Foundations of Skilled Stewardship Students Learn About Blacksmithing, Design, and Manufacturing

During the past two months, students in the Foundations of Skilled Stewardship program completed blacksmithing, design, and machining introductory courses by men in each industry which took place in Harmel’s Machine and System Technology Lab. The Foundations program is a one-year program that can be used as a gap year, a year of discernment, or an introduction to the skilled trades. The year has eight introductory courses, not least of which are manufacturing, home maintenance, electrical and blacksmithing.

In February, the blacksmith and owner of Blackbear Forge, Tim Carr, came to Harmel’s campus in Grand Rapids to teach the blacksmithing course. Tim began blacksmithing in 1984. Originally a firefighter, Carr operated his business part-time before retiring and blacksmithing full-time. 

During the blacksmithing portion of the program, students created log tongs, decorative hooks, and punch and chisel sets. The students also did a one-day, knifemaking course with Forged in Fire alum, Shawn Moulenbelt. The knives created by the students were forged from old railroad spikes.

Starting in March, Cameron VanDyke taught the design class. VanDyke designs and fabricates unique mopeds which are known for their striking and artistic design. He also designs and creates furniture and sculptures for public art. Along with his incredible creative talents, VanDyke is no stranger to teaching and is an assistant professor in the Applied Design department at Appalachian State University.

Using cardboard to fabricate tops for the unique mopeds, the Foundations students practiced their design skills.  They were able to test these designs by riding their new creations around campus. 

After the students finished their course with Cameron, they went on to spend the next two weeks learning about machining. This class was taught by Harmel instructors Kyle McCarthy and Andy Beach. After joining the trades, Kyle found himself in the maintenance department of a local tool and die shop and as a field service technician for a machine tool manufacturer. Throughout this experience, he gained nine years of valuable knowledge, and skills that help him in his current endeavor, teaching at Harmel. Beach has experience as both a machinist, as well as an entrepreneur, owning and operating a machine shop for six years and a consulting business for seven years. Both of these men make what we do here at Harmel possible on a daily basis with their talent and dedication to the mission.

In the machining course, Kyle and Andy taught the students how to mill aluminum objects: icons and machinist puzzles specifically. Students learned how to measure and plot plots for milling, use the HAAS Mini Mill, and other basic skills needed in machining. They also had the opportunity to learn to use the laser cutter which was overseen by Program Assistant, Karsten Molitor. 

Needless to say, the Foundations of Skilled Stewardship has a wide variety of different skills it offers to students who are not yet sure about their place in the trades. It also provides a space for creativity and new experiences!


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