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Oaks Bottom Forge teaches old world knife-making

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Blacksmith Tom Myers fires up the forge for a class. Many people are reviving “old world” crafts, as a way to revive pride in artistry, and self-sufficiency.

Oaks Bottom Forge is the latest local business that addresses this trend.

The business, located at 8236 S.E. 17th Avenue in Sellwood, comprises two classrooms and two tool rooms, and teaches beginning blacksmithing, knife building, and beginning woodworking. Passersby can watch lessons in progress from the sidewalk through the front windows.

Owner Pat Wojciechowski graduated from Ringling School of Art, and began a long and varied career in graphic design, and other art pursuits. He learned about knife-making in a blacksmithing class taught by Master Carpenter and Blacksmith Tom Myers. Three years ago, Wojciechowski began making and selling hand-finished knives that he hoped would be destined to become heirlooms.

Soon he couldn’t keep up with all the requests. After encouragement from his nephew Mason, he decided to expand from a one-man craft operation to a team facility called Oaks Bottom Forge.

He started the business out of a desire to create art that is both beautiful and functional. Now he's assembled a talented “family” of eight teacher-craftsmen to instruct students in the art of making hand-forged custom knives for hunting and kitchen use.

“We sell a lot of fishing knives and custom mushroom harvesting knives, as well as knife kits for those who want to make their own,” says Wojciechowski. “Our staff here consists of several trained blacksmiths, wood specialists, and others, who do steel-tempering and finish work on handles. We use local wood and antlers for the handles.

“We also make coat hooks, kitchen racks, garden and fireplace tools, and can do custom work by request. Currently we’re designing several lines of unique knives for organizations such as Trackers.”

Manager Whitney Mount is an experienced farrier who spent six years shoeing horses in Virginia. Other instructors include Wayne Dillon, who has taught blacksmithing for ten years; Tom Myers, who taught woodworking and blacksmithing at the Portland Waldorf School for 21 years; and Meyers’ sons Justin and Corbin, both wood shop teachers.

Beginning blacksmithing classes cover the fundamentals of shaping, forming, tapering, flattening, twisting, and punching metal. Weekly knife building classes teach creation of custom knives and handles. “Beginning Woodworking” covers tools and techniques used to construct slab wood furniture, including power tools. Classes are limited to six students, to afford one-on-one instruction. Students are provided safety glasses, gloves, and aprons, and materials are also supplied.

Wojciechowski explains, “It is our vision that Oaks Bottom Forge will become a cornerstone of the community; offering workshops, providing a quality product, and breathing life into an art that is as powerful as it is beautiful.” The business is open Monday through Friday 8 am-6 pm, and weekends from 10 am-6 pm. Phone 503/477-7498 for information, or to register for classes.