Wareham Forge - Artisan Blacksmith

COVID-19 and the Wareham Forge

Current : May 1, 2022

May 1, 2022

This is the general reply sent to those who have contacted me about the possibility of undertaking blacksmithing and related courses at the Wareham Forge. (Note that this covers more than just COVID policies.)

• First :

Please refer to the information kept (reasonably) current on the main web site :

Please be advised that there are going to be changes to the indicated fees and details on content / student numbers.
The final costs must be quoted directly via a current e-mail, those on the web site only serve as a guideline.

The general guideline on pricing into 2022 will be :
- If two individuals book a session together
    Use the quoted rate for each student (no price reductions)
- If a single student books a two day session
    I will be offering discount from the posted $300 per day, to $250 (x 2 = $500)

Note that these are not hard quotes, as some courses do have additional materials related costs which will remain in effect.

Heading into 2022, I expect I will be primarily setting courses as based on request / interest - for the majority NOT to a fixed schedule. This may allow more flexibility for available weekend dates?
This may result in the creation of more 'private session' courses.
This will also be of advantage to those who can schedule week days. (Note there that I am effectively available 'most days')

• Second Consideration

I have never offered 'fast start' or 'make a thing' = 'experiences'.
(And those interested in Blacksmithing are strongly advised NOT to mistake such offerings as actual instruction!)

I hit 65 in November of 2020. Primarily for that reason, I am not intending to continue with the previously scheduled basic level programs (Introduction to Blacksmithing / Basic Bladesmithing, as open registration weekends)
I will continue to offer the higher level and special interest programs, for most of these, I remain the only available instructor, certainly in Ontario (in many cases the only in Canada).
My hope is that my own desire for teaching will set the pace and selection of courses offered (not mere income reasons).
If you are interested in starting level courses, refer to the other quality instructors given at the bottom of this note.

    Two B
This is an entertainment - NOT any depiction of reality.
See my commentaries :

Saturday, October 31, 2015
Saturday, March 18, 2017

• Third

The situation with COVID-19 continues.

No individual is allowed access to the Wareham Forge unless they have received two vaccines plus booster
No discussion.

I personally will be remaining in effective lock down, here at (rural) Wareham, with full expectations to continue this (with Omicron) into at least early 2022 and beyond into the foreseeable future . Since this all started, we have been keeping to a roughly three to four week cycle for supplies, with only trips into our local village for bank / groceries / hardware. We have completely avoided urban centres, with only Owen Sound on a roughly 3 - 4 month cycle.

I was (finally) able to secure my third, booster shot on January 16, at at point of writing a fourth booster (mid April). This combines to make me at least somewhat protected. However, as I have existing lung damage (and age) as contributing risk factors, I remain cautious.

There are two published commentaries available - it is highly recommended that you read these:
On the main web site :
I keep this general information current on a monthly basis
On the blog :
This is a general commentary about distancing and teaching at the Wareham Forge.

the main elements determining the situation for courses are these :

1) Reduced benefit to students : correct social distancing, although (barely) possible, do NOT make for effective instruction.

2) All the risk is carried by the instructor : I have been pretty much isolated since March 14, 2020 - have you?

Expect at best extremely limited selection and availability for enrolment in courses here at the Wareham Forge until an effective vaccine protection and reduced infection rates related to COVID - and its developing variants, is certain.

General Advice :

I do recommend anyone interested in blacksmithing training carefully examine the past experience of those offering courses. A large number of what can only be considered 'entry' level workers have been, frankly, 'cashing in' on the current popularity of blacksmithing and mounting short duration 'experiences'. Teaching is also a skill. The recent trend to 'giving people what they want' is foolishness in my opinion (against some 40 years teaching experience). My recommendation is that you examine closely the workshop facilities, quality of past work and teaching experience of the instructor before booking any kind of metalworking program.

If you wish to proceed with blacksmithing training in the near future, I can recommend the following alternate instructors - all of whom have *decades* of high quality teaching experience :
David Robertson / Hammer & Tongs / Walkerton /
Robb Martin / THAK Ironworks / Floridale /
Sandra Dunn / TwoSmiths / Kitchener /

As I have known, and shared teaching duties with, David Robertson for decades, I will be directly referring any requests for either 'Introduction to Blacksmithing' or 'Basic Bladesmithing' programs back to him. You will see he has been copied on this message. David is an excellent and patient instructor. I know he has continued to offer small class sizes on a more frequent date schedule.

July 15 - 2021 Revision

As of early July, I was able to secure my second stage vaccination. This comes into 'best possible' effect on August 1. Against this are questions about the rising Delta and Lambda variants. The following provisions are to insure MY safety :
  • Enrolment will be limited to ONLY those students with proof of second vaccine, plus 21 days wait.
  • Students will be required to remain masked and distanced at all times.
  • Available programs will be limited to those that remain 'cost effective' with only two students.
Please look to the full descriptions for which programs may be offered, and available dates.

