LOST PROCESS: Mick Cole snared a hand forge from the 1880s at the weekend auction.
LOST PROCESS: Mick Cole snared a hand forge from the 1880s at the weekend auction. Elyse Wurm

Reviving a forgotten art

WANDERING around the Allora Showgrounds on auction day is like taking steps back in time.

Before finding their way under the hammer, most of the pieces on display have lived many lifetimes, giving a glimpse into what life was like before automation and computers came into play.

Admiring machinery from yesteryear is one thing, but knowing how to use it is another.

It was lucky when Mick Cole spotted a hand forge, he knew just what to do with it.

Forging is a form of metal work, where steel is heated up to make instruments such as knives and axes.

Having worked under a blacksmith and being a keen forger for many years, Mr Cole was keen to get his hands on the machine.

"It's a dying art, a lot of knowledge is lost,” he said.

"It used to be common but not so much any more.”

Mr Cole appreciated the value in recycling pre-loved materials because he knew they could still produce great work when in the right hands.

"A lot of stuff goes to scrap which is criminal,” he said.

The hand forge was starting to show its age, looking a little tarnished on its wobbly legs.

Mr Cole estimated it had been around since the 1880s, so it was understandable it was showing a little wear.

But that wasn't enough to put off this keen bidder from making the machine his, getting it for a bargain price of $110, with some tools for an extra $55.

A small crack in the bowl could be the reason the price stayed low according to Mr Cole.

"A lot of people see that it's a crack in cast iron and think it's too hard to fix,” he said.

"But you can weld it back together.”

A following for forging might not be entirely visible, but the necessity of the skill was certainly unquestionable.

Mr Cole creates feeders and gates for Darling Downs Zoo, a testament to the strength and quality of the metalwork he produces.

He believed there was no compromising the value of products created using this old-fashioned technique.

"When things are mass produced you might get it cheaper but you won't get the quality,” he said.

Mr Cole said he could be questioned about his pricing, which was often a little higher than products people sourced from overseas.

But while the option was there to pay less now, it was no guaranteed saving, he said.

"They do pay more in the long run but they don't realise,” he said.

Living close by in Allora, Mr Cole was eager to resettle the piece in its new surroundings.

A little like the art he loved so much, he did so the traditional way of wheeling the piece home.



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