Local first-generation blacksmith Ira Houseweart’s artistry can be seen in just about every corner of the county and across the state to boot. Whimsical benches, gates, staircases and archways are all adorned with signature elements representing animals and homages to our local history in Delta County. However, it’s the fruits of his extracurricular labor that has recently attracted national attention. When he is not spending time with his family or working on their family farm, Ira forges reimagined creations of weaponry.
Copper inlaid chef’s knives, medieval hammers, and more have all been brought to life in the fires of his MetalWorks studio on Rogers Mesa. Ira has rotating student apprentices who get real hands-on experience creating intricately patterned broadswords as their chosen projects, and it’s pretty apparent that no one is having more fun with the fantastical fabrications than Ira.
This month, on the 20th of April, Forged in Fire turned its focus on our local blacksmith. The popular History Channel reality show highlights the best blade-smiths in the field. The competition sets four metalworkers against one another in a test of skill and ingenuity as they compete to create period-accurate weaponry. Contestants who survive the elimination rounds to the end earn the Forged in Fire Champion title and a $10,000 prize.
The first task in the episode’s competition was to create a 12 to 14-inch blade out of sheet metal. Ira was excited to be able to use a coal iron press – a pricey luxury he does not have access to in his own shop. The finished weapons were tested for strength and durability, and Ira handily moved on to the second round, where he created a leather pommel for his blade.
As a standout winner of round 2, Ira moved on to the final competition, where the two remaining contestants were challenged with forging a serrated Indian Saber. The smiths were given four days to complete the project in their own home forges.
When the smoke cleared and the weapons were put to a showy test, Ira’s ornately curved backsword was deemed the winning blade, and Ira took home the title of champion and the $10,000 prize. “I just won Forged in Fire. It feels pretty awesome,” the always humble but confident blacksmith said with a smile.
The experience was a lot of fun for Ira, and being able to use the coal iron press made a big impression on him. He claims that’s where the prize money is going, which means that he and his apprentices will likely be churning out more fantastic creations in the near future.
Congratulations Ira! Don’t forget who your friends are when the world goes Mad Max and we all need a trusty blade.
You can check out Ira’s stunningly diverse works in his online gallery at coloradoblacksmith.com. If you know a current or former resident of Delta County who should be considered for a spot “In the Limelight,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details.