 2020 Notices
December 14 Revision

2021 Schedule will reflect Vaccine Distribution
Expect MARCH before any possible course information

Although the first vaccine has just been approved for distribution in Canada, the extremely limited amount of vaccine actually available, coupled with the extreme limitations on distribution requirements, make it very unlikely that the general population will have any level of vaccine protection before Summer at the earliest. The Pfizer candidate is currently only expected to be available at only 21 (major urban) locations across Canada. Priority has been (rightly) announced to provide the limited first amount available to front line care workers, to the aged and those in other high risk categories first.

November 14 Revision

No further course dates for 2020
Expect course schedule for 2021 to reflect the ongoing situation.

The long forecast second wave escalation in COVID 19 infections, aggravated by poor political decisions in Ontario and simple individual fatigue, has required additional measures going into late Fall and early Winter. Normally there are no training programs offered at the Wareham Forge over cold Winter months (December through March). Conditions in April will determine potential course offerings in Spring 2021. Expect the coming year's schedule to be published later than usual.
August 14 Revision

All courses originally scheduled for September are CANCELLED

The current scientific opinion is that the combination of opening of interior public spaces and the looming return of students to schools is most likely to result in a significant 'second wave' round of infections into the middle to later part of September.
As suggested belwo, the mob scenes at beaches and bars and stores was exactly the result. Again, for me personally it continues to come down to 'who can you trust' ...

July 9 Revision

All courses originally scheduled for July are CANCELLED

As I continued my own research into this ongoing situation, it became clear that politics has influenced 'official' orders - more than actual science.
As the Ontario government has bent to the demands of a frustrated public, the mob scenes at beaches and stores was a predictable result. As will be the resulting new waves of the infected.

I ask potential students not take this personally, as I remain concerned about my own health. It is becoming clear the airborne transmission vectors are more pronounced that originally communicated. To complicate my existing risk factors (age, lung damage) I have had a poor time with exhaustion coupled with extreme temperatures here over the end of June into early July (above 30C at Wareham most days).

I must therefore let you all know I have decided to cancel all remaining scheduled programs at the Wareham Forge for the balance of July, and not set any programs for the month of August.

There may be some potential for a return to limited course availability in September / October. Bear in mind that the forecast 'Second Wave' is expected about that point. This will most certainly determine if any courses can be safely mounted.

June 7 Revision

On June 3, the Government of Ontario extended the 'Emergency Measures' requirements in force until June 30.
At this time, I do not consider the Benefit vs Risk balance allows for the safe or effective mounting of workshop programs at the Wareham Forge.

All courses originally scheduled for June are CANCELLED
All courses originally scheduled for July are TENTATIVE

A discussion of this decision is available as a blog post : Distancing at the Wareham Forge

All students must completely self isolate for a minimum of SEVEN DAYS before attending any program at the Wareham Forge. This includes ALL FAMILY MEMBERS (no individual outside contact of any kind).

May 15 Revision
The Ontario Government has announced come specific loosening of the restrictions enacted on April 4. Some are to be lifted today (in time for the Victoria Day weekend), others starting Tuesday May 19. It should be noted that normal operations at the Wareham Forge would NOT be included here.

First, please read and consider ‘The Risks - Know Them’ by Dr. E Bromage. (Originally posted May 3)

Remember several elements from this information :

1) “ We know that at least 44% of all infections--and the majority of community-acquired transmissions--occur from people without any symptoms (asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people). You can be shedding the virus into the environment for up to 5 days before symptoms begin.”

2) “A single breath releases 50 - 5000 droplets. Most of these droplets are low velocity and fall to the ground quickly. … Importantly, due to the lack of exhalation force with a breath, viral particles from the lower respiratory areas are not expelled.”

3) ”Speaking increases the release of respiratory droplets about 10 fold; ~200 virus particles per minute.”

4) “Some experts estimate that as few as 1000 SARS-CoV2 infectious viral particles are all that will be needed” (to get infected).
“ The principle is viral exposure over an extended period of time. In all (the illustrated) cases, people were exposed to the virus in the air for a prolonged period (hours). Even if they were 50 feet away … , even a low dose of the virus in the air reaching them, over a sustained period, was enough to cause infection “

Now apply this information to the physical situation at the Wareham Forge:

1) I personally have been in self isolation since March 14. Supply trips away from my rural home have been limited to no less than one every 14 days.
a) What has been your own personal situation?
b) What might be the situation of other students attending?

2) Blacksmithing is a physical activity. The heavier breathing required is sure to increase the ‘loading’ from each individual breath, and result in more force, thus broadcast of particles.

3) Although this applies primarily to my actions over a course, about 25% of the total time spent will consist of my verbal explanations.

