My first experience of blacksmithing was when I was about 13.

In my second year at secondary school I started doing metalwork as part of the curriculum. We had a comprehensive workshop in the school with lathe’s, milling machines, shapers, pillar drills and a forge, along with all the other equipment needed to do the various projects on the syllabus.

This was always going to be exciting!


Metalworking at School - Nigel Tyas

We had a sense that learning how to use the machines and understanding the qualities of the metals we were using was going to be important to our futures. The forge was amazing. It could heat metal to 1000 degrees centigrade and when hot, the steel which was so hard to bend and shape, became soft and easy to work with. I was hooked.


Metalworking at School - Nigel Tyas

Over the next few years up to leaving school at 16, I completed a number of projects which gradually increased in complexity. We made tools, chisels, hacksaws, screwdrivers, clamps, brackets, pokers for the fire and much more. We even heated aluminium and cast it into moulds which we would then machine into the finished shape.


Metalworking at School - Nigel Tyas

Dearneside Comprehensive School - Nigel on second row, 4th from right

We worked from simple drawings and were expected to do all the calculations needed to get the finished dimensions right. We even made a couple of go-carts powered by motorbike engines.

The result of this was, for most of us, an awakening of possibilities – we had accumulated basic skills which we would carry through our lives and had the ability to repair and make things when needed.


Metalworking at School - Nigel Tyas

Dearneside Comprehensive School

Today in school the subject is “Resistant Materials” and I gather almost all the machines have been sold or scrapped and casting molten metal has been replaced with casting chocolate!

There was an excitement and yes, a small amount of danger that keeps you on your toes when you are learning to use a machine, that makes you vigilant and careful. I think the subject needs to be realistic to mean something too and the skills looked upon as valuable. The upside of the changes of course is that you can eat the cast chocolate!