For blacksmith Brandon Dearing, working with his hands is in his blood.
A third-generation craftsman, Dearing grew up in the country and, as a child, worked on small projects like knife making alongside his woodworker father, who makes antique reproductions.
When he was fourteen, Dearing began taking knife making lessons from a local bladesmith, which helped expand and diversify his skillset. As Dearing grew older, he developed skills in woodworking, leatherworking and blacksmithing.
“The people that are in blacksmithing have devoted their lives to it,” Dearing says. “They’re very generous with their time teaching people, and I just think that’s really cool because I’ve been a beneficiary of that. I love being able to pay that forward with other people as well.”
However, Dearing’s life changed in November of 2019 when he was bladesmithing and nearly lost his shop—and his life.
On a frigid winter day, Dearing made a small fire to keep warm while working in his uninsulated shop. Embers set fire to his clothes, and he was engulfed in flames.
“I had seen my dad lose everything in a shop fire and he had to start his business from scratch,” Dearing says. “So I knew how difficult that was. I was just determined in my mind I was not going to let that happen.”
In the chaos of the fire, Dearing ran into the blade he was sharpening that was locked in a vice. The impact caused the knife to bend. Doctors told him if it had gone in a half-inch above, it would’ve stabbed into Dearing’s heart and killed him. Working with the power of adrenaline in what Dearing calls a “really intense minute and a half of my life,” he pulled the blade out of his chest and continued trying to put out the fire with water from a nearby frozen pond. Luckily, Dearing’s neighbor saw the fire and rushed him to the hospital, where he later underwent two skin-graft surgeries.
After that traumatic event, Dearing switched focus and began learning how to hand-make the tools that blacksmiths use, like hammers and tongs. His business, Hand and Hammer, was born.
“I love the ability to make things on my own and give them to somebody and put my mark on it,” Dearing says. “I just really like being able to create a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Dearing now teaches blacksmithing classes. He says it’s exciting to be able to pass on knowledge like his teachers did for him. Recently, he began working with metals, and he even created his own wedding ring.
Along with his blacksmithing classes, in the summer, Dearing hopes to begin silver and goldwork classes catered to people getting married so they can create their own rings for the big day.
“I just love the idea of being able to make your own ring, have it in your ceremony and what that represents,” Dearing says. “You heat the metals and almost melt them together into one piece. I love the symbolism of that with marriage—two becoming one.”