Forged in Fire
The sound of pounding metal and roaring furnaces can be heard from outside the old armory building in Duluth, Minnesota. As you venture into the Duluth Armory Annex, the sound intensifies and you are teleported back into the times of knights and kings. Inside, people of many different backgrounds are hard at work; pounding hot pieces of metal into beautiful forged art. This is the stomping grounds of Paul Webster, a local blacksmith who makes the tent stakes and other iron pieces for Frost River!
Paul Webster waits for his fire to get hot enough. Image Credits: Woods Creek Productions
Paul has been in the business for many years and is superb at his craft. Using traditional techniques, such as starting his fire from flint and steel, Paul and his apprentices forge the metal necessary to keep your tent in the right place. The process to create these stakes is tedious, but Paul is efficient and can forge them in batches.
First, a rectangular prism of iron is placed into a piping hot fire. This fire is burned at incredibly high temperatures and can be quite dangerous if touched. Paul, being the veteran that he is, says that the nerves in his fingers are not the same as they used to be. He can get a little closer to the red hot flames than the average person. Once the piece of iron has been heated in the fire, it is taken out, and pounded into the shape of a tent stake. One of the ends is curved at an angle to allow the strings of the tent to get a grip around the stake.
Forging a Frost River Tent Stake. Image Credits: Woods Creek Productions
The metal is then put back into the fire for more heating. Once it comes out a second time, it is pounded from the top down to create a taper. This allows the stake to go into the ground with ease. It is not pounded to perfect right angles, however. Small, perfect imperfections are forged along the entirety of the stake, making sure it grips the dirt well.
After this is accomplished, Paul flips around his heavy hammer to the backside. This side has an edge, like a traditional hammer, that can be used to make ridges in the iron. A series of ridges is pounded into each stake. “We found that this allows for more grip than just the standard stake,” said Webster, referring to how the stake grips the dirt.
A cooling Tent Stake. Image Credits: Woods Creek Productions
After the appropriate ridges are left in the stake, the piece of forged iron takes a dip in some pretty gross looking liquid. This is a process known as quenching. This rapidly cools the metal and helps with hardening. The stakes are then placed in a cooling area and left to dry and harden. This process is repeated over and over again
The finishing of the Tent Stakes. Image Credits: Woods Creek Productions
With a Frost River Campfire Tent needing 17 stakes and a Whelen Lean To needing 13, a whole lot of stakes are made by Paul and his team! We appreciate all of his work and dedication to keep Frost River materials local and handcrafted! Check out more of Paul’s work by clicking the link HERE!