civilization.

James Austin received an M.S. in Chemistry from UC Berkeley in the 01980s, then moved to Germany to pursue his true ambition as a craftsman. After serving a traditional apprenticeship under a master blacksmith in the village of Diessen in Upper Bavaria, he graduated as a distinguished journeyman in the guild of blacksmiths.

James studied artistic metalsmithing for three more years, in Germany, Italy, and England. Then he spent a year with a master woodworker doing historical building restoration. In 01988 he returned to the US with a large collection of traditional German tools, antique ironwork, and historical reference material with which to pursue his craft.

James Austin's practice of artistic metalworking uses centuries-old skills of hand forging amongst other decorative techniques. His thirty years of work includes restorations of antique decorative ironwork and contemporary metal design, as well as teaching these skills to amateurs and experienced artisans alike.

Earlier Event: June 2
Ducklings Lunch Bunch
Later Event: June 2
Full Moon Walk On Mount Wanda