“The punch and the drift have to come before you make the hammer and the axe.”
It begins with a spark, the fingers that poke through Tim Jorgensen’s hobo gloves adding kindling to an established bed of coals. The smoke is readily funneled through an opening in the forge, as embers are resuscitated beneath. Then a close up enables us to peer into the agreeable soul of senior blacksmith, Doug Swenson, as the fuzzy picture of his apprentice Tim hammers on a hot piece of iron in the background. Doug rebuilt a forge at eight, the same age he began his trade. He has a calm and peaceful air to him, a gentle northern manner of speech that reflects the honest hard work he completes in his shop.
As The Hammer and The Axe continues, Tim and Doug discuss different axe heads, the varying red, orange and yellow hues of the hot iron as they brush it with a metal brush, pour a white powdery substance on the metal and then hammer it out. They are like alchemists or practitioners carrying out the ancient art of creation. “It’s an aspect that’s a little bit mysterious to most people—to be able to create something basically out of nothing,” reflects Doug. Their tools are born destined to continue creating. Maybe they will cut down wood to make a fire, chisel the legs of a chair or shape the curves of a boat.
Doug and Tim are a part of a historic trade. Their Scandinavian surnames conjure up the Old Norse sagas of Thor wielding his hammer and striking down lightning from Asgard. Legends aside, the hammer and the axe are an influential technology that marked the Iron Age and catapulted humanity into a more modern era. Tim contemplates the historical gravity of these tools, “The hammer and the axe for me …. as basic as they are to history, I think were really rewarding and informative and should be considered works of art.” Doug and Tim’s father-son like exchange is as touching as the passion they have for blacksmithing. Watching people so enveloped in their trade is always inspirational. This movie is well worth 5:38 minutes of your time.