A round cherrywood table with a bouquet of steel roses rising from the center. A door knocker topped by a wolf’s head. A black walnut Shaker candle box with a sliding lid. These meticulously crafted items are just a few of the metal and wood creations of Kevin Post, who has worked out of Rosendale as a farrier, shoeing local horses, for 53 years.
In 1969, he began an eight-year apprenticeship with his grandfather, Charles Kinkade, an expert blacksmith and farrier. Since then, Post has been working on the feet of draft horses, racehorses, and riding horses, while spending much of his spare time exercising the other skills his grandfather taught him, woodworking and the forging of metal tools and furnishings that he designs himself.
At his present stage of life, Post is ready to shift the balance towards spending more time in the workshop and less time standing under horses. Although he plans to keep most of his current customers, he’s already dropped caring for the 70 horses he shoes every eight weeks at the Meadowlands Racetrack in New Jersey.
From 1969 to 1984, Post and Kinkade made horseshoes and sold them to other farriers, but eventually they turned to buying shoes from a manufacturer. For horses with injuries or foals born with deformed feet, Post still makes orthopedic shoes that can correct problems. “I remember almost every animal I do and what size their feet are. Sometimes I pre-shape the shoe here before I go to the barn.”
The equipment hasn’t changed much
In the workshop he inherited from his grandfather, Post is working on a customized chandelier commissioned by a customer. At the top, four steel uprights must be bound together, and he is finishing off the last few turns of the rod that coils around the uprights. With the blue flame of an oxyacetylene torch, he heats the rod till it turns red and softens enough to respond to a small hammer that bends it tightly around the column. The work is slow and precise.
The uprights end in leaf shapes, and Post expects to make another 50 leaves, most of which will sprout from steel vines twining around the arms of the chandelier. He turns on the propane-fueled tabletop forge and opens a glass window to insert the ends of two steel rods. When they are red-hot, he removes one and places it on the flat platform of a pneumatic hammer.
A ringing thud from the upper piece of the 110-pound hammer, and the end of the rod becomes a pointed oval. With a series of lighter taps from the hammer, Post tapers the next section of the rod while rotating it, forming the stem of the leaf. Then he places the leaf on an old-fashioned anvil, the most frequently used tool in the shop. He brandishes a veiner, a chisel-like tool he made himself, and taps it with a regular hammer to punch out the veins of the leaf.
“A lot of the equipment hasn’t changed that much,” he observes, “except for the high-end welding equipment and the pneumatic hammer.”
He still has a hand-cranked wagon wheel turner that dates from the mid-1800s. Although his wheelwright skills, also learned from Kinkade, are not much in use these days, he uses the turner for making circular tables.
“Do you get burned a lot?” I ask, observing the fierce glow within the little forge.
“Yes. It goes with the job.”
Having previously watched him grip a horse’s hoof between his knees, while the 1000-pound horse balanced on three legs, I remark, “You like doing things that are a little dangerous.”
Post sighs. “Other people have said that.”
Instagram is coming
Woodworking is perhaps less perilous, electric saws notwithstanding. In the back of the shop, I examine three wooden boxes with sliding lids. “These are Shaker candle boxes,” Post says. “I dovetail the joints by hand,” meaning each corner is held together with tiny trapezoidal extensions, embraced by corresponding shapes cut out of the wood on the perpendicular side. “I make the boxes from scraps left over from doing cabinets or tables. It’s beautiful wood, and I don’t like to waste it.”
In his nearby home, we view a dining room table of polished black walnut, a baker’s rack Post designed for his wife, a fireplace screen decorated with steel oak leaves and acorns, kitchen chairs with a pattern of woven steel strips. In one corner is a sculpture, consisting of cattails, a frog, and a duck, all made of steel, on a cherrywood base representing the surface of a pond. Other creations include mirror frames, fireplace tools, andirons, lamps, candle holders. Post shows me an elegant knife he made out of a rasp for trimming horse hooves.
He sells his creations to friends and horse-owning customers, but when his daughters finish making him a website and Instagram page, his work will be more widely accessible to buyers. He charges $400 for a door knocker with the head of a wolf, a horse, or an owl. The Shaker boxes sell for $350 apiece. A decorated fireplace screen goes for $1500, a chandelier for $1100. Dining tables start at $4000.
Kevin Post can be reached at 658-8412 (home), 845-389-5556 (cell) or KevinCPost@gmail.com.