Made in Tampa Bay: Wrought Iron Arts

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Pinellas County is home to a thriving arts community, from the Dali Museum to Vitale Brothers murals to The Playhouse Theater in Clearwater. And as more people experience art, more want to create their own, which is where many art schools find their audiences.

At Wrought Iron Arts in Largo, students learn the timeless skill and art of blacksmithing from some of the best in the industry.

The school is run by Rob Buck. He and his team teach newcomers to make knives, swords, daggers, battle axes, and other “weapons of minor destruction.”

The goal is not to arm the Bay Area with homemade weapons. These items grant newcomers to iron works a practical starting point to the art of shaping metal.

Wrought Iron Arts has been in Largo wince 1992, teaching thousands of students.

The classes are small, between one and four students at a time, and last about seven hours.

Most of the class is about forging – or shaping nearly molten metal. The rest is spent grinding, polishing and treating the finished product.

"We will teach you how to forge it from the beginning to the end,” Rob explained.

Most classes make the knives and swords, but he also teaches everything metal, including how to how to cut and weld. Students get to pick what they want to make.

"I guess my philosophy with teaching is first of all, it's small classes. I demonstrate how to do something, usually once, maybe twice, depending on how fast the student picks it up," Rob said. "Once I demonstrate it, I let them attempt it, and then they go and I improve their technique or improve the way they are tackling the task I gave them how to do."

His students range from no experience to some who have taken classes before.

"Classically, what the blacksmith would do is take whatever metal he had on hand and transform it into something else. For the most part, we take old wrenches, old crowbars, old files, old railroad spikes," Rob said. "I want them to learn how to do it. Yes, they get the trophy. 'I made a dagger or sword or a knife,' but learning how to do it, basically we're promoting the lost art of blacksmithing, bladesmithing, and all that. "

Rob says the art form of making knives goes back thousands of years. His goal is to spread that knowledge as far and widely as possible.

"When you see the gleam in a person's eye and they are starting to get it, that's the satisfaction I get, that's why I do this," he said.

LINK: For more information on blacksmithing classes at Wrought Iron Arts in Largo, Florida, visit