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Interview with Mike and B.E. Hensley, November 4, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Mike and B.E. Hensley, November 4, 2003
November 4, 2003
Mr. Hensley is a blacksmith artist and one of North Carolina's living treasures. Though he was born in Tennessee Mr. Hensley spent most of his life in the mountains of North Carolina. In this interview he explains how he began blacksmithing and gives many examples of how and where he finds inspiration for his artistic creations. His work has shown throughout the world and he receives requests years in advance as well as from overseas.In tape two Mr. Hensley's son Mike explains a little about knife making, scrimshaw, and artistic projects of his own. He also describes some of the history of blacksmithing from the 15th century forward as well as the silent communication between the master and apprentice working on the anvil together. Tape 3 includes a demonstration of the art of blacksmithing.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Hensley, Bea Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Zarbock, Paul Date of Interview:  11/4/2003 Series:  North Carolina Living Treasures Length  130 minutes


Hayes: Greetings. Today we are interviewing Bea Hensley, which we'll get to, who is a uh.. master craftsman and artist. Uh.. metal worker? Is that wha- how would you- what would you classify your profession?

Bea Hensley: Well, uh.. they use metal workin' a lot now but back when uh.. within the last few years but I was always blacksmith.

Hayes: Blacksmith. Well there you go.

Bea Hensley: They never referred to as metal work or anything like that. It's blacksmith. Huh. And reason at that if you'd a seen me yesterday evenin' with my clothes on you'd a known why they called 'em a blacksmith. (laugh) (crew talk)

Hayes: Yes today. (laugh) Sorry Paul. Paul Zarbock who is one of the interviewers and Sherman Hayes [ph?] from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Randall Library, and the Museum of World Cultures. Today is November fourth and we're sitting here in this wonderful blacksmith's shop in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. So we've got the formalities out of the way. And one of the reasons we're trying to talk to you today is that you've been a winner and designated as a North Carolina Living Treasure. And we want to get on the record a little bit of the history of your life and your family and- and the sense of the work that you've accomplished these many years. So why don't we go right to that starting point about your name. Let's get that on the record. What is your name and how did that ever happen with the Bea. You use B-E-A Hensley, right?

Bea Hensley: M- my mother, when she was in college or s- school of her days back then uh.. one of her friends was named Bea and she said if I ever have a little boy, I'm gonna call him Bea. So that's the- really the way the name originated just a plain B.

Hayes: So on the birth certificate? B. and your middle name?

Bea Hensley: My middle name is Ellis. That goes back in the family uh.. tree and that's been handed down. (laugh)

Hayes: What happened? How did it evolve into B-E-A then?

Bea Hensley: Well uh.. you gotta have a written name, social security, and what have you and so I started just signin' my name. I have a lot of fun with it because I get a lot of mail mailed to Bea Hensley Blacksmith. (laugh) Now their puttin' an Ms., you know, when they doubt it. (laugh) I've had a lot of na- I've had a lot of fun outta that name.

Hayes: When growing up people didn't have any trouble calling you Bea?

Bea Hensley: No. They didn't. All through school and all of my life I- I never-- I really never thought anything about it.

Zarbock: I'm going to ask this. We're talking about your name and that raises the question-- I'd like to get this on tape. When did you start with that name? So the question really is how old are you?

Bea Hensley: Well uh.. next month the ninth of December I'll be 84.

Hayes: Wow.

Bea Hensley: Gotta pretty good start now. (laugh)

Zarbock: And how long are you going to go on?

Bea Hensley: 114 is when I'm gonna retire.

Hayes: Really?

Bea Hensley: Yeah, they-- You know really 84 years old is not really old if you read the bible and study how old some- some of those fellers, you know, they lived a long time.

Hayes: Right.

Bea Hensley: But I don't feel old.

Hayes: You sure don't look old.

Zarbock: And you don't act old either.

Hayes: And later we're going to take some pictures of you working and its hard work still isn't it?

Bea Hensley: Oh yeah. Yeah. Not many people wanna do it. That's the reason really the raw iron and the blacksmithin' is, you know, it's uh.. kinda dwindled down till there wasn't but a few of us in the United States when I started. Uh.. Daniel Boone, Sam Uellen [ph?], and Frances out in- Whittiker out in Colorado, huh you could just about name 'em all out- in less than you- your two hands.

Hayes: But for the longest time period, blacksmith was critical. You had to have a blacksmith, right, tied to horses and the shoeing and all of that. In the 1800s, every town had to have a blacksmith, right?

Bea Hensley: That'd be- the- the frontier-- A lot of people don't realize this but the frontier going back into D- the Daniel Boone a first generation, they were always a blacksmith in with that group that migrated from one place to the other. And (cough) a lot of people don't realize this, you know, blacksmith back in that day had uh.. license to marry people because of the being in the frontier.

Hayes: My goodness, have you done any of that?

Bea Hensley: I'm not m- marryin' anybody. (laugh) Uh.. but they's uh.. uh.. n- uh.. now- that blacksmith was bein' a community uh.. as they pushed forward.

Hayes: Right.

Bea Hensley: And- and- the mountain. Uh..

Hayes: And so in this early Spruce Pine era here you can trace back that there was immediately a blacksmith, a heritage that you go clear back to-- Oh, when was this territory? Late 1700s was probably starting to get folks out here and--

Bea Hensley: Yeah. The Murphy's came with a- with a- into this country blacksmithin' and the lineage of Daniel Boone the first come in to this country a blacksmith. He's a good blacksmith too. All the- all the good history 'bout Daniel Boone the first never been wrote.

Zarbock: Interesting. More than the--

Bea Hensley: Mike- Mike'll tell you a whole lot 'cause he's read some of the uh.. uh.. Israel's hand writin' that documented--

Hayes: And your point is that Mike, who we're going to interview later and that's your son? Is that-

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Herman E- Herman Estes was a direct descendant. What descendant was he Mike? The fifth?

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: The fifth and he's got it all wrote down. Not- if I'm not mistaken. When you interview Mike, he's read some of the documents and things like that.

Hayes: Lets get back to early time. Where did you grow up then? Here in this area? territory?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. my father-- I was born in uh.. I'll say Flag Pond Higgins Creek, Ten- Tennessee but my father come to Burnsville uh.. to go to school, you know, back then had YCI and uhm.. Stan McCormick was the two schools. And- and I was fortunate to live in the period of time when uh.. Daniel's father, Kelp and them, they were blacksmiths and the Murphy's were blacksmiths and so on and-- They made loggin' equipment and things for the home and what have you.

Hayes: This was back in Tennessee?

Bea Hensley: No this was in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Zarbock: Burnsville. Now what country were you born in in Tennessee?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. I was born in, really, Higgins Creek.

Mike Hensley: Unicorn.

Bea Hensley: Unicorn.

Zarbock: Unicorn county.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Zarbock: Isn't that where they hanged the elephant?

Bea Hensley: Well that's pretty close. I- They hung the elephant in Erwin.

Zarbock: That's it. Erwin. Yeah.

Bea Hensley: That's in Unicorn.

Zarbock: That's a story in and of itself. (laugh)

Bea Hensley: Yeah. I talked to my grandmother and all of them, they was- they know all about it, you know. (inaudible)

Zarbock: We oughta say something for the record. What are we talking about hanging an elephant? Do you remember the story?

Bea Hensley: Uh..

Zarbock: The elephant murdered-- An elephant went crazy--

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Zarbock: And he killed a keeper.

Bea Hensley: And they decided they'd hang it so they got-- they done a lot of things that uh.. in the story about uh.. and I'll get to kinda the oak tree and the acorn. They had the crane on the railroad track down there where they picked the elephant up and, you know, really killed him with a--

Zarbock: They hanged it with a log chain. I got you aside there.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. They's uh..

Hayes: So what was growing up in this territory like? Give us some sense of what was it like and this would have been in the 20s and 30s that you were a young person?

Bea Hensley: Well uh.. uh.. one thing I like about growin' up up there, they built a- the railroad kinda shops in Erwin and the train come up and they built a spur fro- up from Cona up into Burnsville a little spur train and the big thing was was ridin' to Cona on the train. (laugh) From uh.. See they cut the timber in uh.. in the head of Cane River at Pensacola and that was a big community at that time.

Hayes: How big? How--

Bea Hensley: In Pensacola.

Hayes: Hundreds or thousands or--

Bea Hensley: Uh.. I'd say there's probably-- I just have to be a guessin' 'cause I was pretty young back- back then. Uh.. I'd say there's probably a thousand people lived in that, in the neighborhood of that, 'cause that was big loggin' back then.

Hayes: Right. After they got the logs down were they using trains to get them out?

Bea Hensley: They loaded 'em on trains. I got some pictures of some of the little engines here somewhere.

Hayes: That's great. That's great. Then for schooling, what was schooling like back at that time? You had to go to school or you got to go to school?

Bea Hensley: Well I've been in a two room school house. (laugh) And when it snowed uh.. you could see that it come through the cracks. Huh. So that's goin' a way back. But the school at Burnsville uh.. uh.. it was really a good brick school house. Marvelous teachers. Had t- just wonderful teacher.

Hayes: Good. Good. Now we're coming up and you're a young man of 18, 19 and I would guess that World War II came along and did it capture you or--

Bea Hensley: No. I-- (laugh) They didn't bother me.

Hayes: They didn't bother you. Good. That's was great.

Bea Hensley: I was to light for heavy work and too heavy for light work.

Hayes: (laugh) So when did you really start smithing then? When? Right away?

Bea Hensley: What got- really got me started at it uh.. you- you see-- Golly, let's go way back.

Hayes: Okay.

Bea Hensley: They brought a T-model Ford and they come into Burnsville and they had no cabs on it. It had the seat, the windshield. That was it. And we call that the good ol' days. Uh.. I gotta picture of Hugh Martin's book. Let me plug that.

Hayes: All right.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. uh.. uh.. this country and uh.. showin' 'em pushin' the school buses and all that through the mud hole. (laugh) And it's not been too long that uh.. some of these roads in this country has a-- You had to find a place to pass.

Zarbock: So they're still using horses? Had the automobile by 1938-40 did you start to see that penetrate into this territory pretty much or not?

Bea Hensley: I can remember when a T-model Ford wouldn't go up the town hill up in forward in Burnsville and they put it in reverse and backed up. Now-- (laugh) I bet you that ain't on record.

Zarbock: No. (laugh)

Bea Hensley: Well I'll have to tell you this and it ought be a little bit of fun. Mr. Finland bought uh.. uh.. a T-model and uh.. he drove it in low gear for- and I think- I believe they said six times. Now I'm not sure on this because see I'm pretty little when this was goin' on. But uh.. uh.. he lived up in Pensacola, Bone Street and that section, and they said I believe there's six or seven times he had to cross the river. So uh.. we all would run down to see the T-model Ford, you know, and uh.. (laugh) Oh, that was a phenomenon, you know. So uh.. he told his wife, he said, "I'm gonna put it in high gear." I said, "We've drove two weeks here in- uh.. low gear." Said, "I'm gonna put it in high gear. If it runs off and kills us--" Oh. Well it's a lot of fun. Tales went along with all of this stuff, you know. But I can remember when they put- poured the first concrete from around the square and down a mile on each side of town. So as children, we had a ball. See they had made us a real playground.

Hayes: Wow.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. See we could roller skate around the square and one mile down or ride our bicycle. We had a ball. They didn't know that they was fixin' a park out 19E. You can't beat that. (laugh) But them was good days.

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. uh.. back when I was--

Zarbock: And this was in Burnsville?

Bea Hensley: Burnsville yeah. They had a tannery. They made the- people made- there's uh.. uh.. stuff out of the leather and all of these things.

Hayes: But the major industry was still logging would you say?

Bea Hensley: Loggin' yeah.

Hayes: Now this Penland that you're talking about is this the same one that the Penland school is tied to?

Bea Hensley: I- I- I imagine it is Penland Lumber Company had the lumber business in Burnsville. Now I don't- I don't really know that.

Hayes: Yeah I don't either. And just seems like an unusual name.

Bea Hensley: I know a lot about the Penland school because I was uh.. grew up in this country but as one specific person, I couldn't name them that Penland was named-- But they's a lot a uh.. they's a lot a things that uh.. went on back then was funny, you know. Uh.. uh.. uh.. uh.. You want me to tell some of a little bit--

Hayes: Sure. Sure. This is good.

