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(Many Paths)
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Crotty Blacksmithing At Young Age
by Jami Murphy - Senior Reporter, and Stacie Guthrie - Reporter, both Cherokee Phoenix
credits: All photos by Jami Murphy - Cherokee Phoenix

Muskogee, OK – In a small self-built shop outside his home, Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty turns a hand-crank blower as flames swell in his coal-fired forge. He then places iron in the fire. Not an odd sight to see a blacksmith do such acts. However, Crotty is no ordinary blacksmith. He's only 14.

Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty is a 14-year-old blacksmith from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who has been working the trade for about three years.

Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty turns a hand-crank blower to induce flames within his coal-fired forge at his blacksmith shop in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

It was after watching blacksmith re-enactments at age 10 that the craft sparked a fire in him.

"I saw some of the stuff they were making, and I thought it was really cool. They were making cookware and knives and all kinds of stuff, so I though it would be fun to try it," he said. "I started when I was almost 11. And the first thing I made was a little letter opener out of a horseshoe, and made it in my first blacksmith meeting, and I melted it in half the first time I ever tried to make anything."

Other blacksmiths told Crotty of the Saltfork Craftsmen Artist-Blacksmith Association in which he could learn more about the craft. So he joined and now attends as many meetings as possible.

"They get together and they make stuff…teach each other different skills…and learn as much as they can," he said. "They just took me right in and said 'here, go make something.' So I went and did, and from there I went to every meeting and made as much as I could and it just took off from there."

Crotty said he makes tomahawks, slingshots and artistic items because he likes creating various items instead of just one thing.

He focuses on every aspect of the art that he can, he said, even the history and equipment used hundreds of years ago. He said learning the history came little later after realizing what equipment he needed.

"Finding all the old equipment, that's my favorite part. I love restoring and rebuilding old pieces of history. I'll find something in a scrap yard. I'll take it home and completely re-build it and bring it back to life, and then I get to use that equipment. It's as good as new. I can use it and it functions," he said.

Brendan Crotty holds a knife he made from a horseshoe. The 14-year-old has been blacksmithing for about three years.
Brendan Crotty made these soldiers and anvil and hammer using his blacksmith skills.
The two soup cans are model propane forges Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty made to illustrate what insulation materials worked best to hold in heat, as well as which was more cost effective. The larger forge on the right is pat of a science project. The traveling forge on the left is one Crotty made from repurposed parts.

The trade led him to also develop a science project that evaluated insulation materials within a propane forge. He competed in the Broadcom Awards, a national competition among middle-school aged students related to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM sectors.

"I got nominated to enter into a national science fair competition called Broadcom Masters. I sent in the application where I had to win a state science fair. I had to get a first place. Once I got the first place, I had to send in the application. I got to be one of three semifinalists ever from Oklahoma," he said.

From there, 30 students traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete in five days of competition. Crotty was the first Oklahoman to be included in the national competition.

For the week he and others were divided into six teams in which they competed in team-building activities and visited sites, including the White House and Georgetown School of Medicine.

"In the competition I did very well. I ended up getting first in engineering…I got $3,500 towards any STEM-related summer camp of my choice and every contestant got $500 cash. I'm going to use that to buy a door for my shop," he said.

Crotty said he hopes the blacksmithing trade continues to open doors for him and that in the future he wants to work in the engineering field where he'll not only design, but build.

"So hopefully a lot of metal fabrication along with the design," he said. "Currently, I'm all small blacksmithing, but I plan to do more modern technology, welding machining and grow a little bigger with vast knowledge."

Crotty said he doesn't know where he would like to attend college, but he's considering the Navel Academy because of its engineering programs and shipbuilding.


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