As a first grader in New Lexington Ohio, Norm Wendell would stop by the local blacksmith shop on his way home from grade school.
Merle Dixon the local smithy would dress coal mine picks for the local coal companies. The days after school was where Norm got his education. After a year or so observing Merle let Norm stand on a wood crate and peck on the anvil. Norm and Merle became good friends after the many years of working together. The 1550 Case steam engine Merle tinkered with and Norm demonstrating with his forge and anvil is where the friendship became inseparable. This friendship lead to demonstrating at Kenyon College and other venues to which Norm and Merle would travel. After a few years, Merle taught Norm how to build muzzle loading rifles and this became another business in which Norm became involved.
Norm and his family moved to Lancaster Ohio. Norm met another blacksmith in his new town named Romano. Romano worked at the Round House which was a repair station for trains. Norm visited Ramano shop every chance he could. Ramano gave Norm more education in the art of Blacksmithing. Norm learned many techniques and has passed the education on to many other people.
As a young man, Norm’s first job was well drilling in Northern Ohio. He was one of two men on the drilling rig.
At that time norm weighed 145 pounds and he was there to tend to all the odd jobs as a helper. One of his responsibilities was to keep the fire going in the forge and dress the massive tool bits for drilling. The tool bits had to be heated, reshaped and quenched. The forging required a handler and someone swinging a 14 lb. sledge hammer. Norm made a device to rope his feet down because the hammer would lift his skinny butt off the ground when the hammer struck.
In later years Norm met Bob Poling, they attended blacksmith conferences like SOFA (Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil) at Studebaker Farms in Ohio, and other places in states such as Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia and Missouri.
The travel expenses to attend the shows cut into the family’s budget so Norm and Bob decided to devise a plan to help pay for the trips. Since Bob was a machinist and Norm was now a pattern maker at a iron foundry, they developed a tool called the turning hardy. This tool sold very well at the first show. It paid for the trip and afforded a little extra milk money , as Norm put it. The turning hardy is still today the most popular tool in the line of tools we offer. It sold so well that Norm and Bob decided to design another tool. They listened to their fellow blacksmiths and designed tools that were unavailable or too expensive to buy as antiques. The two began making tools to meet the demands of the other blacksmiths. Every year the pair created new patterns for tools that would finance trips to meetings and other blacksmith related events.
Norm and Bob continued to peddle tools out of the back of a pick-up truck for 13 years.
10 years ago I suggested Norm offer his tools for sale on the internet to test a larger market. Norms reply was, "I need help turning the computer on, and too old to learn how to use it". I offered to list a few item on my eBay account and they sold the same week. The demand for the products was overwhelming. Norm was amaized how quickly the items sold and how many people were interested in the tools. Norm had been approached by other companies to sell the business and his fear was the products would be produced outside the US. I offered to buy his inventory and patterns. After giving it some consideration, Norm decided that lifting the heavy tools was becoming much too difficult in his older years, and he liked the idea that his business could live beyond him and remain local. Norm taught me how to build and maintain the existing patterns. I set out to learn everything I could about making new patterns, selecting suppliers and selling on the internet. Iron Mountain Forge LLC was established in 2004. Iron Mountain Forge has expanded into markets previously unknown and Norm Wendell’s legacy will live on in the tools he has created that are now sold worldwide...