Bea Hensley: Okay. Let's talk about Jack Dempsey's grandfather, he had a blacksmith shop out at the forks of uh.. forks of uh.. 19E and goin' down Jack's Creek. And he was a good blacksmith. Man he was stout. Well on Saturday they had what's called a jockulot [ph?] it's like our flea market in Burnsville and they'd have boxers. So uh.. they- Jack- they'd throw a little money in the pot and see who could- so uh.. you know, wrestle or box. They'd box with their fists. They didn't have no boxin' gloves. I'd stand around and listen at the old peoples tell more about it than I knew about it but uh.. this was always fascinatin', you know. So they decided that they'd uh.. uh.. make up the money and they's gonna- uh.. Jack Dempsey's grandfather and they was gonna have these fellas that uh.. to take him on for it so uh.. he said, well he said, accordin' to the story, he- he said, "You'll have to come after me- at me from the front." This was the way it is. And uh.. so he- they said he- about six inches is all he needed to put a fella on the ground. Said he grabbed him by the feet, knocked the other three down, and then turned this man loose and he went over a tack of uh.. uh.. chicken coops that people brought their chickens in. Now I sat around (laugh) and listen to this tale. So uh.. part of this is uh.. wrote in records and- and of course I lived back in these days, you know. And uh.. oh what we had- this is better than watchin' television, you know, (laugh) to hear all these tales told. So uh..

Hayes: But now, let's talk about the 1930s up in this territory though. Was it starting to get pretty tough times or was it because people still were on the land it wasn't quite as bad? I mean during the Depression what was that like up in here? You know 30s--

Bea Hensley: Well uh.. most of it is farmin' and loggin'.

Hayes: So you could still keep going?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Yeah from- from the time the railroad come into Burnsville and the loggin' business started why from then until I was grown I-- In fact I rode a team of horses when- back in the- in the early days and logged some in at the head of Cane River. There's always that been goin' on even today. The difference in today uh.. we make the loggin' equipment j-bars and the crab skips and all that was hardware for the horses. Uh.. that- that was a lot of fun but it uh.. That's a lot of fun to see 'em log back then different from tractors and- and bulldozers and stuff like that because they put a bunch of logs together up in the mountains and uh.. they put 'em all to one place and get 'em chained and run 'em off of these steep mountains and they'd say to the horses j-hoe [ph?] and they'd pull out by the side of the logs and go on. It's a site to watch a- a string of logs. 'Cause on this mountain see--

Zarbock: You mean the horses would dodge the--

Bea Hensley: Oh, they had- they had the horses trained. That- I've drove horses when you was driven down and- and get them logs to goin' pretty fast and you had to place uh.. on the loggin' road that- that- for the horses to go out just as quick as you said, j-hoe [ph?] and I don't know what j-hoe means (laugh) but--

Zarbock: But the horse did.

Bea Hensley: Quick as you said j-hoe you made uh.. In fact I done uh.. mixed the equipment for Western Carolina for them to see how the j-bars and things worked and them horses the breath you said that, they's gone in there and stop just like you put the breaks on- breaks on. It- It was- It was fun.

Hayes: Yeah. Yeah.

Zarbock: And the logs would continue?

Bea Hensley: They'd continue, yeah.

Zarbock: But how would you disconnect the horses from the logs?

Bea Hensley: With the j-bar.

Hayes: That's the j-bar.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. I'll show you one. Uh.. I may have-- I- I've got the patterns I made for Western Carolina uhm.. somewhere over here.

Hayes: All right. We'll look at them. All right. So let's talk about when you're now in the business. When did you really start this long road in blacksmithing? When was that?

Bea Hensley: Oh I started foolin' around with blacksmithin' in a little bit from the neighbors house and when I finished high school, why I- I was standin'-- I- I- I had stood in his shop from the time I was I would say five or six years old.

Hayes: Interesting.

Bea Hensley: And just watch him make stuff and I'd think well uh.. uh.. some day I wanna do that. So I said Daniel what about goin' to work with ya? Uh.. we had uh.. the T-model Ford the A-model Ford the big trucks that come into loggin', use a haulin' the logs and all of this and uh.. uh.. by that time very few people were usin' horses. They was usin' small loggin' tractors and things- things like that so the cables came in. But the first uh.. J. Walter Wright had- uh.. Log Mountain Mitchell and goin' into Black Mountain and Cane River, they used skidders to log- log out down to the saw mills to the bad mills. That's big time back then. Bet you don't see any of that any more.

Hayes: Forget those trucks and stuff. We'll just get your microphone close. Pretty soon you'll just be handling it. So what year did you then start-- It wasn't an apprenticeship but you were starting to work right with the expert blacksmith?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. I got work when I was out in uh.. dates on goes back uh..

Hayes: Yeah. Go ahead.

Bea Hensley: There's a hammer I've got marked 1942. Now I was blacksmithin' before I made that hammer.

Hayes: Wow. Oh that's great. Look at that. That's just--

Bea Hensley: And here's one I've used since 1942. I made.

Hayes: Still going.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: This is made out of hard steel?

Bea Hensley: That's made out of a T-model Ford dry- uh.. ha- axle.

Hayes: (laugh) Nothing goes to waste. Right?

Bea Hensley: If you- a horse lost a horse shoe-- This is how scarce metal was. If a horse lost a horse shoe in the mud somewhere on these roads, they'd always mark that place so they could go and pick it up if they didn't find it in the mud to take it with 'em. And they- they forge welded 'em all together and made another horse shoe out of it.

Hayes: Is this called a particular type of hammer?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. It's a ball peen.

Hayes: Ball peen.

Bea Hensley: And this is a ball peen and this is just a regular hammer.

Hayes: Regular hammer. And where do you think that word ball plane came from that's kind of--

Zarbock: Ball peen.

Hayes: Oh, the two sides. And you would use both sides of this?

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: For different things? Yeah. We'll look at that later. That's great.

Bea Hensley: Now this hammer's got some history behind it. This hammer is- was probably made by Daniel Boone back- way back in the 30s when he was young. His father Kelp [ph?] would be considered a older man. Daniel was probably-- Oh Daniel at the age of 12 was a good blacksmith. He'd make this hammer when he was 12 or 13 years old.

Hayes: Now this is a relative of the original Daniel Boone. We don't want to lead--

Bea Hensley: Daniel Boone the sixth.

Hayes: We don't want to lead these people astray here do we?

Bea Hensley: If you notice this hammer's broke and Daniel said, "I'm gonna give you this hammer." I still like to hammer with it. Uh.. and I welded it with stainless steel that's the reason it's got this cover in it. This hammer's probably, let's see, it could easily be 75 years old.

Hayes: Still going. That's great.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. metal has a--

Hayes: Well he's got his name too. Daniel Boone.

Bea Hensley: Metal has what you call metal fatigue. If you hammer it long enough, it'll- it'll shatter.

Hayes: Okay.

Bea Hensley: That's the reason that there broke. Now this- this hammer, it's- it's uh.. this hammer it uh.. shattered off right here and I put it back the same with steel. Uh.. you kinda get used to where your thumb fits (laugh) there and you turn--

Hayes: Now with the stainless steel, can you still use it or not?

Bea Hensley: Oh yeah.

Hayes: You can still use it.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. It's- it probably- it's stronger right there than it is in here. Every- every once in a while--

Hayes: Was that a big logging truck?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. They say the loggin' still goes on but no- nobody handles a log by hand with peevies [ph?] and can ho- and can hooks [ph?] and things like- ba- ba- 'cause they got loaders and all of this hydraulic stuff that's- that makes it so simple it- you don't- it ain't like when they had can hooks from and rolled them on and all of that you know.

Hayes: So let's talk about when you were smithing in the 40s. What were the main products of a blacksmith shop?

Bea Hensley: I was-- Fortunately I was born at exactly at the right time. Because the old way had drifted out and the blacksmith that followed the loggin' and uh.. community blacksmiths and uh.. the tanneries was all goin' in to big- big time. The little tanneries like was- was at Burnsville, you see they had a tan- tanner outside I guess it's Madison County, was big for the- I mean world wide as far as uh.. producing. Uh.. so uh.. Daniel, he uh.. he was not only a- he's not only a blacksmith, he was an artist.

Hayes: Oh.

Bea Hensley: And is uh.. so he began to drift into andiron, fire sets, screens and all the stuff. See when we uh.. we look at this uh.. tourist business now. You know, its big business. They-- (laugh) Uh.. they uh..

Hayes: So even back then he saw and you saw that the way to go was much more in the personal items like behind us here we've got a-- What do you call this? A fireplace?

Bea Hensley: Fireplace set.

Hayes: Yeah. And they needed that forever.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: So those are a big item.

Bea Hensley: Instead of makin' a as I call it-- There wasn't- they- there wasn't so much a crude as uh.. uh.. we got this here piece of steel we're not gonna throw it away but we need a fireplace hoo- poker. Uh.. so the easiest uh.. simplest way well uh.. We- we developed uh.. Daniel did, the- the skill of makin' 'em fancy. And he--

Hayes: And you said he was an artist and people consider you an artist. What makes that difference? I mean what makes somebody an artist?

Bea Hensley: Well, let's see. Let me get this right here.

Hayes: Oh good. Good.

Bea Hensley: I- I'd like to have a thousand of them today. (laugh and shows item) People'd buy 'em. They set it on the fireplace mantle. They'd set it in the middle of the dinin' table. And what have you.

Hayes: Tell us about it. That's an interesting-- You designed this and--

Bea Hensley: I designed it. Mike named it but it- this called a Chickapea [ph?] leaf and this goes from the mountains down through the Piedmont around over the waves of the sea and it's from the mountains of the sea. And we signed a release on that that'll be used in a television program. I don't know how long that'll be before it come out but--

Hayes: Interesting. Chickapea is a native--

Bea Hensley: It's a little native--

Hayes: Native tree?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. I make- I make these and when I go to the state fair in Raleigh, they-- Excuse me just a sec.

Hayes: Sure. (crew talk)

Bea Hensley: I uh.. I'll give you a little idea you see-- About 50 some years- it's right close to 50 years ago, they invited me to come down with the blacksmith in the village- we called it the village __________ that's where it got it's name. Now I take and hammer one of these out and then I would take and uh.. there's always a little boy, little girl or somebody who was really interested. I watched the crowd. Like we had a crowd too. Wasn't nothin' for us to have m- at least 75,000 a day. Uh.. that- that was- that was-- We look forward to that. But I would take this and I would cut it off down here and I'd do a little hammer on it and Mike he done all the talkin'. I don't do any talkin'. I done the work and he done the talkin'. So I'd see this little boy or this little girl who was interested I'd say uh.. uh.. "What's your name?" And I'd write- put their name in here and I'd write Bea Hensley and sign on the back of it. I'd spray a little black paint on it and I'd say here's you a souvenir. And- and in- in 26 years I've do- never charged but for two in my life. I give 'em all away to the kids. Now let's see how that works. This candle holder he- here--

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: This boy said, "I was in your shop when I was a little boy and you quit work and you made me a leaf and gave to me with my name on it. I'm buildin' a house." And they's got it built now up in uh.. Lemon [ph?] uh.. I believe he said it's- well let's see, 28 or 9 years old and he said, "I want my fire set built for my fireplace with this leaf in the handle." Now I'll give you a little-- (metal banging sound)

Hayes: This is great.

Bea Hensley: He said, "I want that- that leaf." So instead of having the handles like this, I made him uh.. the shovel, poker log, for it and broom and I made this to hang on the stand like that.

Hayes: And how would they handle this then? Right up in here like that?

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: And then poke what ever you need. Now what's this made out of?

Bea Hensley: This is metal material. I made that over at Ashville at the craftsman fair just demonstratin' and I brought it over here and I- put a name- n- na- uh.. my uh.. I just demonstrate then he said, "I'd like to have that." And I said, "Well I'll fix you a poker." And I brought it home with me and I put his name on it, Jimmy Hensley here. But now he's got uh.. him, this- this boy-- I'll just sit this down right here.

Hayes: All right.

Bea Hensley: This boy said, uh.. "I- I'd like for you to make me this candle holder." Well you see I put his family name on it. There's- Childer.

Hayes: Oh nice.

Bea Hensley: There's his Childer name. Round here.

Hayes: All right.

Bea Hensley: So he'll have that. He'll set that on the fire place mantle. There's a lot of- tremendous lot of stuff that--

Hayes: Now that one behind you what's that metal? That looks a little different.

Bea Hensley: This is- this here, I made that for my wife for her 60th wedding anniversary.

Hayes: And what's your wife's name?

Bea Hensley: Bonnie.

Hayes: Bonnie.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: I've talked to her.

