Metal fabrication, welding specialist from Laughlintown turns to blacksmithing as a career
William “Will” Kalkbrenner, 31, cracked up when asked if he foresaw a career in blacksmithing and making culinary knives 17 years ago as a freshman metal fabrication and welding student at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.
“No. Never once even thought about it,” he said.
But for more than a year, Kalkbrenner, a Ruffs Dale native, has done just that. He’s turned half of his garage along Nature Run Road in Laughlintown, Ligonier Township, into a metal forging, blacksmith shop — Enso Forge — that he piggybacks along with his metal fabrication and welding business.
Kalkbrenner creates custom, hand-crafted culinary and hunting knives, blacksmithed wares including decorative grill tools, hooks, bottle openers, even ornate metal roses, all created inside that garage.
“I’ve always been creative and enjoy building things myself,” he said.
His first knife, so to speak, was created while he was a student at the New Stanton school.
“I was into martial arts back then and I thought I wanted to make a sword. So, I met up with members of the Fort Allen Antique Farm Association and they showed me the way,” Kalkbrenner said.
After high school, the 2006 Yough High School graduate made a living in metal fabrication and welding. He recently spent six years traveling throughout the U.S., welding and completing metal fabrication work at power plants.
Along the way, he discovered some new creative interests.
“I love to cook and I love to eat,” he said.
So, he decided to make his own “really good” chef’s knife.
While doing a vehicle repair job, Kalkbrenner eyed an old anvil the vehicle’s owner possessed. Kalkbrenner jumped at the opportunity to take ownership of the anvil as partial payment for the vehicle repair job.
He built a home-made gas forge in his garage and the rest is history.
Soon, on social media posts promoting his welding and metal working, Kalkbrenner would sometimes post photographs of his blacksmith wares and knives that were for sale.
“I noticed, when I put the blacksmithing items on there, they would attract a lot more of the traffic. It’s like a specialized niche that not many people offer any more, but a craft that people are still very interested in,” he said.
This year, Kalkbrenner has started displaying and selling his items every other week at the Ligonier Country Market on Saturday and business has boomed. He also displays at other vendor shows.
“A lot of times, you’ll find me still working into the early morning on Saturday before the market starts,” he said.
Kalkbrenner said it takes between 15 and 30 hours to create each knife.
“It is really a labor of love. Just thinking about creating something that is going to last someone their whole life … it’s inspiring,” he said.
“These knives have a completely different feel for the user, too. Their weight, the balance, just the feel of it in your hand,” he said.
And Kalkbrenner said there’s another positive to creating each knife: imagining what it will be used to make.
“They inspire people to create things themselves. In today’s world, we certainly need more of that,” he said.
The knives cost $250 and up.
Through social media, the country market and word of mouth, Kalkbrenner said he’s sent knives throughout the country.
“And I do love to do this. Each knife is really a piece of art in itself,” he said.
Enso Forge can be contacted via Facebook and at 724-216-7199.
He will also be displaying items for sale at the country market on Aug. 24, and Sept. 7 and 21.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .