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From the Frontier to Urban Forge — Blacksmithing With Historic Arkansas Museum

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In Arkansas PBS-original production “Urban Forge: Ozark Artistry,” we’ve explored how Arkansas artisans are keeping ancient crafts alive — from the forge to finishing — with the smiths themselves and with historians. But Mountain View isn’t the only place in Arkansas you can dive into blacksmithing!

Our friends at the Historic Arkansas Museum and master blacksmith Lin Rhea are making a deeper dive into the historic process possible with a step back in to The Natural State’s Frontier history.

Lin Rhea — who’s from Prattsville, Arkansas — is the museum’s resident historic blacksmith. And, luckily for all of us, he’s sharing his knowledge not only at the museum but with online demonstrations. Some things we might never give a second thought — nails, anyone? — required a great deal of work before industrialization, and Mr. Rhea takes us inside the making of everyday and amazing pieces with a series of videos.

Making a Tools With Historic Arkansas Museum

During the Arkansas Territorial Period, a blacksmith was an incredibly important person to have around. In the Historic Arkansas Museum Blacksmith Shop, Lin Rhea creates items the same way they would have been made in the 1800s. Take a deep dive into the making of a chain in this video:

In addition to the making of everyday tools — from chains and nails to hooks and horseshoes and hooks — frontier era smiths also forged flashier necessities, like knives — including Arkansas’s famous Bowie knife!

Master blacksmith Lin Rhea is also a master bladesmith and has made knives that renowned for their craftsmanship and unique design.

But you don’t have to take our word for it! Mr. Rhea is a member of the Antique Bowie Knife Association, American Bladesmith Society and Custom Knives Collectors Association, the 2018 John White MS Memorial Best Bowie Award-winner and well-known for his unique, one-piece “X-Rhea” knife forged from carbon steel.

Join him in the Historic Arkansas Museum Blacksmith Shop for a quick demonstration on how to make a knife using 19th century techniques:

Videography courtesy of Leon Tidwell

You can see a variety of other demonstrations by Lin Rhea with the Historic Arkansas Museum on their Facebook and YouTube accounts or visit the museum for self-guided tours in person Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Plus, take a closer look at how these historic techniques are being used today to create heirloom-quality pieces in “Urban Forge: Ozark Artistry” online anytime at or tune in for rebroadcasts with us over the air.


“Urban Forge: Ozark Artistry”

Wednesday, Dec. 9, 9 p.m. — AR PBS-1

Thursday, Dec. 10, 1 p.m. — AR PBS-CREATE

Saturday, Dec. 12, 8:30 p.m. — AR PBS-1

Sunday, Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m. — AR PBS-1