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Campus Lens

Metal Head

Lucas House ’04 opened a studio to help others learn the crafts of blacksmithing and welding. Photographs by Joshua Steadman.

Lucas House ’04 had no way of knowing what a big deal it was when he traded in his high school band class for welding. As it turns out, it was the first step toward a career of making things out of metal — and teaching others how to do it as well.

“I had done a little woodworking, but metal is more permanent,” House says. “I liked the immediacy of it, and there’s just so many different ways to use it.”

I had done a little woodworking, but metal is more permanent.

House studied industrial design at NC State and set up a small metal workshop in the Boylan Heights neighborhood in Raleigh. Even then, though, House didn’t necessarily see forging and metal fabrication as a potential career. “I was just doing it, but when I was done I had people who wanted my work,” he says. “I thought, ‘I’ll look for a job,’ but 18 years later I’ve never had a real job. I’ve been lucky and found 1,000 little jobs.”

Homebuilding was booming in Raleigh when House graduated in 2004, and he kept busy making things like custom handrails for stairs. “I made simple pieces, but then someone wanted something nicer,” he says. “It grew to where I could do some pretty artistic versions.”

House, through Iron House Forge, has done work for commercial and residential clients. He’s also created large pieces for public spaces, such as decorative entry gates for Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, N.C., and benches, bike racks and other landscaping elements for Horton’s Creek Elementary School, also in Cary.

In 2016, House saw an opportunity to tap into the growing interest in working with metal, fueled largely by reality shows such as the History Channel’s Forged in Fire. He started by offering a couple of two-person classes in his shop, and the interest continued to grow. By 2019, House had established the nonprofit ShopSpace on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. It now offers eight to 10 classes a week, in subjects ranging from blacksmithing and metal fabrication to jewelry making. People who have completed a class can rent time so that they can use the tools at ShopSpace.

Students learn that working with metal is not nearly as easy as it looks on television. “On TV, it happens in half an hour, and they don’t see the time spent standing next to a grinder and getting showered with sparks,” he says. “It’s grueling, heavy, dirty work.”

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