By Shirley Shuman
After retiring from 37 years of work as an industrial sandblaster and painter, Joey Browining has found something he truly enjoys. Following a time of observation, reading, and other preparation, he decided to become a blacksmith. Browning likes working in his own shop located in the Chapel area to forge several different products, mostly custom-made to fit a buyer’s preferences.
This blacksmith, recently featured on Travel West Virginia on WCHS, makes everything in the traditional manner. “I don’t like working with the press or other quick methods. Working in the traditional manner to create something is more my style,” Browning explained. He likes to hand forge whatever he’s working on. “Lots of people want the handmade stuff,” he noted.
Although he prefers making axes, tomahawks, and hatchets, Browning has made a variety of other things, including tables which have mild steel frames with wood tabletops. He also works to fit each customer’s order. “People send me pictures of what they want me to make, and I make it as close to that as I can,” he said. The finished product isn’t always an exact match to the picture or description the customer has provided, but it’s always close enough that the individual is satisfied.
Asked about the amount of work he does, Browning explained that “work comes and goes” and added, “I make a lot of stuff where they want to sell it,” he said, and noted that he goes to the Bulltown reenactments where he demonstrates—and sells, different things.
Browning became interested in this work after he “watched people making stuff and enjoyed it.” His interest was so strong he decided to try it himself, and he went about learning through apprenticeship. “I did 90 hours of work, all hands on, during that time,” he said. “Now,” he added, “I do classes myself occasionally.” His work as a blacksmith came following a thirty-plus job at something else, but it may well be the one meant for him. Joey Browning plans to continue forging objects the old-fashioned way in his shop to his and his customers’ satisfaction.