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An Old School Sicilian Blacksmith

July 15, 2013

Mr. Paolo Rapisarda, a man in his eighties who lives in Aci Sant’Antonio, Sicily, belongs to the old school of blacksmiths who forged iron utilizing tools that are no longer in use.  In visiting his shop, one can see the tools he utilized in the past.

 Mr. Rapisarda shared the stories of his past experiences and how he started at a very young age as an apprentice.  He started his apprenticeship working with “I mastri”, the blacksmiths who would take younger apprentices under their wings and teach them the trade.  At a very young age, he moved to the town of Roccalumera where he worked as an apprentice.

When WWII broke out, he moved back to his hometown of Aci S. Antonio and worked as a blacksmith until 1950.   There was a demand in those years for the wrought iron components of the Sicilian carts, which were the main source of transportation.

 As the demand for wrought iron for the carts decreased, Mr. Rapisarda turned to a completely different occupation. He studied music under Maestro Leonardi in Acireale and joined a musical band. He earned his living playing in the band as it would be hired by different towns to perform at their town festivals. This provided him with a steady source of income and was his main occupation for years. 

 However, in the 1960’s, he returned to work wrought iron with another “mastro ferraio”  and learned welding and shaping iron adopting more advanced tools.  At that time, the majority of the work was to create iron pieces for gates and the railings of balconies.

As he proudly showed his old forge, Mr. Rapisarda concluded his comments by stating that the fossil fuel available today, if utilized with this old forge, cannot bring the iron to reach the temperature necessary to create the fine details and workmanship of the past.   

Mr. Rapisarda standing close to the forge purchased by Father in 1946

original machine dating 1930 adopted to mould iron

anvil

anvil

“u scifu” – a stone container which had another use as a pig feeder was utilized in the shop to contain tools

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Stone used to forge iron for the wheels of the “carretti” – Sicilian carts

stone used to mould iron 2

Fine details of a chandelier created Mr. Rapisarda  

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Wrought iron piece for Sicilian cart

details of iron moulded for Sicilian cart 

A detail of the ‘Trombone d’armonia” Mr. Rapisarda played in the band

details of old trombone

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