Smiths Like a Girl
An old craft moves toward equality
Ohio: The clanging is about to start at Doug Lockhart’s forge in Logan, a short ride up into the Hocking Hills from Cincinnati. Lockhart, a 53-year-old blacksmith, has a heavy beard and forearms that would do Popeye proud, and today he’s showing how to transform a railroad spike into a knife that will sell for $175. He runs regular workshops here, passing on the craft that he learned as a young man—albeit with one big adjustment.
“Women make the best students,” Lockhart says. “You give a man a hammer, and he’ll do what a man does: He’ll wind up and smash as hard as he can.” He demonstrates with his ball-peen—clang! “The piece is going to end up ruined and back in the fire.”
It’s good, then, that the co-owner of the business is Lockhart’s daughter, Danielle Russell. A slight, soft-spoken woman who turns 22 this month, she has been training for seven years and has become a capable smith—though that’s not the only thing she does here. “I feed the chickens, goats, and draft horses,” she says. “I’m also building a web presence for us.”
Lockhart, meanwhile, is finishing up his knife. He plunges the glowing blade into a barrel of mucky water (a blacksmith never flushes out the trough), sending up an angry hiss of steam. “There’s a little piece of everything I’ve worked on in that water,” he says.
Danielle then takes up the hammer, spraying sparks with every strike. “A woman uses her body and focuses her strength; she’ll feel her way through the iron,” Lockhart says. “When I say someone swings like a girl, it’s the best compliment I can offer.”