ROCHEPORT — For George Robb II, retirement presents an opportunity to focus on a long-developing passion for blacksmithing.
George has built a blacksmith shop representative of the early 1800s in what was once a one-car garage attached to a simple house outside of downtown Rocheport.
With a forge built from scratch, anvils more than 100 years old and tools lining the walls, the shop serves as an opportunity to teach others the practice of blacksmithing.
What he makes depends on customer orders and includes tables, beds, gates, locks, candlesticks and chandeliers.
"If they can dream it up, I can build it," he said.
For George, blacksmithing is both a challenge and a way to relax. "It's such a comforting, relaxing, spiritual thing," he said. "It's extremely satisfying."
The challenge, he said, is "how I can make my hands and the metal move and put it all together from a concept to a finished project."
When he was a cattle farmer 26 years ago, a piece of machinery broke, but he knew he could fix it with an anvil and hammer. Shortly after, he spotted a newspaper advertisement for an anvil for sale in Jefferson City, purchased it and attended a "green fire," where master blacksmiths teach newcomers the trade.
"I got coal dust up my nose and I've been blacksmithing ever since," he said.
George and his wife, Christina, bought the house in Rocheport 12 years ago. It functions as an art and antique shop run by Christina, and the garage is a blacksmith shop for George.
When working in there on weekends, shoppers and locals stop by regularly to watch George forge leaves and roses from strips of metal, asking questions and taking pictures as he does it. Some ask for advice on specific projects, others simply enjoy watching the age-old trade.
"I think people are interested when they can visually see something that happened in the past and it becomes authenticated in their mind," George said.
Throughout the years, George has taught his son and daughter the trade as well as teaching an apprentice from age 12. As a current member of Blacksmiths Association of Missouri, George has no intention of slowing down.
"Now that I've quit messing around with other things, I've been doing full-time blacksmithing, and I will do this until my fire burns out," he said.