Local blacksmith Raven Hammer keeps ancient art alive

Blacksmith+Raven+Hammer+bends+a+twisted+rod+to+create+the+Norse+world+snake+Feb.8

Collegian | Max Hogan

Blacksmith Raven Hammer bends a twisted rod to create the Norse World Serpent Feb. 8.

Tom Isaacson

Max Hogan, Arts & Culture Reporter

In the forested hills of Bellvue, Colorado, one local artisan twists, bends and hammers red-hot metal in a weathered wooden workshop, informed by the ancient legacy of metalwork. 

Aptly named, Raven Hammer is a local craftsman who practices the centuries-old art of blacksmithing. Hammer specializes in historically accurate recreations of metalwork from 11th-century Viking Europe and fur trappers who lived and worked in the U.S. and Canada in the 19th century.

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Hammer’s interest in blacksmithing was sparked at an early age — just 4 years old — when he saw a live blacksmithing demonstration at the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee. 

“I had to be bribed to be pulled away from them,” Hammer said. “I remember watching these powerful people take steel and iron and heat it up and manipulate it with their hands and hammers. … (Since then), I’ve been studying it.” 

Before starting traditional blacksmithing full time, Hammer learned manual skills like welding and mechanics as well as briefly studying metallurgy, the science of metal properties. 

“I fabricated my first forge by welding it together,” Hammer said. “I knew how to work gas too, so I was able to build a burner as well. I just fabricated my own equipment and went for it.” 

Many of the skills Hammer employs in his work today were learned outside of a typical education environment, without an apprenticeship or designated course. 

“I’m self-taught,” Hammer said. “I’ve been studying it, like, real hardcore, and I’m also neurodivergent — ADHD and dyslexic — so I hyperfocus really, really hard. And my learning is a very visual, technical learning skill, so I can watch something and then replicate that thing. … A lot of it’s been trial and error.”

“I connect with my ancestors every single time I fire up my forge, which is a big deal, again, to folks who lean into my realm of spirituality.” -Raven Hammer, local blacksmith

Hammer has been working as a full-time blacksmith for two years and specializes in historical reproductions, employing historic techniques and traditional aesthetics to create pieces for himself and other members in reenacting organizations. 

“I am a huge history nerd/history buff,” Hammer said. “I have a real affinity towards the Viking Age, which is 796-1066 AD. I specifically reenact the 11th century Viking Age. So with that, I needed a lot of historically accurate items, and I did not have the money or patience to buy it from somebody else.”

Although traditional blacksmithing and metalwork outside industrial settings has become increasingly rare over the 19th and 20th centuries, Hammer stressed the importance of recognizing it as the basis for modern technology. 

Historical reproductions of European metalwork are on display in Raven Hammer’s workshop. Shown here is a blanket pin, Viking style S hooks, a fork, a spoon, a Viking style steel striker and a Scottish style steel striker. (Collegian | Max Hogan)

“Blacksmiths got us out of the Bronze Age and Stone Age and got us into the age of ferrous metals,” Hammer said. “Because of the smiths, we have all of the crap that we’ve got that’s been made out of steel and iron, etc. So there’s your foundation for most of our modern history.”

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Through his work, Hammer has built a greater understanding and respect for the work of the craftsmen of the past who fueled human civilization pre-Industrial Revolution. 

“I love seeing these massive historical sites all done with hand tools (and) donkeys — like, what are you talking about?” Hammer said. “Holy crap, man. We would have a hard time today with power tools and machines.” 

The act of working with the forge can also be a spiritual one. Hammer said the practice allows him to connect with the blacksmiths of the past. 

“I connect with my ancestors every single time I fire up my forge, which is a big deal, again, to folks who lean into my realm of spirituality,” Hammer said. 

While I was in his smithy, Hammer was crafting a Norse World Serpent: a religious symbol depicting a snake eating its own tail that represents an acceptance of a state of chaos. 

“When it comes to connecting with ancestors, … being able to reconnect with them through fire and hot steel, through pain because I burned myself the same way they burned themselves, … it’s an interesting way of getting to live as they lived,” Hammer said. 

Hammer, a modern pagan practitioner, makes many spiritual objects alongside secular recreations of historical objects that were used practically, such as blanket pins, hooks and iron utensils.

You can purchase and commission work from Hammer on his website, lifecraftcolorado.com, or through his growing TikTok page @northernraven1. 

Reach Max Hogan at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @macnogan.