Bea Hensley: And I forgot to put the 60 on it so I brought it back over and I said-- Well, uh.. that's what you call a uh.. metal has the color of a rainbow in it. Lot of people don't think about that. Well I- I heat treat this till I get-- This is oldest known uh.. way of preserving metal in the world. And I heat treat it to get this gold lookin' sheen on it and I know when to quench it. Back in biblical days accordin' to history handed down, they would- this is the way that uh.. they- the metal was preserved. And uh.. they can even find some metal today that's been preserved for years.

Zarbock: So you heat the metal until it turns a golden color did you say?

Bea Hensley: The rainbow.

Zarbock: And then you plunge it into water?

Bea Hensley: No. Huh-uh. I- I kill that with- by usin' lint seed oil to cool it--

Hayes: Interesting.

Bea Hensley: On a rag. Now to show you it- this almost lost iron. At one time I never thought to much about it but uh.. the-- I'll show you a picture of a house I was doin' in Charlotte and this lady was in uh.. New York settin' at the table eatin' in a restaurant and I'll tell you the story he told me. He and his wife came down (crew talk) uh.. (crew talk) he- he and his wife came down here and they said, "Well, hey how we found out about you." He said, "We're buildin' uh.. uh.. uh.. buildin' that's uh.. reproduction of a cathedral like buildin' over in-- It's 1200 years old." And he said, "The candle holders is like this high." And he said, "They've got the ancient finish on 'em." And he said, "We couldn't find no body that could make these candle holders and put the- the finish on like that." And I said, "Well this finish goes back to the days of King Solomon's temple. We know that." And he said-- And when I told him I said, "Why sure." So they was about 36 inches high. And he said, "They're holding back 95,000 dollars till I get these two candle holders with that finish on it." So I fixed him up. That's how I know about it. (laugh)

Zarbock: And you plunge it into linseed oil?

Bea Hensley: No. No. You take a rag and you c- cool it and boy you- you (laugh) it's hard to do. Really.

Zarbock: That's a hot piece of metal.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Yeah. It's hot. It'll burn you. But you have to know just exactly what you're doin' because most people don't even try it, don't even know about it.

Hayes: Yeah. And so the linseed oil you think is the agent that's giving some--

Bea Hensley: Well I just use that instead of fat of the lamb.

Hayes: Oh fat was the--

Bea Hensley: See-- Do you ever see an ol' uh.. The best cornbread you'll ever eat in your life is when that old fryin' pan gets black. The oil gets burnt in it. Well you can preserve metal like that. So that- back in the early days, that's the way they done it. Only difference is that-- You could just go right on till it turns black. I can do that over there in the fire.

Hayes: But people don't want black. They want--

Bea Hensley: They uh..

Hayes: Is that a color in the scheme that you call that or is that--

Bea Hensley: It's a- it's a color in- that's in the steel.

Hayes: It's in the steel.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. The higher carbon it is the prettier it is.

Zarbock: Interesting. Yeah. Yeah.

Bea Hensley: One of those is wrought iron and the other one is- this one is- this one's stainless steel. Now that's what you call a silversteen.

Hayes: Now what does stainless steel mean? Does that have a meaning, stainless?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. It won't rust.

Hayes: It won't rust. Okay.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Yeah. This boy will hand that down forever. He can hand this down five thousand years and it'll still be just like it is. Iron will eventually rust uh.. eventually. But this- this'll be here in- as long as his family keeps its own fireplace- (laugh) fireplace mantle.

Hayes: So you started to fairly quickly evolve into an artist with this and you've talked about some of the products that are unique. Are there other ones that you're proud of that you've done over the years that are--

Bea Hensley: (laugh) It'd take a great big tape. (laugh)

Hayes: To tell all of it.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Uh.. I- I'm probably the last livin' blacksmith that done the work on (inaudible) in Williamsburg. All the hands- door latch handles and all that. I got all the pictures.

Hayes: In Williamsburg?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. This is the hand- anvil over here that I done the work in. That's the power hammer over yonder that come out of the old Boone forge. We reproduced uh.. I don't say th- I don't say that it's braggin' or boastin' 'cause people might think I'm uh.. somethin' that I'm not but uh.. they told Mike, they said, "Your daddy's only person in the United States that we'll take a piece out of the archives and let him reproduce." (laugh)

Hayes: Excellent.

Zarbock: What is? How much danger is there in your work? Have you ever had a terrible accident or-- You know you're dealing with hot metal, flames--

Bea Hensley: Oh, that uh.. as far as blacksmithin' uh.. I'm uh.. I don't- I don't worry about ever gettin' hurt because I've been very careful. I ought- you wanna wear safety glasses but that everything that you do. Now I'm- I've had- I've done a lot of things other than blacksmith. (laugh) You- you don't want that on tape do you?

Hayes: Well remember that people are gonna see this and understand it so it's whatever you want to put on here. That's okay with us.

Zarbock: That's kind of a touchy subject. (laugh)

Bea Hensley: Let's doctor this uh.. blacksmithin' up a little bit. Uh.. I've been able to do a lot of things uh.. I've done more fabric ___________ in New York, Macey's in New York, Macy's in Atlanta, Smithsonian Institute, you name it, Fine Art Museum in Pasadena, California, Museum of History in Nashville. Uh.. I've got- we've got work in England, France, Germany, Belgium, various Hawaiian islands, Philippine islands, Formosa, Zaire, and Africa, Queensland in Australia, New Zealand, you name it Holland. People from all over the world come to me.

Hayes: Well now your son was showing me the knives. How long have you been doing knives? That's an interesting product that people have always been interested in, in knives.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. uh.. I uh.. I started back makin' takin' copper wire-- Do you know what a dollar watch is?

Hayes: Dollar watch. No.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. A dollar watch is about this big around and you had your overalls on and you put it down in the crack of your overalls and every body had a dollar watch. Well I could take a dollar watch and my mother's flat iron when I was a little feller in- in school and I'd hammer out pretty little watch hands. Take them old watch hands off and uh.. put my watch hands on. Now that dollar watch would bring a dollar and a half. (laugh) So that could get me another dollar watch. Uh..

Zarbock: You replaced the hands on--

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Zarbock: Wow.

Bea Hensley: I just a little feller. I've always been able just to make anything I want. Uh.. I have people say, "Well how do you learn blacksmithin'?" I said uh.. "You have to remember that the face of this ha- hammer--" Let me see where-- This one's all right right here. "The face of this hammer--" Mike will describe this to you after we start blacksmithin'. Four ways. I said, "When you learn how to turn that face of that anvil with the face of this hammer, when you learn how to turn it 400 different angles, you'll be a blacksmith." The way it hit down. That's all it takes.

Zarbock: Would you tell that story again when you were a little boy you said when your momma was milking a cow what she'd have you doing?

Bea Hensley: Oh, yeah. She'd take the hammer and a- a block of wood and a nail and she'd put a nail in it. She'd uh.. carry me out and set me down and give me the hammer and I'd stand there and hammer on that like this till she got through milkin'. Never give her no trouble at all. That's- that was my pacifier, you know. (laugh) But I can't remember when I couldn't hammer.

Hayes: You started very early, very early. You were a born blacksmith.

Bea Hensley: That's what I tell people. I was born this way. I had absolutely nothing to do with what I do. I was just born this a way.

Hayes: Now when you talk about all these various customers, what kinds of products? Some times they want reproductions of ancient things? Did they also want unique things that they wanted from you? Knives? What are some of the products that you've made?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. this knife- the knife like Mike showed you there was uh.. di- just have something that I like to do for myself.

Hayes: Oh okay.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: But knives have become a big part of what he's working on now. Did you also sell knives earlier in your career or was that not--

Bea Hensley: No. Tha- That's just part of my hobby.

Hayes: Hobby.

Bea Hensley: For a long time. I've got knives that I made what- back in the early 40s.

Hayes: Really.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Way- it goes way back.

Hayes: A knife is kind of a different challenge, the thinness, the sharpness of it. How to get that just coming out. And what about that metal? Is that a different metal for knives that you're using than--

Bea Hensley: The metal that we're usin' was uh.. come from uh.. Germany.

Hayes: Wow.

Bea Hensley: Comes the Harris Blade Company. And uh.. they uh.. was fortunate enough- I was to get uh.. pretty good bit of it but we uh.. uh.. gettin' pretty thin on that. (laugh) That was of course uh.. 60 somethin' years--

Zarbock: While you were making blades, did you ever make any swords?

Bea Hensley: Never made a sword but I've made like uh.. carving knives and things like that.

Hayes: Bigger ones.

Zarbock: Spears. Have you done that?

Hayes: And you mentioned the hinges and so forth that people-- Did they send you a pattern or picture or--

Bea Hensley: Let me show you. It's hard to describe sometimes. (crew talk)

Hayes: That's great. I've got the book. Talk away.

Bea Hensley: This uh.. I'm not used to sittin' down.

Hayes: Well why don't you stand up.

Bea Hensley: This is--

Hayes: We've got the camera now. We'll put it where you want it. (crew talk)

Bea Hensley: There's a picture of a gate with a leaf like I was showin'.

Hayes: That's huge. That's bigger than you guys.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. this is knives that- the- these are the one's we're producing now.

Hayes: Are they a particular style?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. This is our-- We can make 'em any way we want 'em but most people pick out their handles and we uh.. we make 'em like with a star or what have you.

Hayes: I see that Mike's doing the scrimshawing. Did you ever do that scrimshawing yourself?

Bea Hensley: No. Uh.. I can do a little bit of it but no. See- see he could do all of this fancy work like--

Hayes: And how long has he been working with you?

Bea Hensley: At four- since he's four years old.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Bea Hensley: See he could do this before he ever wrote his name. (laugh) He had to learn to write his name. He didn't have to learn to do that. He just done it. Uh.. see that scroll there?

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: Well he could do that when he was four years old.

Hayes: Gee. This is kind of like an axe or something.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. If you'll notice, that says 1942 right there on it.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Bea Hensley: I done all this for fun.

Hayes: For fun.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. These are some of the knives I made back-- I've been makin' knives since uhm.. at least 64 years. Uh.. now from a drift- I wish I had the loggin' equipment uh.. to show you but uh.. from my loggin' equipment and makin' the stuff like that, uh.. Now Mike done the woodwork for this door. They wanted a special door made, special hinges.

Hayes: Right.

Bea Hensley: And this foot and a half polish with a silver sheen. So we did it all. Uh.. this uh.. I guess it'll be all right to put this on the- on tape. The lady who uh.. the lady who he made this for, she was offered 15,000 dollars for that door.

Hayes: My goodness.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. Th- This is of the- this is the handle here.

Hayes: The detail. Yeah.

Bea Hensley: This is another door here.

Hayes: Interesting. Great.

Bea Hensley: Now thi- this is a-- If Williamsburg found a hinge like this on an ol' door up there that the door was rotted down and everything and they're restorin' that piece of uh.. uh.. part of Williamsburg? By- you had to reproduce that hinge and this is hard to do. Because there's a lot of it they'd pick up and- and done forge weldin' up in these hinges in order to use the metal uh.. they didn't throw nothin' away.

Hayes: So it's been reworked and reworked.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Yeah. And this is some of the handles that uh.. that I still d- do uh.. doors ever once in a while for people. But the most of 'em that I do now, we- I designed one- the hinges to fit the door.

Hayes: Now when you did that Williamsburg project was that when they were really expanding that? What year was that? Do you remember?

Bea Hensley: Well they star- they started the reproduction and built the ol' Boone forge down here in Spruce Pine in-- Donald Mills had the license to get all of this put together and uh.. they hired Daniel to come to the Boone forge, Daniel and Wade and Lawrence and his daddy Kelp. They done the major part of that. Now during uh.. a lot of that time, I had worked for Daniel. Then Daniel does the work up here uh.. I had uh.. watch Daniel in the shop and what have you. But then I uh.. during the war, I come to Spruce Pine to Gunner Machine Company and I was foreman of the Gunner Machine Company for ten years in the forties. So that's--

Hayes: So you were out of this-- You were just doing this on your own then.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. I- now- if somebody come in and wanted somethin' made or reproduced, uh.. I could do it because I had the forge, the anvil and everything in the shop to do. But I had 29 men and I didn't have a lot of time to- to uh.. do a lot of work. But I did do some work that was very unusual. Uh.. government man come in here and he says uh.. where's- they're talkin' about the mineral museum and they're talkin' about uh.. the change over and what was happenin' uh.. in the industrial (inaudible). Well I built uh.. the first flotation cells out of stainless steel for the (inaudible) company over 50- round 57 years ago.

Hayes: What kind of company was it?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. well it's United (inaudible) Flotation and uh.. uh.. the different names. Now they're consolidated all of this into Uniman. You see all this Uniman [ph?]? Well I built the machines, the flotation cells that separate all of that, which separates the crystals to do your computer chips. So I'm a granddad of that. Uh..

