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Bill Knorr portrays blacksmith

Bill Knorr has a pretty good idea how challenging life was in Rough and Ready during the 1850s.

Portraying a 19th century blacksmith at the Rough and Ready Secession Day Celebration for the past 18 years, Knorr has broken plenty a sweat in making nails, bolts and horseshoes with 19th century tools.

“There’s no comparison for how hard it was for them back then,” said Knorr, a Yuba City welder and business owner.



Without electric drills, for example, 19th century blacksmiths used drill hammers to make even the smallest holes for nails, Knorr said.

As Knorr will demonstrate this Sunday, blacksmiths made all building materials using hammers, anvils and bellows. When a new town would emerge, Knorr pointed out, the blacksmith shop was the first to open. Without the luxury of modern technology, the blacksmiths even made their own charcoal – an intricate process that required plenty of experimentation to produce the right quality for heating metals, he said. This Sunday, Knorr will use charcoal he made at home during the past month.




Knorr first became interested in blacksmithing nearly 20 years ago.

“Once I started actually building things, it got me wondering how blacksmiths used to build without modern tools,” he said.

In addition to demonstrations at Secession Day, Knorr also presents 19th century blacksmithing at Rough and Ready’s Chili Cook-Off in September. This Sunday, Knorr will make souvenir horseshoes, hooks and personalized copper plates “the way they did it back then,” he said.

“Visitors just love it when I show them how things were made and kids love to pump the air bellow,” Knorr said. “Everybody loves to hear the anvil ring.”

– Alex Wagner


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