A labor of love, forged in fire

  • Narragansett Historical Society President Brian Tanguay, right, thanks Black Dog Force Blacksmith Mark Suchocki of Royalston, for improving upon the wrought iron bracket he created for the museum. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/12/2018 11:17:05 PM

TEMPLETON — Improving upon his original design, blacksmith Mark Suchocki again donated his time and talent to help out the Narragansett Historical Society at 1 Boynton Road.

According to NHS President Brian Tanguay, five years ago Suchocki volunteered to create an ornate wrought iron bracket to hold a wood sign created by historian Harry Aldrich. The initial design was to hang on the side of the building, which the society thought was a perfect plan.

“Mother Nature did not agree,” said Tangua. “Each time the weather brought 55 mph winds, the sign would swing violently and eventually unhook from the bracket and land in the grass.”

Attempts to secure the sign with stronger hooks merely created another problem. The force of the wind caused the anchor bolts to loosen, and the entire bracket fell to the ground.

Suchocki took the sign back to his Black Dog Forge blacksmith shop, established in 1999 at 77 Falls Road in Royalston, where he improved the design, extending the bracket to hold a bottom shelf for the sign to stabilize it enough to keep it from swinging in the wind. He also created side wings so it would not rock back and forth.

He said he stepped back and saw a large open space at the top, and asked himself, “What can I do to fill that space?”

He first imagined a floral design, but when he posed the question to Tanguay, he was told the Historical Society was established in 1811, and that seemed like the perfect addition. The sign was installed on May 5, during the first open house to kick off the museum’s summer Saturday hours.

“It’s a great sign and Mark did a great job making it stronger for us,” said Tanguay.

Suchocki has been honing his skills in ornamental architectural iron work for the past 20 years.

At the Eastern States Exposition one year, he had wandered over to the permanent blacksmith shop.

“I was fascinated, watching these guys do this,” he said. Suchocki said after doing intensive research, he found an anvil and other equipment and built his own shop. He said he enjoys creating beautiful items from iron.

“People asked me to make things for them — I do it for fun,” he said. “I wanted to get into knife making over the last two years.”

He said he wanted to do so while still creating ornamental pieces such as a fireplace accessories for a customer in New Salem. He is now making parts for a Colonial-era cannon for a Civil War re-enactor, and then another when it is finished.

“It must be functional,” said Suchocki. “What I make must stand up to the stresses of the period. It must be accurate.”

He said he was sent an invitation to the show “Forged in Fire,” where men and women compete in particular challenges to create knives and swords of all types.

“I printed it out and put it up on the wall,” he said. “But, I never took it seriously. If you’re a knife maker, you pick your own material. Shows like that are all based on ratings — that equates with advertising.”

He said he watched one episode of a spin-off show and decided “it was a joke. Serious knife makers would never take part in that.”

He explained that wrought iron is a specific type of material — iron and silica — which is difficult to obtain. Wrought iron is also a style of architecture work.

“Most of us today use steel for wrought iron work,” he said.

Suchocki said he is interested in doing trade shows to bring in money to supplement his income in retirement. He retired four years ago, but still looks at blacksmithing as a hobby he enjoys, rather than work. He has an apprentice, John Barney of Rindge, N.H., who has been with him for the last three years. Next year, the men will feature their skills at the Historical Society’s arts and crafts fair.

Suchocki noted that he never keeps track of how long it takes to finish a piece or what the materials or fuel costs.

“When it’s something you do as a hobby you enjoy, time is irrelevant,” he said.

He said blacksmiths were, years ago, the most important merchants in town.

“They made the nails, saws, hammers, hinges,” he said. “Without the blacksmith, nothing would have been done.”

Suchoki has been temporarily sidelined by a rotator cuff surgery, but will be cleared to swing that hammer by fall. To view his work — he specializes in custom hand-forged ornamental ironwork — visit Black Dog Forge Blacksmith Shop on Facebook.

The Narragansett Historical Society’s museum is open throughout the summer on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m.

The society’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, June 27, at 7 p.m. in the Historical Society’s document room.

For more information or to become a member, inquire at narragansetthistoricalsociety@yahoo.com

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