Hayes: And what's the metal they're going after? Silicon? Is that what that--

Bea Hensley: Cry- Computer crystal material.

Hayes: Computer crystal.

Bea Hensley: And that- it's all done in this stuff. I was- I was on the ground floor. I built the first. (laugh) This fella was with the government, he said I wanna find out about that. He looked kinda shocked because he was lookin' in a blacksmith shop and here I'm tellin' him I build 'em. I know 'em. I know what it does. I set up the first- when we built the first lee water machine. But I did the sales myself. And uh.. course I had a helper. Mr. Gunner looked after the shop. And another thing that I did besides that, I could a- I could a gone two or three routes if I'd a wanted to in my life. Uh.. they worked on makin' a hosin' machine fully automatic in Atlanta, Georgia. Now this is what was told me when they come to approach me and I was a tryin' to built- built the first fully automatic hoser machine.

Hayes: For making?

Bea Hensley: Women's hose.

Hayes: Women's hose.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: Gee.

Bea Hensley: So uh.. I've had a- I've had a lot a- (laugh) lot of- done a lot of things. But I still- when I- when I left Mr. Gunner's, I come out here and I bought no equip- equipment only I wanted to do forge work. I'd had- I wanted to put all this behind me.

Hayes: You wanted to get back to your roots.

Bea Hensley: But uh.. I could a went two or three different routes because uh.. uh.. I could do what I (laugh)

Hayes: Almost anything huh?

Bea Hensley: Uh..

Hayes: Samples, candles, all these areas.

Bea Hensley: But this was some of the work. (shows photo album)This has Billy Graham's fireplace right there.

Hayes: Wow. Isn't that interesting? Out there in the mountains in near Asheville?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Montree [ph?].

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: They see the crane andirons and that's the way they used to cook in this country.

Hayes: What are they called?

Bea Hensley: Crane andiron.

Hayes: Crane andirons.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. They actually cooked. You see the pot a hangin' on the cre- kettle there?

Hayes: Yeah. Yeah.

Bea Hensley: And uh.. look the little pot settin' there? Uh.. them uh.. every once in a while I drift into some of this just satisfy my curiosity.

Hayes: Candles and--

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Uh..

Hayes: Those are great.

Bea Hensley: They uh.. this uh.. this another pair of crane andiron and that's a fire set that goes on each side of the fireplace. And this is the andiron log baskets. See they no end to what you can create.

Hayes: I see that. Each one's unique.

Bea Hensley: This uh.. now a lot of people wonder how I come about by havin' a lot of work or uh.. in different foreign countries. The, excuse me, the Smithsonian Institute; this is a permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian. They sent this on a two year tour and it was displayed in galleries in England, France, yeah. And then I had one display that was displayed in uh.. Cairo, Egypt for a year.

Hayes: My goodness.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. so the uh..

Hayes: So then people would see it and write you?

Bea Hensley: Yeah. You can't-- Uh.. I- I'm gonna interject this. Uh.. here's the Blue Ridge Parkway. You would think-- Now this is not my idea or my figures. But one of the rangers told me he said, "Now you take Cherokee. You take Asheville. You take Blowing Rock. You take Boone. And all of these places you'd think more people get off the Parkway? More people get off the Parkway at that intersection than any other place on the Parkway."

Hayes: Wow.

Bea Hensley: Now that's their figures. They said we've kept it up. You wouldn't think-- And they say that every once in a while somebody says, "Well why are out here in this lonely desolate place?" (laugh)

Hayes: Well you should tell them they came to see you right?

Bea Hensley: But that kinda blowed my mind, you know.

Hayes: Boy that's a lot of traffic.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Uh.. I (laugh) I- I kid a lot about that. I shouldn't say. But I- I kid a lot about it. I said, "Well uh.. I moved out here in particular because I- the friend of mine that owned this lot told me he'd let me have it years ago before I even come out here." And uh.. I kid a whole lot. I say, "Well I can't afford to come down the Parkway. You can sit on my Chevrolet." I mean you- you know. People that travel's got money.

Hayes: Oh that's right.

Bea Hensley: Yeah and I might not- you might want to cut that out.

Hayes: No that's all right. That's all right.

Bea Hensley: But this- this was uh.. some of the fire screens and stuff here.

Hayes: Now would people send you ideas on a fire screen or would they just say give me something interesting?

Bea Hensley: This fire screen here, this boy told Mike- or this person told Mike what they wanted and he just sat down. He'll draw this up in about two minutes.

Hayes: Yeah, so everyone's unique to what people want?

Bea Hensley: I don't- I don't have a chance to uh.. I don't have a chance to-- Even some of these are just--

Hayes: Tables!

Bea Hensley: Uh.. uh.. they'll be people who want-- This lady had English tile and they wanted uh.. me to make 'em a design and do this table. And this a coffee table with a gla- glass top.

Zarbock: Great just great.

Bea Hensley: They's no end to what other people think of.

Zarbock: One of the things I think we're talking about the difference between an artist, you know, and just a blacksmith is that every piece that you make is different for each person right?

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Zarbock: You're not a factory.

Bea Hensley: No I'm not.

Zarbock: You don't put out-- In fact you don't have anything for sale here right? You only do-- No I'm saying--

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Zarbock: People say here's the order. Then you make it.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. you see those clipboards over there? That's- that's where somebody will say, "Bea when you have time make me a catalog. Bea when you have time make me this."

Hayes: And those are full. (laugh)

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Some of these is uh.. hangin' up there is uh.. uh.. somebody might pass by and they'll say, "Well some day we're gonna move to the mountains and build us a house. Write my name down and put it up there." And I've had people to come back and say, "Well Bea we bought land and we built you a house. Been eight years since we was in. Do my fireplace."

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: That long later?

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: Gee. That's great.

Bea Hensley: Yeah now thi- this is popular- this is a popular--

Hayes: We're gonna do about five minutes and then take a break. How does that sound? Is this a picture of you?

Bea Hensley: Yeah that there's--

Hayes: There you go. That is great.

Bea Hensley: That- this pair went to Raleigh. Uh.. here--

Hayes: What year do you think that picture was Bea?

Bea Hensley: Probably back in the 50s.

Hayes: Yeah. Looks good.

Bea Hensley: This is a home that I built the kitchen dinin' room. I built four houses in the evenin' after quittin' time. They'll say, "Did you see that on television?" And I said, "Television. I don't watch television." (laugh) "What do you do?" "I'm buildin' me a house." (laugh) "Don't waste that time watchin' television." Uh.. that's a fireplace in one of the houses that I built.

Hayes: Those are great.

Bea Hensley: This is-- There's a little story behind this- this is two Confederate cannon balls. And they uh.. had been in- in this girl's family for a hundred and fifty years.

Hayes: Interesting.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. and one of 'em was loaded.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Bea Hensley: And they said uh.. She said, "I told 'em said uh.. give me the- give me the cannon balls. Said I know what I'm gonna do with 'em. Bea here they are. Build me a fire andiron."

Hayes: What did you with it if it was loaded though?

Bea Hensley: You just take the powder out of it.

Hayes: Oh All right.

Bea Hensley: Yeah there's a little hole in that right up in there in one of 'em it filled full of powder. Uh.. this uh.. this one of my favorite right here. Not because of who I done it for but the ram's horns. They uh.. that fire went in Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton house out in California.

Hayes: Isn't that something.

Bea Hensley: And this is--

Hayes: You wonder where it is now huh?

Bea Hensley: Uh.. this is a-- Yeah. Uh.. this uh.. fireplace is in the show room but I don't have anything up there because I can't keep anything in it. This uh.. this is an old Williamsburg pattern here uh.. W. H. Holland on uh.. 42nd Street, he'd order so many of 'em I couldn't keep 'em made. And I'd a- I couldn't uh.. about to. Be more than I could do. Now this is a light. This is the chandelier that went over the dinin' table of George Washington's dinin' table. Uh.. this shows a better- this shows uh.. uh..

Hayes: That's great. And where did you get the model for that?

Bea Hensley: In- indian come in and said, told me, he said, uh.. his ancestors was Indian there's the cherry king and this is ram's horn it's out in Denver, Colorado. That's the r- ram's horn and he said this is uh.. Spanish design in here and we just take it in about 15 minutes and that's where I finished it up and hung it on the chain up there.

Hayes: Okay I'm looking up to the top here of the shot. Second half here we're going to actually have him look at some of the tools.

Bea Hensley: This is aspen leaf so we put the aspen leaf in it.

Hayes: Well Colorado, that makes sense.

Bea Hensley: Uh..

Hayes: And when you said Washington's table, I think you told us earlier that he owned the dining room table and so this was right above it.

Bea Hensley: Right. Yeah.

Hayes: Yeah, that's great.

Bea Hensley: So, I- I- I like that piece there. They li- enjoyed makin' it.

Hayes: But you never got a chance to go out and see it hanging in Colorado?

Bea Hensley: I took it and hung it.

Hayes: Huh?

Bea Hensley: I took it out there and hung it.

Hayes: Did you really? Fancy.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. This one went in Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton household in the din- dinin' table. This un.. this one right here doesn't show up good but I always liked this one. That one was- A fella in Statesville's got it.

Hayes: That's nice.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. this was my showroom. And I never could keep anything in it. I just- I finally just forgot about it.

Hayes: (laugh)

Bea Hensley: One fella come in and he said, "I'd like to have that pair of andirons." And I said, "I made 'em so big it won't fit nobody else's' fireplace." Well he said, "I measured it exactly the same size my.." I said, "You got 'em."

Hayes: Goll.

Bea Hensley: And that's- that is this chan- chandelier.

Hayes: So you just can't keep anything on hand can you?

Bea Hensley: No. There's a 1200- 1200 year old castle the McCray's- uh.. we here a lot about Hugh Morton.

Hayes: Right.

Bea Hensley: And the Morton family home's Grandfather Mountain. Well uh.. from momma's side is the McCrays and the McCrays, they like thistles. So I did all the reproduction of what the ol' McCray castle was 1200 years old in Scotland. Their house at Lenville. So that's--

Hayes: Let's put a plug in here. You know Hugh McCrae is a Willimgton boy.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. (laugh)

Hayes: He may have come out here into the mountains but he is a Wilmington boy.

Bea Hensley: He's well known.

Hayes: I mean Hugh Morton is a Wilmington boy.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

Hayes: And that McCray is probably the same McCraes as Wilmington.

Bea Hensley: Yeah. Yeah. The same fella, they gotta house up here at Lenville. I've done a lot of work-- This is a fascinatin' uh.. piece of work here. This doctor built a office and it had two fireplaces in it.

Hayes: In the office?

Bea Hensley: Now one of these of- one is their 17 examenin' rooms. We built- if it was chestnut uh.. panelin', we built everything out of chestnut, the examenin' tables, all the hardware, all the wrought iron, the whole works. Uh.. he said the reason I'm doing this is-- He was a marvelous doctor and a great s- uh.. s- s- surgical doctor. He said, "When a p- person goes in this room and sits 15 minutes", he said, "They've got something to look at." And he said, "They're relaxed."

Hayes: Yeah.

Bea Hensley: And uh.. so he said now, "I don't want bath-- I don't want men. I don't want women." Said, "Do somethin' for these two baths here so they'll know what they are." So I come out here and I forged to outhouses with a door hangin' off with half moon in 'em. You could here him laugh across the road out there when he seen 'em. Now when he retired, all the other stuff was left as far as I know. But I went down to the office and the two little toilets was gone. (laugh) So uh.. he- he musta took them with him.

Hayes: (laugh)

Bea Hensley: This is just a little bit of railin' work that I- that I did there.

Hayes: Good. You probably could spend time on any one part of this themselves.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. this house here was three houses took outta Charleston and every board was numbered and put back exactly. The ol- one house comes up on this end and one house comes up on this house- this is the center house. Uh.. her architect drawed up a railin' that looked like uh.. let me see--

Hayes: There you go.

Bea Hensley: Looked like this railin'. And she- well I don't know what kind of expression I had when she brought the picture of the house. She says uh.. I said "Th- that's a race type house." And she said, "Well I have a little picture where my father was pastor in Charleston and this is in the balcony in our section of railin'." So right here--

Hayes: Oh that's wonderful.

Bea Hensley: I said, "You let me have that picture." So I took and drawed and built this in here. That sits the house.

Hayes: That is just great.

Bea Hensley: And believe it or not she says uh.. It's kind a blowed my mind I- when I-- One day she come up and she said, "Now when we get this done, they said the butterfly's killed." And I said-- Because she said, "We don't have anything else to do to that house that I can think of." So a period of ten years I worked off and on for her.