4) What is the physical space / working situation at the Wareham Forge?
There are two available working spaces :
  a) The primary (coal) forge room, at effectively 12 x 10 feet. Considerably tighter when the equipment placement is considered. It is not possible to maintain 6 foot separation inside this working space.
  b) The main workshop area, at roughly 15 x 40 feet. Effectively, when equipment placement is considered, more like 10 x 25 feet. With careful placement of propane forges and anvils, it may prove possible to position two additional working stations with 6 foot separation.
  c) Generally air flow can be considered moving towards the work stations, over the anvil and up and over the (extremely hot) forges.

NOTE - None of this allows the instructor to maintain the required physical distancing.

Bear also in mind that normally students need to be close enough to the instructor (and thus each other) to actually see clearly the demonstrations of technique. Past experience has shown this effective ’observation distance’ to be about three feet.
It is also normally the situation that the instructor will need to approach individual working students very closely, sometimes including direct physical contact, to provide detailed guidance.

The final result here is that the physical environment required during a blacksmithing training program, most certainly within the space available at the Wareham Forge, does not allow the correct physical distancing needed.

First, I have to consider my own personal venerability to COVID-19. I have two of the known risk factors : age and pre-existing condition (lung damage in my case).

Second, the kind of physical distancing required for student protection will not allow for an effective teaching method of blacksmithing skills, in my opinion.

No training courses are available at the Wareham Forge before July 1, 2020
The situation will be re-assessed on June 15, with the possibility of all July programs also being cancelled at that time.

Thursday March 25 it was announced by the Ontario Government that 'non essential' businesses are instructed to close. All gatherings of more than 5 people were to be restricted.

The list of 'non essential' businesses was expanded on April 4

" The province has enacted a declaration of emergency to help contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect the public.

As a result, the following establishments are required to close immediately:

  • all facilities providing indoor recreational programs
  • These orders will remain in place until April 13, 2020, when the province will reassess for an extension or end the closures. "
- From medical sources, it becomes clear that voluntary isolation is recommended as necessary.
- The Canadian Government has recommended elimination of any non work related travel. ’Social Distancing’ is being stressed from all official sources.
- It is clear that forced 'lock down' procedures are under consideration - if we as citizens do not act responsibly.
Government of Canada information
Government of Ontario information

1) No one needs to undertake a training program.

2) Students are unknowns
- gathered from a wide area of Central Ontario (and often beyond, originally had three bookings from Alberta)
- no knowledge of their own contact patterns (majority are urban residents)

3) I personally am in at least one of the three primary risk groups : pre-existing medical condition, specifically lung damage. (It could be argued that I also fit a second, as I turn 65 in November, although generally I am in good health and physical condition overall.)
I did in fact catch a ‘medium’ level of N1H2 back in 2009, and have had a few sessions of mid to low level pneumonia over past years.
All of these suggest that I really do need to exercise extra caution in the current situation.

Wareham is a highly rural location. Any contact with the larger general population is normally quite limited.
As of March 13, my partner and myself have been self isolating for individual 14 day periods between any trip outside our home. Trips since that date (second on March 26) have been limited to only groceries in Dundalk (population 750).

Bookings / Deposits / Working Space

1) Any student who has flu like symptoms is expected NOT to attend
2) Any student who cancels a program related to possible COVID-19 symptoms - even on shortest notice - will be offered a FULL REFUND!
3) Any student who wishes to cancel a program due to personal concerns over attending -  will be offered a FULL REFUND!

Additions April 6 :

5) Originally scheduled programs from on July 1 must be considered (at best) TENTATIVE.

6) No 'private session' courses will be available before July 1.

Moving forward, it is becoming clear that public event cancellations are moving to at least May, and for major events now increasingly into June dates.

Additions April 2 :

4) The ideal will be for any individual student to have themselves self isolated for the full 14 days leading up to any booked course at Wareham. Students are requested to consider this before making bookings.
Note that in conjunction with this, my partner and myself will ALSO undertaking the same isolation period whenever physically possible.

First announced March 24 :

1) *Courses originally scheduled for April and May are now cancelled*

- Individuals who have pre booked those programs have already been offered either a full refund of their deposits, or the chance to shift their booking to a later course date.

2) Previously announced courses beyond June 1 will remain on the schedule as presented.
These dates will be considered tentative, on the hopes that the situation in Canada stabilizes as time progresses.

3) Any future courses (into at least the summer dates), will be limited - TWO students per session.
The working space at the Wareham Forge will be laid out to provide each of those students with a separate working space. One in the enclosed coal forge room. One in the larger workshop space, utilizing the propane forge. This will provide good 'social distancing' for participants.

I personally expect that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a major alteration of the lifestyles enjoyed by many over the last three decades, most especially here in Canada.