Local Blacksmith Sharek Gadd Talks Love of a Lost Art & Participating On Discovery Channel’s Master of Arms
Photographer: Michael Durr
Sparks fly, quite literally, as hammer strikes metal, and the sound can be heard, echoing off in the distance — clank, clank, clank, clank. As smoke from the burning coal billows out the top of the forge, Sharek Gadd smiles, “Watch this,” he says as he begins to shape and mold the hot iron into a hook. He’s right where he wants to be.
These are the sights and sounds most days for Gadd, a local forger. He started the hobby more than 10 years ago when a friend gifted him the coal forger he uses today. “It’s old school,” he says. “Most people use gas forges and power hammers. I use a 6-pound or a 9-pound sledge.”
The hobby has turned into a full-time passion for Gadd.
“I’d always loved making things, even when I was a kid,” he says. “I got into metalworking more as a teenager. A friend and mentor gifted me the forger many years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Forging is a lost art. You would likely be hard pressed to find anyone else around the Hamilton County area that takes it on full time, much less with an old coal forger. Gadd, for the most part, is self-taught in forging, woodworking and metalworking, aside from a few mentors and friends along the way.
“I didn’t know then, but it was a good way to cope,” he says. “I actually put it down for a while after my dad died, and I joined the army. When I got out in 2005, I moved here to Fishers and got back into art. It has been a healthy way to deal with those things.”
Gadd creates all kinds of pieces through woodworking and forging. He enjoys making musical instruments, like banjos. But he specializes in fully-functioning, historic guns.
“I like creating things that have a life of their own once I have finished them,” Gadd says. “I really enjoy making the historic guns. These are guns from the 17th or 18th century, and they are all handmade. All the details and pieces have to fit just right for them to fire and function properly.”
Gadd’s love for historic guns has led to memberships in several shooting clubs as well. He is a member of the National Long Rifle Muzzle Loading Association. That group has been around since the 20s.
Each year, in the spring and fall, Gadd participates in competitions in Friendship, Indiana. Each participant in the competition brings their own, handmade guns to shoot.
“The competitions are always fun,” he says. “It’s great to meet people in that community, too. There is a lot of history involved there.”
Gadd also creates unique pieces for clients. Through his website or Facebook page, people sometimes reach out to him about creating certain items. He prices his work based on the time it takes for each project. The asks are sometimes interesting ones.
An older lady once approached Gadd at Allisonville Nursery, Garden & Home to ask if he could make her a steel mask. He also teaches forging classes for those interested in learning how to create pieces like locks, crosses or bigger items like knives and other weapons or tools.
Gadd’s forging prowess recently got him some national attention. Earlier in 2018, a friend told Gadd about a new Discovery Channel show that pitted forgers against one another in a timed competition. Gadd applied, on a whim, not really thinking too much about it. He was surprised to get a phone call a few weeks later. After several other interviews, he was one of a small group of forgers across the country selected to participate on the new show — “Master of Arms.”
Gadd was flown out to a location for about four days for filming of the show.
“It was a pretty extensive interview process,” Gadd says. “So, getting selected was pretty cool. I knew going into the show, the biggest competition would be the clock. There were three competitors pitted against one another in a three to six-hour challenge. I didn’t make it too far, but it was a fun experience — exciting and stressful. The directors and staff were awesome. It was great to just see how a show is put together, too.”
“About 50 people showed up for the watch party,” Gadd says. “It was a lot of fun. It was weird seeing myself on TV, though.”
Looking back, Gadd credits his father for where he is at today with his work.
“He worked hard to provide and didn’t come home till late at night,” Gadd says. “We didn’t have as much time to do stuff together. But he had noticed my hobbies. I came home from school one day and he had gotten me a set of tools, carving knives, paint brushes and things like that. He was always my biggest supporter.”
To learn more about Gadd, view a gallery of his work, and find rates on classes or other projects, visit him online at sharekgadd.com.