Dollywood blacksmith draws visitors to the park for custom work

Dollywood blacksmith draws visitors to the park for custom ironwork

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An audience looks on as Sid Turnage works. An audience looks on as Sid Turnage works.
Pouring aluminum into the mold. Pouring aluminum into the mold.
Pounding the iron into shape. Pounding the iron into shape.
"Usually it is about 20-25 degrees warmer back here than it is in the park, so it gets pretty warm. You get used to it," Turnage told us. "You sweat a little bit. It's good for you." "Usually it is about 20-25 degrees warmer back here than it is in the park, so it gets pretty warm. You get used to it," Turnage told us. "You sweat a little bit. It's good for you."
One of the finished products. One of the finished products.

By KRISTIN FARLEY
6 News Anchor/Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - In the middle of this hot weather, it's difficult to imagine people not only willing, but happy to do their job when it's about 20 degrees hotter in their workspace, than it is outside.

But for a select group of craftsmen, it's just part of the job.

In the open-air building at Valley Forge and Foundry at Dollywood, you will find blacksmiths and sandcasters demonstrating crafts that date back more than a century.

"Overall the whole process is still just like they did in the 1880s," said Sid Turnage.

Turnage makes custom signs and brackets using the art of sandcasting.

He carefully makes a mold from sand, then pours aluminum into the custom template. The aluminum is heated to 1,300 to 1,400 degrees, adding to the already sweltering working conditions.

"Usually it is about 20-25 degrees warmer back here than it is in the park, so it gets pretty warm. You get used to it," Turnage told us. "You sweat a little bit. It's good for you."

Turnage says they make about 10 to 20 custom orders a day. Once they are complete, they are sanded, painted and ready to be displayed.

On the other side of the building, sparks fly while blacksmith John Fuller is busy making custom knives, railings and gates, and fire stokers.

Fuller wows the crowds as he heats the steel, quickly moving it to the anvil while its hot countless times.

He hammers out his desired effect, welds pieces together, and even twists the steal adding some artistic flair. It's a lot of physical labor and again in very hot conditions.

"It is pretty challenging sometimes, and I'm not 18 years old any more, " Fuller said laughing.

Despite the tough work, he is full of enthusiasm. He has worked at Dollywood for 22 years, clearly enjoying the interaction and the art of creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

"Some of our guests come in and they would prefer to have a railing made, all handmade, rather then going to a fabrication shop and someone just getting a welder."

In the end, each piece at the Valley Forge and Foundry is available for sale and you can custom order and have your item sent to your home.

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