Most people expect blacksmiths to shoe horses. The only horse shoes at Terry Credeurs’ shop are ones he has turned into pieces of art.
On the wall of Cajun Sting Custom, behind Credeur’s home in New Iberia, hang several versions of every imaginable blacksmith tool used to duplicate the old methods: hammers, pickaxes, chisels, tongs, forges, and there are a few anvils, telling of the thousands of hammer swings they have sustained. One in particular, a Mousehole dating back to the early 1900s, is a cherished gift from his mother-in-law.
Credeur doesn’t come from generations of blacksmiths, as you might think. He’s been at it for only eight years, but 38 years as a welder gave him a feel for the craft. Like many who forge, he is drawn to it because he likes the contrast of creativity and control. “You can transform something so different from what you started with,” he says.
On weekends, he’ll light the forge in the morning and stay at it until 5 or 6 p.m. Standing aside a hot bed of coal that can heat up to 2,200 degrees, he holds a 12 to 14-pound hammer striking the steel with a rhythm and working in stages to turn out wares “made by his sweat” and his most valuable tool, his hands. His clients are those who appreciate the century’s old look of Credeur’s fireplace and barbeque tools, candle holders, unique crosses, and ornamental finials.
Credeur acquires much of his iron from the scrap yard - blacksmiths are resourceful in that way. Some of his favorite work are the hammers, punches and chisels he’s made from repurposed pieces of coils and forklifts.
When you look at a rod that has been twisted in near perfect symmetry, it’s hard to believe Credeur when he says that blacksmithing is not that difficult. “There’s definitely a learning curve, but it just takes practice. I started with small pieces of scrap metal. I’ve met several women and children - as young as eight - involved in blacksmithing. Women can handle the hammer in some cases more accurately because they hold it lightly,” he says.
If you’re wondering whether he watches the T.V. series “Forged in Fire” - not much, except to catch those episodes when friends, like Lyle Wynn, appear. He’s learned more through his membership in the Louisiana Metalsmiths Association. Each month, members get together at a different shop where blacksmiths share their work and techniques.
That’s another great thing about blacksmithing: there seems to be a great comradery and a willingness to pass techniques on to others to keep the traditions of the trade alive.