Artisans Alley

The distinct ring of the anvil and the clanking of a hammer hitting steel is a sure sign that yet another rustic old west creation is being born in the tiny shed where Mike Barnett has set up his blacksmith shop. A farrier and blacksmith in the Bryan/College Station area, Barnett retired from active horseshoeing in 1993 due to health related issues. The physical demands of shoeing horses took its toll and ended his career earlier than he expected. Since then, Barnett has focused his time and energy on recreating unique artwork reminiscent of the old west. His business, Running M Forge, consists of making hand-forged home accessories using old recycled horseshoes and horseshoeing supplies. Recently relocated to Brady following his engagement to Bradyite Sara Altmeyer, Barnett has lived in McCulloch County for just over a year, but his roots run deep in the area. He grew up in Ballinger and his parents still live in San Angelo. “After living so far away from this area for so long,” said Barnett, “I couldn’t wait to get back to this part of the country. I love this part of the state.” When he is not spending his time working as a factory representative for Torel Leather products, he is usually out in his shop hammering, forging or brainstorming up new designs or ideas for his next creation. From wine racks to gun racks to boot jacks, lamps and barbecue tools, Barnett has over 100 different items that he makes on a regular basis. “I do custom designs and make everything completely by hand,” said Barnett. “I wanted to do something to preserve the Old West by taking old and often discarded items and making them into something useful. I make things that people can take home with them and use and enjoy.” A glance around his workshop shows that the tools of the trade are not that complicated. A hammer, an anvil and a gas forge are the main ingredients in his recipe for creative designs. The horseshoes he uses come from his old acquaintances and former customers from his horseshoeing days. When he begins making his next piece, he starts by sorting hundreds of old horseshoes looking for pairs. “I look for pairs that match because each piece I do is based upon pairs of shoes that look the same,” he said. “I can throw a hundred shoes on the ground in a pile and find ones that came from the same horse. Finding the pairs is the key to each piece I do. I use the oddball ones for various things whenever the need arises.” Hundreds of rusty old horseshoes line the walls of his shed, old railroad spikes ready to be sold as rustic coat-hooks lie on a table full of wares Barnett has finished and is going to take to market. According to Barnett, boot scrapers and hand-forged dinner bells are two of his most popular items. He also makes floor lamps, table lamps and a number of candleholders that show just how many possible uses there are for old pieces of steel. Most of his designs are sold at trade days around the state and this past weekend, he took his regular spot at the Old Mason Market which is one of two shows he has scheduled into his monthly itinerary. The nearby monthly trade days is one of the main reasons he has relocated to this area. He met and got to know his fianc’ during the first few times the trade days were open last fall. He and Altmeyer have such a fondness for the place where they met and fell in love, that they plan to be married at the Old Mason Market this coming April. “I hurt for a long time before I gave up shoeing horses, and I hurt for a long time afterward,” Barnett said. “I have been blacksmithing and making things like this for 15 years because it is something that I love to do.” Whether the style of the Old West fits your taste or whether it is something that doesn’t quite float your boat, the history and uniqueness of the Old West is transformed into eclectic works of art in Barnett’s tiny blacksmith shop. So the next time you see a horseshoe hanging over a door or hear the clippity clop of a horse walking on the pavement, remember’there is more there than meets the eye. For more information about Running M Forge and the products offered, call 915-597-0751.

Leave a Comment