Pictured Above: Ted Shanks, owner of Kipu Forge, makes a horseshoe in his blacksmithing shop.
Photo Credit: Jessica Else / The Garden Island
Cowboy poet, farrier and blacksmith, Ted Shanks loves metal almost as much as he loves the Bible.
He’s the owner of Kipu Forge, a blacksmithing company that provides a wide range of metal-work for craftsman, galleries, architects and homeowners. He’s been pounding metal for almost 40 years.
He makes indoor and outdoor railings, bed frames, gates, and once in a while, he shoes a horse. He makes his own blacksmithing and farrier tools and, while he can and does use some snazzy new technology, Shanks prefers to use old school methods.
What kinds of things do you make?
We make our own farrier tools, so we sell those and I make them for myself to use, too. I also do wrought-iron gates and railings, and I make horseshoes, too.
I’m in an area (on Kauai) where metal isn’t really the most desired thing because of the humidity. It rusts. But, I work with aluminum, which doesn’t rust, so that makes my stuff more marketable in Hawaii.
Sometimes I shoe horses, too. Like I was just over on Maui shoeing Oprah Winfrey’s horses.
I hear you offer apprenticeships?
Apprenticeships with me last for 5 years and I think I’m done doing them. I like to build into people’s lives, though. I always like my apprentices to have a stake. For instance, on your first day we’d make something and then a couple days later, you’ll make another one and I’ve seen grown men cry because the second one they made is awesome compared to the first one.
I’m all about having celebrations of your successes.
I also like to tell my students not to be ignorant. That translates into life in general, too. They always get mad when I say it, but really think about the word: ignorant. It means to ignore something. That means you know the right way to do it, but you’re willfully not doing that.
When my apprentices keep making the same mistakes, I tell them to stop being ignorant. Think about what you’re doing and make the right corrections so you can do it right.
Another thing I tell them is always to watch your work. If you’re creasing a horseshoe, and you’re making that groove that you see in the horseshoe, you’re watching your work. If you’re just pounding that thing, it’s not going to be straight.
Learning how to be a blacksmith the way I teach it, it’s not just about learning how to be a blacksmith. I tell my apprentices that they can make something of themselves. It all starts with blacksmithing and learning the techniques, putting sweat and hard work into something, and then it goes into every other area of your life.
What else do you like to do?
My favorite thing in the world is the Bible. I like to read it and discuss it above everything else. I’m also a cowboy poet and I go to conventions and do cowboy poetry and blacksmithing demonstrations sometimes.