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Strike while the iron's hot: Forging ahead at the blacksmith's shop | Under Rocks podcast

We go at it hammer and tongs during a visit to the Phineas Vaughan Blacksmith Shop at the Glidden Homestead in DeKalb. Will Dan be able to upset the steel in time to open his beer before it gets warm? Or does he have too many irons in the fire?

Tucked behind Glidden Florist on Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, you’ll find not just the barn where “The Winner” barbed wire was invented, but the magnificent Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center. And behind that beautiful house, there’s a tiny workshop where one of the oldest and most important professions throughout history is still practiced – blacksmithing.

In this Under Rocks episode, the hammer of the gods is passed from Vulcan to DeKalb’s most famous blacksmith Phineas Vaughan to modern day smith Martin O’Connor to our own Dan Libman. Is he up to the task of forging a horsehead-shaped bottle opener? Or is it screwcaps for our team’s next round?

O’Connor and his team of volunteer blacksmiths offer hands-on, gloves-on four-hour lessons every Sunday at the Glidden homestead. You’ll get to check out the historic home, then be guided through a blacksmithing project involving fire, red-hot iron, and hammers. You’ll need to register in advanceand the fee covers materials and supports the not-for-profit historic site.


Thanks to Martin O’Connor for his skills and patience, Linda O’Connor for keeping the coal-fired forge glowing, and the homestead’s executive director Jessi Haish Larue for suggesting this adventure.


Dan Libman

Did Dan successfully forge a working bottle opener from a cold rod of steel? Let’s just say the next time you see him, buy him a bottle of some great craft brew and watch that cap fly.


Thanks to Spencer Tritt and Susan Stephens for hammering a four-hour lesson into a bite-sized showcase (extra kudos to Spencer for editing out the tooth-rattling metal-on-metal filing sounds. Ouch!).


Where will you send us next in northern Illinois/southern Wisconsin? Offer up your hidden gems at rocks@niu.edu. Under Rocks is produced by WNIJ at Northern Illinois University.

Spencer's creativity shows up in a variety of spaces on-air and online for WNIJ. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Communications and Digital Media Production. Spencer's interest in multimedia comes from a mix of his love for arts and music with an interest in technology.
Dan Libman is an author, teacher, correspondent, and adventurous host of the WNIJ podcast Under Rocks.
Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.