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Forging High Design in the High Desert
by Mindy Lyman
Our field trip to Ponderosa Forge & Iron Works began with a ride on the Green Energy Transport Bus. Riders enjoyed drinks, snacks and cool air while we relaxed on our way to Sisters, OR. On our arrival we are welcomed by Ponderosa employee, Chris, who gave us a tour of the showroom. The showroom was filled with intriguing artifacts; fireplace sets, door and cabinet hardware, wine racks, bar stools, towel racks and more. The showroom highlight was a hand forged fireplace screen with removable parts and pieces allowing you to design your own screen by trying out different handles and decorative elements.
In the iron work shop, HDDC members gathered around as Chris introduced us to the various tools and machinery. The collection of custom made tools was impressive. Tools made of carbon steel have been customized over the years by the owner of Ponderosa, Jeff Wester, with ingenuity and an engineer's mindset. Huge power hammers and drills, some of which date back to the early 20th century, are still used at Ponderosa Forge.
In the propane-fired forge, iron stock is heated red hot to 2000 degrees. Chris bare handedly pulled the cool end of the heated bar out of the blazing fire and began hammering. A few minutes of hard work and he had shaped the heated iron bar into a decorative leaf. This glimpse into the ancient art of forging gave HDDC members a unique insight into how these decorative and useful items are made. For professionals making decisions about interiors, understanding where products and materials come from helps make informed decisions as well as opens the door to customizing solutions or creating one-of-a-kind pieces. The HDDC's visit to Ponderosa Forge & Iron Works was a valuable experience.