Jonathan Nedbor learned metalsmithing as a young man, with plans to study the craft in graduate school at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. “But I met a woman, and life happened. I stayed here in Ulster County.”
He bought an old house by the Rondout Creek in Alligerville, where he raised a family. His shop, the Canal Forge, stands a few feet from his back door. When he came to the property nearly 31 years ago, he found the brick footings of an old blacksmith shop a few feet from the house, next to what had been the D & H Canal. He built his first shop overlapping that old shop, where he worked until constructing a new building in 2006. The old shop is now a museum of historic forged metal pieces, including his collection of handworked items and tools of the trade.
Nedbor works iron and steel into decorative and useful shapes using skills handed down from one craftsman to another for 3,000 years. He calls this skill “squishing metal.” With a long list of credits to his name – the Huguenot Historical Society in New Paltz, Clermont in Germantown, Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson, Great Camp Sagamore at Raquette Lake and Van Cortlandt Manor in Tarrytown, to name just a few – he has used traditional blacksmithing techniques to create reproductions of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century hardware and household ironwork. Hardware of the Dutch Colonial period, ubiquitous in this region, is a favorite specialty of his, and has been produced in his shop for the restoration of private homes and museums.