Hayes: Ten years. And the house is in Charleston?

Bea Hensley: It's in Charlotte.

Hayes: Oh Charlotte. Oh nice.

Bea Hensley: Yeah.

#### End of Tape 1 ####

Hayes: Okay, we're on tape number two. We're still in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Zarbock: Four November.

Hayes: But we've got Paul Zarbock from UNCW, Sherman Hasting UNCW, and joining us in this tape, what is your full name?

Mike Hensley: My name's Mike Hensley.

Hayes: That's what you go by, Mike Hensley?

Mike Hensley: That's the way I go, but it's Michael Ellis, but I've never been called Michael.

Hayes: Another Ellis, huh? There we go. Ellis. And your dad mentioned that you started at age four.

Mike Hensley: I sure did. I worked on my first professional job with him at four.

Hayes: At age four.

Mike Hensley: Yeah. I worked on the chandeliers that went in Great Lakes Naval Hall Recreation Center. Great Lakes, Michigan.

Hayes: Gosh.

Mike Hensley: They were - there were chandeliers that were six foot in diameter twenty-eight line fixtures on 'em, so. I didn't start small.

Hayes: (laughs) We're gonna now do, with both Bea and Mike, a little sense of what it's like. Mike, why don't you stand next to me here, and I'm just pointing to some different things. Like this is- is it an interesting older machinery- what is that? With a belt, and--

Mike Hensley: This is called a power hammer. This is what really took your strikers' place in order to draw tapers or make balls or- or stuff like that. We put- we make our own balls for the top of end-irons and stuff like that. Uhm.. they're - origin of this goes back about six thousand years before Christ in China.

Hayes: Oh.

Mike Hensley: The Chinese were far ahead of the rest of the world in- in ironwork. Uh.. six thousand years before they--

Hayes: Paul - could I have the headset?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. six- some six thousand years before Christ, and like I say, the original power-- they were making stainless steel. We don't know how they were making it.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness.

Mike Hensley: We don't know how.

Hayes: They found products that were -

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes, they have found products and everything in it, that- you know, uh.. that are uh.. part of the-

Hayes: Bear with me.

Mike Hensley: The sound what you're hearing now is just the blowers. On the forge.

Hayes: Is that what that is, just the pump humming behind?

Mike Hensley: Right.

Hayes: Now how about over here in the corner? Is that a buffer?

Mike Hensley: No, that's our uh.. big grinder that we use on uh.. especially if we're tempering something that we- and go over quickly while it's still warm and knock off the top surface and see a rainbow in the piece of metal.

Hayes: Interesting, interesting. This is really a fascinating one with the--

Mike Hensley: Yeah, that's- that lathe is the uh.. last patent date on it is something like 1912.

Hayes: 1912.

Mike Hensley: So they came over on Noah's Ark.

Hayes: Are you still using it?

Mike Hensley: Oh, yeah, we use it now. Yeah, it's-- it's got a four-jaw chuck on it which- if we're gonna do squares, uh.. or anything- you know, large squares, small squares, whatever, you have to have a four-jaw chuck on 'em to clamp.

Hayes: Interesting.

Mike Hensley: Our new lathe has a three-jaw chuck which you can do rounds and hexes and- all of that.

Hayes: What's vintage on this one?

Mike Hensley: Oh, that's only about five or six, seven years old.

Hayes: Oh, good.

Mike Hensley: Mainly what I- we bought that one for is the fact that uh.. when I'm turning my guards for my knives, I turn little acorns on the ends of 'em, and put a taper and all of that, and that's mainly what I turn on that lathe, and I turn all that freehand.

Hayes: I'm looking here at a hood. Now, when would you be - wearing this for safety?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. yes, that's a welding helmet. We do electric welding when we're putting things together, except in a few cases, we- we still forge weld. But mainly that's for eye protection and facial.

Hayes: Now, give me a little sense of what you mean by forge weld versus electric weld.

Mike Hensley: Forge welding is the process of taking two pieces of metal, and el- the molecular structure off 'em flow together like two rivers. What you do, you - have to heat it up to a certain- certain point. You don't melt it. You- it flows together under pressure.

Hayes: Interesting.

Mike Hensley: And when you start hammering, the two pieces, two separate pieces of metal will come together and make one. And there'll be no seam or anything. You cannot see where they go together.

Hayes: That's a very subtle way to do it.

Mike Hensley: Well, that's the old original way.

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: --of doing it. We uh.. the reason that we electric weld is time, basically. Because if you had to forge weld everything together uh.. the expense of the piece for the average person would be beyond impossible.

Hayes: And then electric welders got- you've got to use that hood and that's- because of the brightness, is that the-

Mike Hensley: Bright- it gives off the same rays as the sun.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness.

Mike Hensley: It'll give you a suntan, it'll- and then there's splatter that comes off with it that can burn- burn it. And the- reflection or the- if you were to look at it with your bare eyes, it will burn your eyes.

Hayes: Ouch. Now I'm looking- you've got the fire getting started there, that's great. And what is that a- has that got a forced air to blow that out?

Mike Hensley: Right. We've just got a set of blowers uhm.. Dad's blowers and my blowers are set up to run two forges, but we have 'em independent.

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: --of each other uhm.. so he has more volume of air or more pressure of air coming through, and I also do than you would get- if you split the blowers up and went into two forges at once. So we get a hotter temperature. Around the average we work around three thousand degrees. And we can make it run up to around 4500 degrees.

Hayes: What about this?

Mike Hensley: This is the same thing as the other smaller hammer. It's a power hammer, only it's run by air.

Hayes: So you're putting a piece of metal in there, and letting that extreme pressure of the machine pound on that?

Mike Hensley: Right. In other words, we can control it. If you see the foot pedal on the bottom there, we control it with- with- the way our foot makes uh.. we push up and down, that it increases the flow of air in this particular case. So that you're increasing the hammer. That head on it weighs a hundred pounds. This one will hit about uh.. between fifty five hundred and six thousand pounds per square inch.

Hayes: So this is the same efficiency compared to- where you had to do it by hand, you were just forever- is that - ?

Mike Hensley: Right, right. Well, you had strikers in- in the old shops in the- in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth century, you had what we called strikers in- in Europe - that never went beyond the striking phase. They just used uh.. sixteen pound hammer, twenty pound sledgehammers, to- to forge the larger atoms and pull the larger tapers. Then when the power hammers came along, they uhm.. we had, could get rid of- not get rid of 'em, but the- the strikers disappeared.

Hayes: Now, I'm looking here at a large arrays of hammers; I take it each one of these has a special function or size that you're trying to get to?

Mike Hensley: Not really, it just depends on what you work on. Dad really doesn't have the big hammers out. Uh.. he's got to go get his- your big shop hammer.

Hayes: Oh.

Mike Hensley: And this one that we have here is uhm.. what he plays the anvil with. Uh.. he made this one back in 1942.

Hayes: That's what he said, yeah.

Mike Hensley: Uh.. but uh.. it's kind of semi-retired. It doesn't do daily work. Uh.. of course we have the big shop hammer that uh.. we do heavier work with.

Hayes: So you're getting it hot, and then you're-

Mike Hensley: Um-hmm. We- I tell you what we'll do, uh..

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: When Dad gets- as Dad's heating this up, let me go get my hammer and uh..

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: If you want to cut it we're (inaudible). [From background] Uh.. this is the easiest and the hardest way of doing it.

[Metal working sounds and then applause]

Hayes: Paul Zarbock over there, the audience clapping.

Hayes: All right? That was wonderful! Are you guys having a musical interlude, is that what that was? I mean, there really was a rhythm and a pattern that-

Bea Hensley: That's rare (laughs).

Mike Hensley: No, it's not rare.

Zarbock: Oh, that's a first of a kind for me.

Mike Hensley: Now I'll explain to you what we were doing.

Hayes: All right.

Mike Hensley: First of all, I'll tell you, I wasn't paying any attention to it.

Hayes: (laughing).

Mike Hensley: But this- this will be a Reader's Digest version.

Hayes: All right, good.

Mike Hensley: Uh.. the oldest unwritten language in the world. I portrayed the apprentice. And for four years I spent on the apprentice side.

[Background clatter]

Hayes: Whoa.

Mike Hensley: Leave it on the floor please. Now you've broken my train of thought.

Hayes: Four years of apprentice.

Mike Hensley: Yeah. Four- I would spend four years as an apprentice, working on that side of the anvil, and in my first four years I was not allowed to speak a word. Because there are certain things that you are taught, that you cannot change. It worked that way at the foundation of the world, it'll be that way at the end of time. So uh.. it was a very, very strict order. And the guild set these up, and I'm talking about fourteenth, fifteenth century. But when they set this up, they didn't play around with it, because it was your education. And naturally, as- the younger you started, the better you'd comprehend it and go through it. So I started when I was four. Now, I started learning the language, but I didn't- dad didn't teach me formally. He allowed me to talk and ask questions. But uh.. it wasn't work, it was more like play, at four years old. But I- I was learning.

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: Now, the only thing as an apprentice that I would be allowed to do, I'm the one that sets the rhythm and pace that I want to work. About uh.. I don't do anything else. And as far as the language goes, as long as the master plays on the face of the anvil, I'm working it the way he wants me to work. But when he comes off and hits the heel, he's telling me to work his right-hand side alone.

Hayes: Oh, it's a code there.

Mike Hensley: Right. And where he hits on the heel, in front or back or anyplace in between, tells me the general area that I am to work.

Hayes: And it is so noisy that you have to have something -

Mike Hensley: You couldn't verbally. And see, the thing about it is, you're- you're talking- basically you're talking within hammer licks. So you cannot verbally say, "Hey, stop, I want you to hit here."

Hayes: Yeah, right.

Mike Hensley: So you have to know what he is saying.

Hayes: So the end of the anvil actually tells you distances that you're-

Mike Hensley: Well, it'll tell you- in other words, if I hit- if he, or I hit- if I was teaching somebody- here, I'm telling them to work closer to that, there- the edge. But as I come back uhm.. anyplace I ever hit, I come up on the piece. In other words, I'm coming up towards myself. If I'm- I'm on the master's side.

Hayes: And you're to be just continuous force where he wants it.

Mike Hensley: Right, right. In other words, you can see this one's pulled crooked. I- we used it as a demo.

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: In other words, like I say, I wasn't paying any attention.

Hayes: Oh, I see.

Mike Hensley: But then, if he switches over here to the horn, he tells me to work his left-hand side. How hard he hits the horn is how hard I want to hit. Where he hits on the horn is where I'm gonna hit, in the general area on that side.

Hayes: And when he hits in the middle, is he fine-turning what you're doing?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. that's what I'm gonna explain.

Hayes: All right, go ahead, sorry.

Mike Hensley: Now, there's one other step on the horn that uh.. I don't know- I guess you followed it- where he continually goes back and forth like this?

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: On it? He's telling me to draw it longer when he's doing that. Now, as he comes through and taps that, with that one lick he's telling me five things to do. He's telling me to hit one specific spot because I don't see what he sees. Then he tells me how hard to hit that spot, so that's what I'm doing. Now, the next portion of that, or the third portion, is he's telling me what direction that I'm to take my hammer in. The fourth and the fifth are really interrelated, and what we do, we divide our hammer places up into four quadrants. He tells me what quadrant of the face that I'm to use, plus the most important, is what angle that I am to use. That's what makes it spread or draw or whatever, is that angle and what quadrant of the face. Now, that's the language.

Hayes: Wow.

Mike Hensley: And after I have spent my four years in apprenticeship, I come on this side of the anvil and work for six years with the master. I get into the artistic course of blacksmithing. Then after my total of ten years with him on his anvil, I go to my own anvil for four more years. The work is mine but it's subject to inspection by the master. And once I'm through that, then I can go in competition, I can work with him, or I can go set up my own shop, or do whatever I want to. But if I do not complete the apprenticeship, the journeyman, the master program under that blacksmith, and I quit, and I go to another blacksmith shop, I cannot continue. The only way you can continue on is if your master dies, then you can go to another shop and pick up, and go. But that's how complicated and- it was in the fifteenth and sixteenth century.

Hayes: Well, how many true artistic blacksmiths are left in this country? I mean, what's your estimate?

Mike Hensley: I have no earthly idea. I know at one time- now, this was according to the Smithsonian, not according to me, but at one time there were only six of us left. So uhm.. and there are a lot of blacksmiths that do it as a hobby; there are a lot of blacksmiths that do it part-time. Uh.. they're- what it is uh.. there are very few people that are- there are lots of people doing it full time, but they don't do it the fifteenth and sixteenth century that Dad and I do.

