Detail of Fireplace set made during BSMTH 108 & 109
Virginia Institute of Blacksmithing’s Certification Program is certified by the State Council of Higher Education as a Career and Trade Program. This program is designed to train interested students in the art of architectural and ornamental metalwork at a professional level. Students who complete the one year program will gain the knowledge and skills in blacksmithing that they need to be qualified to work for and continue their training with a professional blacksmith.
For a student who likes to work with their hands and be creative, learning a trade in the art of traditional blacksmithing might be the perfect journey to take.
Certification student laying out test pieces to gauge fit and scale for his final project.
Most students accepted to the Virginia Institute of Blacksmithing for the Certificate – Artistic Blacksmithing: Level 1 program have some metal working experience prior to enrollment. Prior experience is not required but is strongly recommended. This previous experience could be in the form of a beginning class from any blacksmithing school or any experience with a coal or gas forge. The successful applicant understands the time and effort commitment to the Certificate program. The applicant is likely to be a successful student when that person recognizes the arduous task of working at a hot coal forge and hammering metal for 4-5 hours at a time.
The program is divided into 12 workshops starting with an introduction to blacksmithing safety, techniques and shop etiquette and finishing with conceiving, drawing and producing a final project of the students own design. Introduction to business management and accounting, zoning and building codes and other helpful topics are also covered in the program.
The Certificate – Artistic Blacksmithing: Level 1 Program is primarily taught by Dale Morse.
Applications must be completed by August 31 for that year’s cohort. For example, the application deadline for the Fall 2018 cohort is August 31, 2018. To apply for the 2018 Cohort, give Dale Morse a call at 434-960-9718 to set up an interview. We encourage you to come by the shop for a tour and to be sure our program is a fit for your expectations.
For more information on the Certificate program, use the form below. Include your phone number to have Mr. Morse call you to discuss the program. Include your mailing address to receive a copy of our Student Handbook and Course Catalog. FAQs follow.
1. I am very interested in learning this art, however I have NO experience whatsoever. Is this program for me?
If you have never done any blacksmithing before, we strongly recommend you take a weekend class to see if you truly want to do this. The art form is exciting but the reality is that it is hard work. Even if you don’t take a weekend class with us, try it somewhere. If you were interested in coming to us for a weekend, I would recommend one of the skills based classes: Tips & Tricks, Leaves & Twists, HookRack & Candlestick, Damascus, Campfire Tools. If you take a class somewhere else, we would still recommend you come to the shop to meet Mr. Morse and see the facility. It is possible that our facility and personalities are not a fit for you and we’d like you to have that knowledge before you commit your time and money.
2. How far can I expect to progress in this field? What is a Level 1 artistic blacksmithing certificate exactly? Is it recognized by other craftsmen?
The Level 1 certificate was created to teach students the fundamentals of blacksmithing so that they can join an established shop with the knowledge of how to work productively in a blacksmith shop. We have had students start their own businesses after the program and accept commissions. We cannot guarantee job placement as the skill level of the student at the end of the program is dependent on the work put in mixed with innate talent. The certificate is “new” to the State Council of Higher Education and therefore there are many artisans who don’t know it exists yet. What artisans would recognize are the techniques you would have had to use to produce the items you would present in your portfolio. (We strongly encourage creating a portfolio of work throughout the year.) This program was created to answer the call that a productive shop cannot take on the liability of a new person who wants to learn. An established shop needs to generate income, not new smiths. We are a teaching shop and we focus on cultivating new smiths.
3. Are there any other lab times available in case I am working on a Friday?
We have recently discussed opening the shop on alternate days for lab time. In the past, that flexibility has been granted for lab time as needed for students in situations similar to yours. If you cannot make class time, you would need to drop out of the program. That part is non-negotiable.
4. Do you take the GI Bill?
No. Not at this time. In order to be eligible to even apply to take the GI Bill, we have to be certified by the state for a few years. We are anxiously counting the days until we can apply but even then, they have to approve the application. It will likely be 2019 before that happens. Sorry. We wish we could.
5. What does it cost?
Each course is $499. There are 12 courses in the program for a total of $5988 for the Certificate. Each $499 payment is due prior to each course beginning. We do not wish for you to pay in a large chunk. We have about a 40% attrition rate. We only want you to pay for the courses you expect to complete. The courses need to be taken in sequential order and passed to be allowed to continue.