Port Arthur grad, now a blacksmith, lives for the forge

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ricky Trahan held out the just forged steel leaf, a delicate curl at the tip.

The leaf’s shape, like an elongated heart, is realistic; the strikes of a chisel-like tool and hammer on the hot steel created indentions on the left and the right sides.

But it’s that finely curled tip that shows it’s manmade, not machine made.

Metal flakes, or scales, fly as the hammer hits the rod.
Mary Meaux/The News

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Professional blacksmith Ricky Trahan created the leaf, and more, while Port Arthur on vacation visiting family and friends.

Trahan is a 1976 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School who spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before jumping into his career as a blacksmith for John Deere.

And he can’t see himself doing anything else.

“I knew I was going to go into the Air Force (after high school),” Trahan said. “Then after 20 years in the Air Force, I knew my career would continue and I turned to a civilian job and an opportunity to become a blacksmith. I took that leap of faith and never looked back. Now, 24 years later, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Port Arthur native and professional blacksmith Ricky Trahan created a few items for family and friends while in town this week.
Mary Meaux/The News

Trahan answered questions with ease while explaining the process he was using. It seems each blacksmith has his or her own personal style. As Trahan turned the 3/8-inch rod with his left hand, his right hand held a hammer than came down with a clank.

He moved the hammer away slightly, letting the tool give several rebound-like taps on the anvil before going back to work hammering. The reason for the small taps is multifold — timing and rhythm as he turned the rod, to descale the hammer meaning to tap of some of the loose metal flakes.

“And one old guy told me that’s when you’re thinking,” he said.

Blacksmithing has been around for more than 1,000 years and there is a newfound interest in the art with the advent of several different reality TV shows.

“It’s generating interest, which is good and bad,” he said. “It’s good because more people want to do it and it’s bad because everybody is out there searching for tools.”

Port Arthur native and professional blacksmith Ricky Trahan made this trivet for a friend while in town.
Courtesy photo

Rose Garner, Trahan’s sister, sat in a corner of the workshop and watched as he worked.

“I think it’s fascinating,” Garner said. “I’m very proud of him because he’s going what he loves.”

And he does love being a blacksmith.

“I can’t believe they pay me to do this,” he said with a laugh.

Mark Twain once said “the secret of success is making your vocation your vacation” and that’s just what Trahan is doing.