Hayes: In the sense of the technique?

Mike Hensley: Well, fifteenth and sixteenth century blacksmithing is all decorative.

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: But very, very functional.

Hayes: I see.

Mike Hensley: In other words, end-irons and fire sets, we can build 'em as fancy as people want 'em, but yet they're functional in the fireplace, they're just not there for a decoration.

Hayes: Interesting. That's great.

Mike Hensley: That's me.

Bea Hensley: Tell 'em.

Mike Hensley: Well, I'm gonna tell you this, and I don't - and you can delete it, I'd rather that you delete it. But it sounds kinda like I'm braggin', but I'm not. The Smithsonian now says this, that Dad and I are the only two that know the language and the history of the language. See, this language goes back to Tubalcain, the first recorded blacksmith. I have-

Hayes: Who was that? What was it?

Mike Hensley: Tubalcain.

Hayes: Tubalcain. I'll have to look that one up.

Mike Hensley: And he's recorded in Genesis. Uh.. they're very little- there's just one- one or two sentences about him. But through uh.. Jewish history, and speaking with theologians, Jewish theologians and things like that, Jewish historians, there's a lot more to learn and know about him. Number one, he was the first man to ever make a two-edged cutting instrument. In other words, he made the first dagger. He made iron into steel. God taught him how to do that. See, his- his teacher was God. He also lived to be over seven hundred years old. So he taught a lot of blacksmiths. At the age of fifty-six, I'm a baby, you know, compared to what- if we lived to be seven hundred years old. But what I'm saying is, he's- he's our first recorded blacksmith. And this language has been handed down through the centuries from him. And uh.. it's the easiest and yet physically the hardest way of learning blacksmithing. Uh.. because once you learn how to hammer, and once you learn how to control your hammer, then you- you can make any shape that the mind can come up with. I tell students when they come in here, whether they're in kindergarten, or whether they're from universities all over the country- we do not walk on the moon, we do not have the space station, we do not have the shuttle or the rockets, nowadays, because of something that just fell out of the air. It came off of this, the anvil. Because there is no angle in the world that you cannot make on this anvil. So each round of the ladder of where we are today came off of our forefathers, that blacksmithed and add to it.

Hayes: Yeah. That's a good way to look at it. What about knives? You want to show us over here your- some of your knives here?

Mike Hensley: Oh, okay.

Hayes: While we've got you here?

Mike Hensley: This I'll show you a blade that-

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: Uh.. that I just got through buffing out. And this is not stainless steel. And it's not chrome plated. It- it looked like this or it looked like this. Now, this is the way we make our knives.

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: We start out with a bar of metal like this, hammer it down into the square like that, and then forge the blade off of that. And we actually forge the hollow grind in there. It's not ground in. And the hollow grind is what was used on straight razors that made them so thin, and so they shave good.

Hayes: Uh-huh.

Mike Hensley: But we forge that hollow grind in there. And then the only grinding that I do is to take the irregular edge also that I get this type of edge--

Hayes: Edge.

Mike Hensley: --on it. And then I start with a hundred and twenty grit sanding belts and take the fire scale off of it. And from that I go to- up to twelve hundred grit sandpaper and then scotch bright belts in my buffing wheels, and then it comes out looking like this. From this, we-

Hayes: So you can create that shine using your belts and so forth.

Mike Hensley: Right. Using nothing but buffing wheels. Then, from that, it will go- of course this is my knife, I made it back in 1994. And it's getting kind of rusty. A good knife blade, if it does not rust, is not a good knife.

Hayes: What do you mean by that?

Mike Hensley: Carbon is the only thing that you can add to a piece of metal that will make it temper. You add other things for toughness and brightness and everything. But pure carbon, like charcoal, is the only thing that you need to add to a piece of iron to make it into a piece of steel. And in that tempering process, then you harden it as hard as you want to, and that's what gives you the edge on the knife. And mine is getting rusty because I let people handle it and- and everything. But this- this is a finished knife. Actually, no two knives are alike. We still have the basic design, but each knife is made the same way, but does not have this same design.

Hayes: Now, is that design at the top- is that your personal-

Mike Hensley: This?

Hayes: Yeah, notches and so forth?

Mike Hensley: Ah, yes, that's called filework. In other words, if somebody was using this knife as a skinning knife, uh.. which I put the upsweep on it to, uh.. say, skin a deer or a bear or whatever. Uh.. when you put this filework on the back of it, and they set their hand down on it, it's not as apt to slip.

Hayes: Oh.

Mike Hensley: Because of that.

Hayes: Practical.

Mike Hensley: And it balances there and they can use it, you know, to skin or whatever.

Hayes: Now, how about that handle? That's unusual.

Mike Hensley: Well, this is sandbar stag. The sandbar is a deer in India or southeast Asia. And it's much, much harder than our whitetail or muledeer or elk. And uhm.. it makes the best handle for knives. They happen to be on the endangered species list now, but I - before they went on it, we bought uh.. a whole lot of 'em.

Hayes: Good.

Mike Hensley: So uh..

Hayes: But you can't get anymore now.

Mike Hensley: I'm- no, I can't anymore. And all of these are sheds. They're not uh.. taken off of deer that are being killed, but- they are sheds. This is the only portion I buy. Then, when somebody orders a knife from me, they tell me what they want on it uhm.. for a scene on the handle and I'll scrimshaw it in for them.

Hayes: Now, scrimshaw, you're actually- what tool are you using for that?

Mike Hensley: I actually use a engraver, just like you'd use on a gun. This is handmade.

Hayes: Interesting.

Mike Hensley: And tempered and everything. But I set it up in the graver's block here, and I've got this one just outlined. Uh.. I sketch it on there with a pencil, and then I'll take and- and use it. This will turn any direction that I want to, or any uh.. so as I'm doing the work, I can set there and turn the piece and- and make the animal or whatever I'm doing.

Hayes: Now, your dad didn't do as much scrimshaw. What got you started into this particular aspect of it?

Mike Hensley: Well, I've been able to draw all my life. I've not had any art lessons. I never had any formal education like that. But I've always been able to draw. And uhm.. I've always been interested in animals and everything, and I- that's what I prefer to do, even though I can do portraits. But I prefer to- do- you know, the- the scenes or the- there's- that one happens to be a wild turkey.

Hayes: Those are wonderful. This is an unusual one here -

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes.

Hayes: That's an unusual animal there.

Mike Hensley: (laughs)

Hayes: What is that?

Mike Hensley: This one? (laughs)

Hayes: That's a New York Yankee.

Mike Hensley: Yes, this- this particular knife I'm finishing up right now will go to George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees. And uh.. it's actually a Christmas present for him. And I will uhm.. I want- the gentleman that's buying it for him wanted me to put the New York Yankee logo in it, so-

Hayes: That's very nice.

Mike Hensley: That's what I put. Whatever- what they want.

Hayes: And you told me earlier that these are so popular that you're almost a year of orders ahead of time?

Mike Hensley: Right. It takes me generally- well I never fell under six days to do a knife.

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: And I'm- forty-two weeks behind.

Hayes: Of course, it probably doesn't help that all of these people come with cameras and interviews (laughs).

Mike Hensley: Oh, I don't mind that at all (laughs). No.

Hayes: It's six days and one camera person; otherwise it's just five days, right?

Mike Hensley: Right. Uh.. but no-

Hayes: But those are wonderful.

Mike Hensley: Thank you.

Hayes: And what about the- do you buy these--

Mike Hensley: No.

Hayes: - made by local artisans?

Mike Hensley: What, the sheathes?

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: No, I do the- everything.

Hayes: You do those too?

Mike Hensley: I do the leatherwork, I do everything that's- that- nobody touches the knife except me. Uh..

Hayes: Well, this is a wonderful piece of art. And how do you think most people- are they collectors, or-

Mike Hensley: About uh.. I- well, it's hard to put a percentage on it, but I- I would say probably roughly uh.. seventy-five percent of 'em will be used.

Hayes: Really?

Mike Hensley: Yes.

Hayes: Active in some way- hunters and skinners and-

Mike Hensley: Right. Of course, I'm pretty sure that this- this one would be a wall hanger that goes to George Steinbrenner.

Hayes: Sure, sure.

Mike Hensley: Uh.. And I'm-

Hayes: Although after the recent World Series, you know, he needs to be careful with that knife.

Mike Hensley: Right. He's gonna get it around Christmas time, so he may have settled down.

Hayes: He may settle down.

Mike Hensley: But, uh--

Hayes: For those who don't know, the Yankees, unfortunately for them, lost- was that in seven games, wasn't it? Or six?

Mike Hensley: Six.

Hayes: Six games--

Mike Hensley: Six games. Uh..

Hayes: --to the Florida Marlins. Whew. George was not happy.

Mike Hensley: George was not happy. But uh.. no, I- there are some that I have made- fathers have ordered for their small children that will be just collector's items and- and- like what I call wall hangers. Uh..

Hayes: Every knife is slightly different, and every knife takes longer time, but in today's 2003 dollar terms, how much does a knife like this?

Mike Hensley: I charge a thousand dollars for each one.

Hayes: And that's a lot of work for-

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes.

Hayes: And it's a unique piece of art.

Mike Hensley: True. Uh..

Hayes: Different than a painting or anything, as far as-- particularly the scrimshaw, I think, gives it a very personal - there's not another one like that, right?

Mike Hensley: No. Then- like I say, no two blades are exactly alike, even though they're the same design. No two handles are not alike, unless somebody- you know, like twin brothers or something like that, that they would- you know.

Hayes: Oh, so you've done a few that you've tried to make similar?

Mike Hensley: I have in-- in some aspects of scrollwork.

Hayes: Right.

Mike Hensley: I've had some people that say, Well, I don't want a scene on mine, or I don't want initials. And I have one here that- it has just the initials--

Hayes: Oh, nice.

Mike Hensley: --on it. Uhm..

Hayes: But even if you carved that again, it wouldn't come out--

Mike Hensley: Right. It won't be the same, and I- but some of 'em I have put scrollwork, nothing else, no animal scenes, no initials, it's just full of scrollwork. And uh..

Hayes: What do you mean by scrollwork? Just figures?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. it would be like an engraving on a gun, pomegranate leaves and- and flowers and-

Hayes: That goes way back to whaling times.

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes. Yeah. Yes.

Hayes: Wasn't the scrimshaw a very active hobby?

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes, yes.

Hayes: And out here, have you found in the frontier that scrimshaw on an animal horn is an art form?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. yes, very much so, because if you go back, right after the Revolutionary War, there were a lot of battles put on uh.. on the- powder horns.

Hayes: Oh, right. That's right.

Mike Hensley: So technically you- it's in the scrimshaw family.

Hayes: Right. Carving, and--

Mike Hensley: Right. And you know, they would take the - the cowhorn and- and do the whole battle scene and maps and other things like that.

Hayes: And you just find this to be one of the best mediums to work in, on this particular deer horn?

Mike Hensley: Right. Because it is hard. Uh.. the- it's much harder than, like I say, our- any of our uh.. flattail. Because if you look here, there's not much marrow inside of this.

Hayes: Oh, I see that.

Mike Hensley: And even the marrow is hard.

Hayes: Wow.

Mike Hensley: And when you do that, when you see the marrow in the edge here, but it's still hard enough that it- that it slices--

Hayes: Now how are you getting that first slice off to get the lightness?

Mike Hensley: Oh, let me show you--

Hayes: All right.

Mike Hensley: -- (inaudible) horn. If you will notice this uh.. where the eye guard comes out on the antler-

Hayes: Right, right.

Mike Hensley: You've got a- a thick, too thick, it's uncomfortable for the hand.

Hayes: Right.

Mike Hensley: So I set this up on the bandsaw, and I will slice that off-

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: --across that, so that I have a wider uh.. picture to work with.

Hayes: Okay.

Mike Hensley: And also uhm.. can get a larger scene in there than you could on a small one like this. And plus the main thing is that it's more comfortable on the hand.

Hayes: And then the original one that you were working on here - then how does that get in? I see the screw eyelets and the-

Mike Hensley: Okay, what I do, I uh.. I will set this up, and I will center- and it may not come out on center, but I center it this way, and I mark it to where this is-

Hayes: It fits the hand.

Mike Hensley: Right. And it- I slice it back in and I slide it.

Hayes: When you say slice it, are you using the saw again?

Mike Hensley: Right. I use a saw to- to slice that and take the center out, and then I take - I got some miniature rasps, wood rasps, that I go in there and I work it 'til this fits-

Hayes: Solid.

