A Day In The Life: Athelstane Forge
Social Media..........I have a love/hate relationship with social media and in terms of using it for personal use, my footprint is minimal however, and this is a big HOWEVER, when it comes to my cooking then I am all for it. Whilst there can be many negatives to platforms like Instagram, I have found that the pros outweigh the cons in terms of discovering and engaging with creators, small businesses and craftsmen alike. This leads to my discovery of Athelstane Forge because it was on a cold dark night in March 2021 that I found myself searching for a local business to build me a grill for my firepit that lead me to this business.
I checked out their work and noticed they were located a few miles from my house, on the outskirts of Edinburgh at Newbridge, so I dropped them a line asking if they were open to custom work and having submitted my requirements, they agreed they could build me something really cool. After a series of conversations I soon realised that THEY was a HE and worked alone, his name is Sandy McBain and he is the driving force behind Athelstane Forge.
(Photo by @portraitofapasserby)
Following the delivery of my custom firepit grill, I reached out to Sandy to see if I could spend some time at his workshop to see what he does, how he does it and get to know more about his trade. I have always been fascinated how things are made and despite trying my best at Craft Design & technology in High School, my ideas were greater than the finished item so being able to give someone like Sandy an idea, he can bring that to life for me and I have an amazing handcrafted item to show for it.
When speaking to Sandy, you know that he has a wealth of knowledge and passion that is evident in his work but not only that, he gave up a corporate career in the city to work in an industry he finds incredibly fulfilling. Whether he is working on a forged garden rail, a simple herb chopper or a bespoke fire table, he is open to suggestions and ideas, collaborating with his customers in order to give them exactly what they need.
Whilst at his forge, Sandy kindly demonstrated how to craft a simple bottle opener and as I slipped on the fireproof gloves and eye protectors, he then passed me the tools and guided me through the entire process. I will tell you what though, the force of driving that hammer down onto the anvil is some serious work and despite being a big lad who used to powerlift, my shoulder was knackered. Fair play to Sandy as he may have slight build but he could shape that steel as if it was putty.
( The forging and shaping of a custom Herb Chopper. Photos by myself)
Using the Athelstane Forge ''Herb Chopper'' as an example, the material used is upcycled using 5160 steel from a car that is then flattened and cut to shape before forging in the kiln and shaping by hand. The finished product is simply amazing and has a real nice rustic look to it. Despite it's size it is not too light and has enough weight behind it, allowing the user to chop with one or two hands. Seeing a piece like this come together is just great but not only that but this isn't just some 'off the shelf' item, this is a custom made handcrafted item that will last longer than I will.
Being able to engage directly with Sandy via social media, he takes your ideas and runs with it, offering advice at the same time thus forming a relationship to turn your concept into a reality, he's also a really nice chap which helps. Personally, I love knowing that I am dealing direct with the business and depending on the business, they will even hand deliver the goods to you house which is another great way to meet them face to face and say thanks for their exceptional produce.
So why should you care about a business like Athelstane Forge? It's a simple question that has a very simple answer: We should be looking to support, where possible, small businesses who are local to the community. By engaging direct with small business owner, you know that your hard earned cash is supporting the livelihood of that individual. You are buying into their vision and business model with the aim to get a quality product at the end of it...a product that will be well built to your requirements and look amazing too.
By supporting local, the money goes right back into the community, allowing that person to flourish and continue doing what they do best but most importantly, what they love. This isn't a faceless company you are buying from and everytime you engage with said business owner via social media, you are dealing direct with them. A simple LIKE, SHARE or SAVE on their business page can make a big difference to the visbility of their page and if you do happen to discover a cool business, just like I did, via the realms of social media, engage!!! Now this goes without saying but when you support a local business, prices will be higher than that of mass produced items you will find on the high street but when you factor in the cost of tools, equipment and manpower, not to mention the rent the business owner will pay, the final price of the end product is worth it.
So where do I go from here? There are a few items in the pipeline that I have lined up with Sandy that will be revealed later down the line. He is a busy man after all and whilst I have mainly focused on herb choppers amd bottle openers, you can look at some of the items he does make via his Etsty page: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Athelstaneforge .
Regardless of your interests, I honestly find this is where social media really does work, not only for me as a customer looking for a product, but also for a business owner and I will do whatever I can to promote those businesses via my blogs and social media. So please check out his pages on social media and if you want something made, drop him a bell and see what he can do, likewise if you can recommend any small businesses I should be aware of, please drop me a message on Instagram and I will check them out.
(Athelstane Forge Bar Stool, Photos by myself)