GRAPEVINE, Texas – If you walk down Main Street in Grapevine on a Thursday afternoon, you’ll see smoke rising behind the train station. Don’t be alarmed. If you get closer, you’ll hear the distinctive ring of a hammer pounding away on metal. If you step inside the Millican Blacksmith shop on Main Street, you’ll meet Will Frary, Grapevine’s resident blacksmith.
Frary has been practicing his craft since the early 80’s on his ranch in Colorado. He started out straightening horseshoes. He moved to Texas to follow his grandchildren and now works in his shop in Grapevine on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and occasionally Sunday afternoons. “I heard about the blacksmith shop here, and they were looking for a blacksmith, so I came down,” Frary said. He is a full-time blacksmith and spends the time he is not in Grapevine in his forge at his house.
Frary said he spends roughly 60 hours in Grapevine each week. The problem arises once the temperatures break the 100’s in the summer. “It gets to be about 140 [degrees] in here, and it’s really exhausting and hard on the body,” he said. “You drink a lot of water.” In fact, water was the only thing more plentiful than metal in his shop.
Frary mostly works on commission. He does projects for the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine as well as projects to go along Main Street. He sells some of his side projects in his shop but said he rarely has the time for them. “Usually, my wife takes it and runs,” Frary said. He likes to sell barbecue tools and other unique household items like door handles to visitors. His most common sale to passersby are small cowboy hats he makes out of nickels. He sells the cowboy hats for two dollars as keepsakes, while some of his commissioned work can fetch up to $10,000.
Frary does a lot of work in tandem with other artists on Main Street. He is a part of an organization called South on Main Artists which includes other trades such as the glassblowers located next door to his shop. He often does light fixtures in tandem with the glassblowers who will make a decorative cover for the light that fits into a framework that Frary makes.
He has often been asked to make a sword or knife, but does not make weapons in his shop. He occasionally will make an individual knife on his own but only as tools. “We’re not sword-makers or knife-makers, and they’re not big sellers. I’ll sell those little knives in sets with barbecue tools,” he said.
Frary is big on recycling. A business behind him gets large wooden crates in from Germany. “I cut [the crates] up and I use them for the walls, the floors, the doors. I made the bellows with it. I made stuff here in town and the scrap I put in the forges. It serves me a purpose,” Frary said. This saves the company the cost of having it hauled away and saves the wood from simply heading into a landfill. Most of his crafts come from recycled metals as well like railroad spikes and cable from power lines.
Some people come to Frary’s shop for more than a simple visit or a purchase. He often gives blacksmithing lessons and visits schools to do presentations. He teaches his students the basics of “how to hit, how to stand, how to work the fire,” and they use play-doh for practice.
If you visit Frary’s shop, you will hear a lot of stories. Every piece he makes has a story behind it. He even has his grandmother’s old wood-fire stove. He also has his grandfather’s anvil, hammer, and tools. Frary can tell you the story behind each of his pieces, and each tool he has is a link to the history of blacksmithing. He enjoys himself and his craft. Frary likes to let visitors work the bellows for him and plays practical jokes on them as well. If you ever need something to do in Grapevine, take half an hour and visit Mr. Frary. You’re sure to enjoy it. Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to ask him about his giant baby bats from China.
To see this article as it was originally printed in the Grapevine Faith RAWR, click here.