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Blacksmith melds past with the present:Welder by trade, Crumpler metal work turns into art

JESSE CAMPBELL/AMT
Mark Legge prepares work on his next creation from the comfort of his Crumpler shop.



Originally published: Jan. 3, 2013
Last modified: Jan. 3, 2013

Jesse Campbell

Mark Legge has always found enjoyment tinkering, hammering and reshaping metal. 


Whether it is through blacksmithing by his fire stoked forge in a small red shop near his Crumpler home, or putting together pieces of discarded rakes and propane tanks to form decorative landscape pieces, Legge has pretty much done it all. 


As a 9-year-old, Legge could be found in his neighbor's backyard taking apart and reassembling his bicycle. 


No matter what the task at hand, Legge just found genuine satisfaction working with his hands and exploring his creativity in the industrial arts. 


After high school, he earned his welding certification and moved into an industrial setting and factories where he found readily available work for his skills in metal works. 


He remained in the contained, controlled environment for decades before he finally broke loose in favor of a setting that allowed his artistic side to flair.  


About 10 years ago, Legge took up blacksmithing, which he said has become a lost art. 


Until then, Legge primarily worked with the blow torch as a welder, so transitioning to the old fashioned style of shaping and bending metal that harkened to the period when the hammer and anvil dominated was indeed a different pace.  


“It was a big learning curve,” said Legge on tackling the more archaic form of metal work. “Sort of like stepping back in time.”


Soon he began crossing over traditional works, like blacksmithing, and more modern forms of metal fabricating, like welding, to tame his artistic desires and continue to push the boundaries of what constituted art. 


After a while, he began to turn out metal turtles, chickens, and frogs that could adorn and add flair to about any style of home. 


A skilled bike builder, Legge used his trade skills to form, bend and twist protective pieces for his built from scratch motorcycle. 


He continued toying with various side projects in his home while keeping his nine-to-five job, but always dreaming of a time when he could branch off and turn a hobby into a career. 


Then, while working as a machinist at GE Aviation in West Jefferson, he finally decided to just “go for it.”


“The more I got involved with it (metal works), the more I decided it was what I wanted to do,” said Legge while eyeing his latest works from his metal building that sits hidden above a hill on Highway 16. 


First came a vision. Then a name, and later a matter of implementing what he wanted to do. 


As of Tuesday, Legge has launched Black Anvil Welding & Blacksmithing, LLC, which is located near his home just off the South Overpass Ramp in Crumpler. 

His vision?


To provide practical forms of metal fabricating while incorporating his artistic flair to sell his passion to whomever his work speaks to. 


His friend, Mark Blevins, lets him roam freely at Rainbow Recycling as he searches for landfill destined pieces of metal that he plans to give new life to in his next creation. 


“There's no better feeling than taking nothing and turning it into something,” boasted Legge. “The more I do wit it, the more I become enlightened.”

Legge has mastered the art turning the obscure into something defining, meaningful and unique. 


For his metal chickens and turkeys, he turned pliers into beaks and rakes into tail feathers. The bottom of a propane tank became a safe and cozy shell for his tin man turtle. 


Legge also wants to give back to his trade.


He welcomes the opportunity to pass on what he knows about blacksmithing, so the trade never truly dies out. 


“With the knowledge I got and if someone wants it, I am more than happy to help them out anyway I can,” said Legge. “I'm already seeing the welding beginning to become phased out with this next generation.”


Most importantly, however, Legge, like any man who is trying to make a living in an unforgiving economy, he is just happy to be doing something that he loves. 

“I will enjoy this venture so much because I don't see it as a job,” said Legge. 


 
For more information and stories, see Ashe Mountain Times.