17-year-old Ben Cohen learns blacksmith trade from master Mace Vitale

Teen learns blacksmith trade from Iron Age, forging a trade at Guilford Art Center

Catherine Avalone – New Haven Register) Guilford resident Mace Vitale, a rated journeyman blacksmith with the American Blacksmith Society, works with his apprentice, Ben Cohen, 17, a junior at Daniel Hand High school in Madison at the Guilford Art Center. Cohen has studied under Vitale for a year and a half and has decided to become a blacksmith after high school.
GUILFORD >> Ben Cohen’s blackened hands, resting near the red-hot coal forge in the Guilford Art Center blacksmithing shop, are just one visible example of his commitment to this ancient art.

“A desire, a desire to do something with your hands,” is what it takes to excel in this craft, says  blacksmith Mace Vitale.

“I get a lot of kids that come in here that, you know, all they do is they go home and play video games,” Vitale, 47, laments. “To take a saw and cut a piece of metal in half, that’s new to them. It may be old to me, but it’s great to see them be able to do it and learn how to use tools.”

Working under the guidance of Vitale for the last year, 17-year-old Cohen, has been diligently learning and perfecting his skills.

Vitale specifically remembers Cohen from his first class, making slingshots. While asking the students why they were taking the class, Cohen’s remark “made me realize he just wasn’t here to make a slingshot, he wanted to learn more about the craft.”

So impressed with his commitment, Vitale took Cohen on as the shop apprentice mid-summer. This enables the Daniel Hand High School junior to continue working on his own projects, in addition to sharing his experience with the other students.

The shop, housed in a barn, is not fully protected from the biting chill outside, yet the red-hot coal forge and gas forge, constantly throw out super-heated air. This hot air, combined with the loud clanking of the hammers, the whirring of the forge lathe, and back and forth banter, makes one forget about the cold concrete floor beneath their feet.

Watching Cohen navigate the studio, give advice and work with other students busily shaping metal, and toil side by side with Vitale, it is evident he is passionate about what he does.

“I love giving them the knowledge that I’ve taken from this whole experience and kind of passing that on,” Cohen says about working with the other students. “It makes me feel like, almost in a way, I have my own apprentices.”

Vitale’s specialty is handcrafting collector grade knives under the business name Laurel Rock Forge LLC. While much of his success is thanks to word of mouth, his business can be found on Facebook Mace Knives. Continued…

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