Mike Hensley: Solid in there. Well, this is too wide.

Hayes: Right.

Mike Hensley: --for that. So what I do, I'll set up and I'll take a marker and mark off where the horn is. And then I will grind this down.

Hayes: Gee.

Mike Hensley: But it's a little wider than the horn so that I can take a piece.

Hayes: Now, what about something like that? I mean, did you have to-

Mike Hensley: Well, on this, you can see here, where I -

Hayes: Oh, there, yeah, that's a good example.

Mike Hensley: Right. But what I do, I do a little different than- and then some other knife makers. I fit the metal to the horn. I don't fit the horn to the metal. In other words, all these contours, let's see if I can find a good one here. All the- you see the difference in the two horns. But all of this is not sliced out. The metal will be folded- or- polished and ground to where it fits all of this in here, not just taking that off and making it smooth.

Hayes: Gee. Yeah.

Mike Hensley: This one has contours over, and around. Now, the bottom generally comes out a little bit easier and simpler, so it's not-

Hayes: Just the way the horn-

Mike Hensley: Right. And I also- I still contour the bottom if it's necessary to fit the horn.

Hayes: Now, what about this kind of stuff here?

Mike Hensley: Okay, that was what I was telling you a few minutes ago. I turn these on a lathe.

Hayes: Oh, you turn all those yourself?

Mike Hensley: Right. I turn all this- I- all this is done by eye.

Hayes: So that's why you keep a larger piece sometimes.

Mike Hensley: Right.

Hayes: Is that one solid piece?

Mike Hensley: This is one solid piece all the way through.

Hayes: Wow.

Mike Hensley: In other words, this knife - this is the same piece of metal from here to here. I don't- I don't attach anything to it, because if I do, then I change it, and I don't want to change it.

Hayes: Those are just great. Those are just beautiful. And you wonder about- gee, what it would take you without some of the technology to help. I know it's still a hand craft, but without the technology, I just - I don't know who could make one. I mean, an artisan --

Mike Hensley: Well, you--

Hayes: Must have spent a year on a knife or something, right?

Mike Hensley: Well, not necessarily, because they had water wheels. Let's go back to the fifteenth and sixteenth century. They had water power.

Hayes: Yeah.

Mike Hensley: And- and a lot of the blacksmiths back then, of course, hammered at a blade, and they had- they made up grinding wheels. And uh.. they would sit there, and could- put the hollow grind, and they would polish it. But it turned slow, it wasn't a fast moving wheel. A fast moving wheel is not good. The slower you can turn it, and the cooler you can keep the blade, the better the temper is and everything like that. But uhm.. you have a- back then, they used sands, they used to course sand, then they'd go to- you know, medium white sand, and a lot of the swords didn't have the high polish like this. They had more of the satin finish on it.

Hayes: Right.

Mike Hensley: But still, I mean, it was utilitarian.

Hayes: I was going to say, if it did the job, is what they were interested in.

Mike Hensley: In other words, they don't have the technology, the buffing rouge and everything that we have now. But yet in their day, they had their technology.

Hayes: Yep. And they're still around- they're still collected. In museums, you see wonderful workmanship.

Mike Hensley: Right.

Hayes: Now, do you ever get called on by people to fix things? In other words, knives and so forth that are broken? I mean, I know you've got so many orders for new? But who--

Mike Hensley: Yes, we get- every once in a while, we will. But uh.. not as often as you would think, because uhm.. generally, it's- it's more on the- uh.. a kitchen knife that would be broken. A good hunting knife will last you--

Hayes: Forever.

Mike Hensley: Forever. Uh..

Hayes: Well, I can see that from the work you've done here. These are really anchored. And this - what kind of a- is this a copper-

Mike Hensley: That's copper rivets in there. And I also- I've got real high grade superglue, an epoxy type super glue--

Hayes: That axe down there.

Mike Hensley: That I- that I put on this that will bond metal to other- so when I slip it under there, I- I clamp it in the vise for twenty-four hours.

Hayes: Is that right?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. it- it- you can move it within two or three hours, but I still give it that chance because you've got a- a wide surface in there and I let it set for twenty-four hours, squeeze that tight, and then I put the rivets in there for safety's sake. Fortunately, I back before I got into this- the real high superglue and epoxies that we have now, I just rivet 'em straight and never- never put anything that.

Hayes: They still did fine.

Mike Hensley: Oh, they- I never had one come back.

Hayes: That's good. Just a second here--

Mike Hensley: This I'm proud of. I might be bragging a little on this.

Hayes: That's all right. We love bragging.

Mike Hensley: (laughs) No, I don't want to brag, but- uh.. that's- that's some of the work. Like I designed it, I built it. Dad didn't have anything to do with. This is all mine personally.

Hayes: Well, I see that you're much more willing to try kind of a complicated designs and so forth. That comes from your art?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. yes. In fact, I- the little more complicated it is, I like to do it.

Hayes: Hang on a second. I'm getting my- it's still going but- hey, the poor transcriber. We never claim to be-

Mike Hensley: When those get turned backwards, it's hard to get 'em- (laughs) any other way.

Hayes: So tell me about these gates. I mean, I'm looking at you next to- is this an owner here?

Mike Hensley: No, this is my son. You see, uh..

Hayes: Oh, your son

Mike Hensley: This is in Santa Barbara, California, where I was to installing- but the gate, in comparison to me- I'm six feet, but it's eighteen and a half feet high.

Hayes: Oh, my goodness.

Mike Hensley: And it- is a total of sixteen feet wide, both- both sections put together are sixteen--

Hayes: And this is for a house?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. actually, there's no house there.

Hayes: What?

Mike Hensley: No. The- the guy that owns it is a native North Carolinian. And he's Chancellor at University of Denver, and he lives in Denver, Colorado. And uh.. he has sixteen hundred and seventy-five acres there in Santa Barbara, about twenty thousand avocado trees. So it's an avocado ranch. And uh..

Hayes: But he doesn't live there.

Mike Hensley: No, he does not live there. This is just gonna- this is the main entrance. Uh.. all of this through here now has been poured in concrete-

Hayes: Oh, I wondered whether-

Mike Hensley: And they're- they're starting the stone work, which will take 'em two, two and a half years to do the-

Hayes: And is he gonna do-

Mike Hensley: -the stone work.

Hayes: Is he gonna do a fence around the whole thing? Or just-

Mike Hensley: No, this is just-

Hayes: -the entrance.

Mike Hensley: -this is the entrance. Uh.. it took me three years to build 'em.

Hayes: Three years?

Mike Hensley: Yeah, so I was two years in forge work and a year of putting 'em together.

Hayes: Now, here's one where you had to use that electric? When you talked earlier about-

Mike Hensley: Oh, the electric welder, yes. Oh, yes.

Hayes: Because the pieces are just too big, right?

Mike Hensley: Well, not only too big, but if you were to rivet this together, forge weld it together, band it, and things like they would have to have done in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, I wouldn't have been three years. I would probably have been five to eight years.

Hayes: And they have gates like this from that time period.

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes.

Hayes: And somebody was working that one.

Mike Hensley: But you've got to remember, in the fifteenth and sixteenth century you had your barons, you had your lords and earls and dukes and all of that. Well, they owned all the land. You were a- basically a servant to them. And if you were a blacksmith you got your home and you got some food on the table. Time didn't mean anything.

Hayes: I see these are really interesting- almost arrowpoints at the top. What was that design? Is that a leaf pattern?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. no, actually, he didn't want any leaves. I have three avocado leaves-

Hayes: I see that-

Mike Hensley: He sent me a small uh.. branch off of the avocado tree, and I made three. But he didn't want any. But uh.. when I was designing this, uhm.. I didn't do it to keep anybody out or anything like that. It was just the fact that I try to honor some people and I was honoring the Native Americans kind of with the arrowhead there because you know, that was Native American country out there before the Spaniards settled it and everything. And then the ranch is known as Rancho Ciello, so I put a uh.. the design, a Spanish flavor to the design.

Hayes: Now, how- did one piece- two pieces get shipped wholly, or did you have to put it together there?

Mike Hensley: No, I- I- everything was done here, one hundred percent here. I shipped 'em out there on a flat- flatbed tractor and trailer. Uhm..

Hayes: And the metal itself is the same as we've been looking at?

Mike Hensley: Uh.. it's- it's a mild iron. It's not the knife steel, but it's- it's mild iron.

Hayes: And will it- does he want it to naturally get to a color that's different?

Mike Hensley: No, I went back- this was year before last. Oh, no, last year, when I installed it, 2002. I went out this spring, sandblasted it and painted it. Now, the reason that I did that, I wanted it to acclimate to the climate out there. In other words, it went through their winter instead of our winter. And metal- the contraction-expansion of metal on something this large is- is great. So I wanted it to go through a summer. I went out and installed in the-- early, early spring of two thousand and two. Then I went back in the spring of two thousand three. So that puts it through a hot summer, their fall, which is not as mild-

Hayes: Not as mild, but they probably have a- moisture is different, too, right?

Mike Hensley: Right. And the- then also their wintertime. So that the metal could acclimate to the climate out there. Then when I go out, and I had it sandblasted and I painted it, it accepted everything

Hayes: What color did you -

Mike Hensley: Any color that he wanted it, as long as it was black.

Hayes: As long as it was black (laughs).

Mike Hensley: Yeah, it was black. Uh.. the stonework- well, it'd be a good contract, the total black, with-

Hayes: Did you name it? Do you have a name for it? You know, it's a piece of artwork. What's the title?

Mike Hensley: There's no title to it. It's just the gate.

Hayes: The gate.

Mike Hensley: (laughs) The gate.

Hayes: And how do you feel about taking on another big project like that? Less inclined to do that after-

Mike Hensley: I would start one tomorrow.

Hayes: Really?

Mike Hensley: Yes.

Hayes: Another big gate, or-

Mike Hensley: Oh, I'd start another one like that in a moment. I probably wouldn't start it tomorrow, I'd probably start it next week.

Hayes: Because of the creativity. Is that what-

Mike Hensley: Creativity. I love- my first love is knives. But what I'm saying is- uh.. with the gate, it's- it's diversified. In other words, I'm- anything that- Dad has taught me everything that he knows about, you know, andirons, fire sets, screens, and everything like that. But if you're doing fire sets and screens, and he loves to do fire sets, it's more just repetitive, and repetitive and repetitive. Well, the- the knives give me a chance to do artwork. And it's not repetitive by that sense. Well, a gate is not repetitive, because, again, I would not do this design. I would do equally- equal to this being fancy and everything. But uh.. as large or larger than this. Because this one was a learning experience. The next gate will actually be easier.

Hayes: Good point, yeah.

Mike Hensley: Because I had never built anything this large. See, each section of this weighs a ton.

Hayes: Oh, my gosh.

Mike Hensley: So, I mean, you're dealing with something that uh..

Hayes: And where did you end up working on it?

Mike Hensley: I was working right here in this shop. I put two foot on this side of my table, two foot on that- this table extended near what is the- what the stove is. We had to offset the stove, and extend it eighteen and a half feet.

Hayes: So you're - this was dedicated, then.

Mike Hensley: Oh, yeah.

Hayes: Did you get any knives done in that whole time period?

Mike Hensley: No, no, I did not work on any other job. Exclusive on this gate. This is what the table looked like in here.

Hayes: Isn't that interesting?

Mike Hensley: So I've got- someplace in here I've got a picture of the drawing uh.. or the table as it- now, here's a black and white photo that shows a little bit of the table, and it's hard to put the perspective on it.

Hayes: That's right. Did your customer ever get to come in the intermediate process?

Mike Hensley: Oh, yes, yes, he came and looked at it through the process.

Hayes: Oh, that's good.

Mike Hensley: This is how I originally designed it. That's my original drawing.

Hayes: That is wonderful.

Mike Hensley: I had a whole lot more to it. Because he kept saying he wanted it fancy, so-

Hayes: He wanted it-

Mike Hensley: So I got it fancy. Well- try to.

Hayes: Those are great.

Mike Hensley: I'm gonna try to find those pictures of the- it look me two and a half weeks to draw it. I drew it freehand.

Hayes: And it was the opposite? I mean, one gate has to be opposite the other, so that's a challenge to draw that.

Mike Hensley: Well, actually, I only drew one gate.

Hayes: Did you? And then you flipped it over?

Mike Hensley: You make two left- in this particular case, I made the left-hand side first, and you make two left-hand gates and when I made two left-hand gates, I had to change four pieces on it. There were four rosettes that I made for it- I've got some more pictures here somewhere.

Hayes: Oh, that's all right.

Mike Hensley: But anyway, I- I set up, and I knew where every scroll was going and everything.

