HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- It’s an unmistakable soundtrack in the Lakeside neighborhood of Henrico County. Clanking, banging and thumping coming from the home on Lakeside Boulevard is noise to many. But it is sweet music to Roger Smith’s ears.
“You turn it on and you hear it come to life. Things start moving,” said Smith. “It is music to me. It is like having my own little band in here. It is like a pulse.”
Smith gets filthy in what he calls the ultimate man cave.
“Everything in here will have dirt or grease.”
He breathes new life into the ancient craft of blacksmithing.
“I love it. I love the industrial era,” said Smith.
Smith hammers searing wrought iron into gates, railings and furniture.
“I love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Smith. “It is making a comeback.”
The Varina native got hooked when visiting an exhibit at the Smithsonian as a young boy.
“I was obsessed with it. Stood there for 30 minutes,” he recalled. “The teacher had to come and get me and drag me away from it.”
The mechanically minded Air Force veteran loves creating with his hands.
“And I’m always adding more instruments that is one of the goals. Can never have enough machines,” said Smith.
Smith quickly unplugged any thoughts of working with electronics.
“Everything is automatic. Everything is push button. Cellphones. Computers. Virtual reality. This is real reality.”
No modern machinery will be found in Smith’s ultimate man cave. Many of his beloved tools of the trade date back more than a century.
“How could you look at that and say its junk,” said Smith. “That is the one thing I like about the machines. You have to baby them. You have to take care of them. You have to grease them.”
Even Smith’s air conditioning is old. Two rusted fans circulate the air in his shed which come in handy. Temperatures soar to 110 degrees, but this blacksmith wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I’ll be doing this till the day I die. I don’t want to retire. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
Roger Smith, a man who takes pride in making things like they used to all while creating his favorite type of music which is heavy metal.
“It may not be everybody’s cup of tea but I love it,” he said. “It is like living inside something that is alive itself. It is like music in the background. It has a rhythm and a beat.”
You can find Smith’s Empire Iron creations in front of homes in the fan and at the Dooley Gate at Maymont.
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