Traditional Blacksmithing with Juan Holbrook

Dirty, Filthy Fun, Exploring New Techniques, Inspiration, News from the Shop

This summer has been full of learning! Because the shop hasn’t been packed full of giant projects I’ve been able to dabble in new techniques and teach lots of  workshops to others, but I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from a fellow smith who’s been in the game much longer than me.

Meet Juan Holbrook. Juan is a blacksmith who got his start in Chile as a young man. He specializes in traditional joinery and has a gorgeous home full of hand-forged furniture and decorations that showcase his passion for ornate scroll work, collared connections, and mortise and tenons joinery.

Juan has invited me to spend a couple afternoons in his shop, here in Gainesville, and learn some of these techniques.  Thumbs up! AND I’m going to let you in on a secret: Juan has an air conditioned shop! Double thumbs up!

Lesson #1 Collaring.  I didn’t snag pictures from that session but snapped a pic of our practice piece (a nice bundle of forged prairie grass I had laying around in the shop).


Lesson #2 Mortise and Tenon Joinery.  Scroll down and check out the process.


Juan lit up his coal forge and we got to work!


For this project we were working with 1/2″ solid square bar.

We punched a hole in the bar with this chisel.


Then we opened up the hole by passing this drift through the chiseled opening.

(sorry, no pictures of this step)


Once the Mortise was ready we moved on to the Tenon.

First step was to make a sharp shoulder on the square bar where the tenon would begin.


With the shoulder identified we were able to draw out the tenon to the right thickness.


This tool helped us sharpen up that shoulder we had set in the beginning.




Now it was time to connect the pieces!

Juan used a right angle to clamp everything together.

Then he heated up the end of the tenon with a torch and hammered it down like a rivet head.


The end product is a really handsome connection!

Don’t you think?

Posted by

I create large metal sculptures for public art, smaller items for you and your home, and teach hands on metal workshops in Gainesville, FL. Visit