Hayes: And your sense is that a thousand years from now, unless somebody causes trouble, that gate's going to be there.

Mike Hensley: I hope I see it a thousand years from now (laughs).

Hayes: I'm just saying -

Mike Hensley: No, with gentle maintenance on it-

Hayes: With taking care and painting on it- the steel will just stay.

Mike Hensley: Right. Uh.. the one reason- and it was an important reason- the reason that I had it hauled out there rusty like you see the pictures of it was the fact that when you are sanding it and cleaning it up where the welds and everything goes, you get- it's slick. And paint won't adhere to that slick surface. So I let it rust to open up the pores of the metal so that it would accept the paint better. And then when I had sandblasted, of course the pores-

Hayes: And who did the work out there?

Mike Hensley: I did.

Hayes: Oh, you sandblasted it-

Mike Hensley: Well, I had it sandblasted.

Hayes: Right. And then you did the painting of it.

Mike Hensley: I did the painting, yes.

Hayes: What technique did you use for that?

Mike Hensley: I used a spray gun.

Hayes: Good. And how many coats did you end up using?

Mike Hensley: Oh, I think there's about eight to ten coats on each gate.

Hayes: Eight to ten coats. You know, while I'm looking back here, you mentioned the stove- is that just heat, or is that actually-

Mike Hensley: No, that's heat.

Hayes: Okay. (laughs)

Mike Hensley: Some want heat on cold days. You burn up here in the wintertime- or, summertime, and you freeze in the winter. 'Cause once you get all this metal in here, the tables and everything.

Hayes: I mentioned to your dad the seasons, and he said, "Well, as long as you're working by the furnace it's okay in the winter. But boy, you step a few feet away and is it cold."

Mike Hensley: I'll put it this way. While I was working on this gate, there were days that I walked in and you could touch it and your hand would stick to it. So you didn't do much work--

Hayes: Now, I see a gas tank over there.

Mike Hensley: That's oxygen and acetelyne. I use that for cutting on things or if I need- well, particular on this gate- there were some scrolls that would draw with me after I had welded them and everything and I could heat 'em with it and bring 'em back in- tweak 'em back into place.

Hayes: And how about this unusual kind of millwork there. is that a sculpture, or- ?

Mike Hensley: No, no, that's my power hammer. I've just now found the pulley for it. That -

Hayes: Are you going to revive that, are you?

Mike Hensley: That actually is the hammer that did the Williamsburg work here--

Hayes: Oh, interesting. Now, what year was that? He wasn't sure.

Mike Hensley: Well, they started in 1926, and naturally Dad didn't- wasn't old enough, but that's Kelp's and Lawrence and Daniel and all of those guys. Uh.. then he- he started working on it in - the mid '40's.

Hayes: Mid-40's, is that so? And then he just kept going?

Mike Hensley: See, it went on up into- well, actually it's a continuation now, but I'm talking about as far as the wrought iron work, it was finished up in- in '50, '51, something like that, '52.

Hayes: Do they ever come back for small pieces, or-

Mike Hensley: The last order they wanted uh.. from us was forty thousand pieces, and we told him we couldn't count that high.

Hayes: Oh, my gosh.

Mike Hensley: So I mean, you know- you- you give up individual customers to do that.

Hayes: That's right. You would be years doing that.

Mike Hensley: And so we just don't uh.. we do restoration work for individuals, but as far as something like Old Salem, where they would want hundreds of pieces.

Hayes: You know, you become a factory, and that's what you and your dad don't want to be, right?

Mike Hensley: I do not. I do not.

Hayes: You're an artist.

Mike Hensley: Well, I consider myself a blacksmith first and then an artist second.

Hayes: All right. Or even- I've used the term artisan. Which I think is kind of a nice combination-

Mike Hensley: It is.

Hayes: -because it's higher- in the middle ages, it went on a higher level than just your regular person. You could have great blacksmiths, but only a certain few were recognized as an artisan - artist.

Mike Hensley: One thing I didn't tell you when I was- when we did the language there and everything- about how the- at one time they were very specialized blacksmiths. Blacksmiths encompasses a great- great big overall scene. Uh.. the television concept of blacksmith, and most people's concept of blacksmith is a horseshoer. My- my- well, he's a ferrier. Uh.. you have wheelwrights, that make nothing but wagons and wagon wheels. Uh.. in the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth century you have your armors, that make nothing but the Armor. You have cutlery specialists that mainly did household utensils, and then you had your bladesmiths that did the swords and spears and knives. Uh.. you had clocksmiths, and we're not talking about mantle clocks, we're talking about the big clocks- Big Ben- Big Ben type clocks. Those were made by blacksmiths. Uh.. then you had the divisions of goldsmiths, silversmiths, pewtersmiths, all of that. Uh.. --

Hayes: Which are really blacksmiths, they're just using -

Mike Hensley: Right. I mean, it- it's- they're working in a different medium. But basically they have the apprenticeship and everything, and a lot of them, you know, would- would not want to continue on with iron. They liked to work gold better, or they worked silver better, and things like that, because it was softer. Uh.. see, there were those divisions of blacksmiths that- that specialized in- in a different field altogether. But uh..

Hayes: And what did you particular kind of- the mantel and the decorative- did that have a particular name that you've found?

Mike Hensley: Actually, that was- that was blacksmith.

Hayes: That was blacksmith.

Mike Hensley: That was the blacksmith.

Hayes: But it was kind of a high end of the blacksmith.

Mike Hensley: Right, right.

Hayes: And then you would work over into jewelers and specialties. And there was probably some that even worked on instruments, right? Musical instruments?

Mike Hensley: Oh, yeah. Well, basically the blacksmith- and I keep referring back to the fifteenth and sixteenth century, you know, it's- that's- that's the Renaissance period where- where the art begins to grow and things like that. You uhm.. and the artist- uh.. the blacksmith that was the practical blacksmith that made the plowshares and plowpoints and- and shod the oxen, horses and all of that, they begin to branch and... and got their art freedom to go over into doing more artistic work. Uh.. in that particular time period, uh.. they... they kind of developed four of the finer arts of the gold and the silver, because the lords and the earls were wanting things gilted and- and- and- the silver knives for- See, when I say a- a- a blacksmith that did cutlery, I'm not talking about necessarily out of steel. He's doing it out of silver. Or, or gold, and, and making knives and forks. We're not talking about just something- he also made the kitchen tools, I mean, to slice the bread or carve what they're going to eat or whatever. But I'm talking about he got into the refined end of where they had the big banquets and things like that. And they were making plates and all of this. So it's just not like you're uh.. if you're a cutlery specialist in blacksmithing, that you're just making hum-drum knives for the kitchen and everything. They were artists.

Hayes: Those are collected now and in museums and-

Mike Hensley: Right.

Hayes: -beautiful work on it - kind of like your scrimshaw, that detail almost, some of them.

Mike Hensley: Um-hmm, oh, yes. And see, then they have evolved, in the engraving. And the armors, when they made the armor- I'm talking- I'm saying the showpiece armor that you find in the halls in England and France and all of that, so they started etching and engraving them and everything like that. So they were getting into artistic-

Hayes: That's right.

Mike Hensley: But everything's got a practicality to it.

Hayes: Yeah, I think that's the key. There are metal workers who are metal artists that don't make any claim to practicality. And that's not you. You and your dad make practical things that are beautiful, functional, and wonderful. Listen, thank you very much.

Mike Hensley: You're welcome.

Bea Hensley: I'm cheatin' a little bit.

Hayes: All right.

Zarbock: The question I asked was how do you get that leaf look?

Mike Hensley: That's what I'm going to show you. If you were wanting a candleholder like that, you will see the exact way that that leaf is being made right now.

Hayes: All right, great. We're going to be getting a candleholder for UNCW. And he's going to show us part of that technique.

Zarbock: Never learned so much in such a short period of tome in years and years.

Mike Hensley: That's- I'll kind of explain to you what he's doing and why he's doing certain things. Uh.. we hammer with a basic rhythm all the time. And you guide the very first lick.The rest of it just flows, because you're looking at the piece and all of that. But if you need to look over the piece of metal a little bit longer, then in between hammer hits [sound of hammering] which he'll be doing here just in a second- you can add the (inaudible) and look at it, and see where you want to guide that (inaudible) right there. And that's what he's doing. He wanted to see how far he's going to (inaudible) that out, and drive that very first lick, and that's (inaudible) it's not right. Now, that's being a ham.

Hayes: I see that. I'm glad you said that, not me.

Mike Hensley: I tell people that he does the ham work and I do the hammering.

Hayes: (laughs).

Zarbock: Are the two of you going to be working on this?

Mike Hensley: No. Just Dad. I'm through.

Zarbock: (laughs)

Mike Hensley: No, now a striker would, but- but a master never touches- in other words, a master doesn't touch another master's hammers. If- and a master- the only time I ever work with dad (inaudible) is when we're putting on a demonstration or we're making these hammers.

Hayes: I have five more minutes on here.

Mike Hensley: You might cut it except- right now he's going to be hammering, but- because the metal that we have now is very hard, and it takes him a whole lot longer to do 'em than it used to. Uh.. so much of it is recycled, which is good.

Hayes: So it's a different metal than-

Mike Hensley: Oh, yeah. Ten or fifteen, twenty years ago, thirty years ago, it was very pliable


#### End of Tape 2 ####

Mike Hensley: If you look back to when dad and I were hammering together you have to learn basic shapes. You have to learn how to guide that hammer and turn it and twist and that's the reason that we show the between the two, master and the apprentice, the language that you have to learn in order to make th-the once you become a master to make the different forms and the different shapes that you have.

Hayes: But you don't have another apprentice coming along?

Mike Hensley: No because Uncle Sam says I have to pay a person to learn.

Bea Hensley: The reason German people used to have apprenticeship, we used to have that. We lost it.

Hayes: And there is no place for someone to go and get some of the basics and then come here?

Mike Hensley: Oh yes. There's schools. Johnson Campbell Folk School over at Bryson...

Bea Hensley: Marvelous school.

Mike Hensley: They try to teach it. You know, it's hard to teach 30 years of experience in 4 to 6 weeks.

Hayes: That's the problem you know.

Bea Hensley: Uh.. So Uncle Sam says I have to employ somebody here.

Mike Hensley: Well, teachers don't employ students. Students pay teachers and we- we don't have that system here in America anymore.

Bea Hensley: I told them (inaudible) young people back in the '40s run the machines (inaudible).

Mike Hensley: Now that was under the GI Bill.

Bea Hensley: Yeah under the GI Bill. We made good and they had good jobs.

Hayes: Yeah. Lathe operator.

Mike Hensley: (metal banging noise) Uh.. We put veins an- and depending on what leaf we are doing uh.. we actually tool'em in, hammer'em in or I engrave them depending on what leaf we are working on.

Hayes: And the term engraving indicates a different tool or...

Mike Hensley: Right.

(metal banging noise)

Bea Hensley: Don't tell on them. I've got some of my first.

Mike Hensley: That's one thing I've never done. Every piece that I've done first I've kept it. Except for the gates, I couldn't afford to keep it. I have done gates prior to this just not that good.

Zarbock: You know the beautiful thing is the archwork over the gate, it is really nifty.

Mike Hensley: That one you saw in the book, that took about 10 minutes to design that gate.

Zarbock: How did he get in touch with you, the owner?

Mike Hensley: Well, uh.. we have done work for him before.

(metal banging sounds)

Zarbock: And no angle known cannot be replicated?

Mike Hensley: Every angle is in the geometric, I mean, or can be duplicated on that anvil [ph?].

(metal banging sound)

Hayes: You don't want to do arm wrestling right?

Mike Hensley: I'll put it this way, I'll watch how I hit. (laughs) All he's doing right now is just getting fire scale [ph?] off of it. All of the rest of this in here when he gets cold it's like a refrigeration in here.

Zarbock: (clapping) And that's how you do it.

Hayes: Bravo, I love it.

Mike Hensley: This is an old Chinese custom called Tuning.

Zarbock: Getting your balance just right?

Mike Hensley: Yes.

(metal banging sound)

Mike Hensley: This was a warm up exercise. During cold mornings and everything and Dad would never let anyone see him do it and he was down at the State Fair one, well I guess his first year and then I joined him later but anyway he, they started a band that was somewhere in behind the ________________...

Bea Hensley: (inaudible)

Mike Hensley: Well, anyway they had a band behind them and they started playing Alexander's Rag Time Band but dad just started doing this but after that it's been downhill ever since.

[melodic metallic sounds]

Hayes: Bravo!

#### End of Tape 3 ####

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