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The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana is preparing to launch a new bladesmith school this fall to celebrate and preserve the art of bladesmithing and the birth of the famous Bowie knife in Arkansas. The college has worked closely with Historic Washington State Park to establish the James Black School of Bladesmithing in historic Washington, Ark.

This is the second bladesmith school in the area, as Texarkana College's famous bladesmithing school has moved from the Washington location to their main campus in Texarkana. The Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing is the first program of its kind and was established in 1988 by TC officials and members of the American Bladesmith Society. These courses also begin in the fall, with the move happening July 1.

In 1830, James Black crafted the original Bowie knife in Washington and both he and the site became almost immediately famous for producing what is now recognized as the official blade of the State of Arkansas and the National American Blade. The James Black School of Bladesmithing will build on that special heritage and the early preservation work of the American Bladesmith Society and the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing to create an unmatched, historically rich setting for students to learn and master the art of crafting forged blades. Bladesmithing is the art of making blades for knives, swords and daggers by using a forge, hammer, anvil and other smithing tools. A bladesmith uses metalworking techniques similar to those used by blacksmiths. Blacksmithing refers to the art or process of shaping and forging metal with the use of heat and tools.

The Bowie knife is designated as the official knife of the State of Arkansas. Earlier this year, ACT 818 was passed by the Arkansas General Assembly and designated Washington, Ark., as the "Birthplace of the Bowie Knife, Arkansas Heritage Site" and for the college to develop and operate a school of bladesmithing in Historic Washington. UAHT will work collaboratively with the park and the Arkansas Department of Heritage to teach and celebrate Arkansas history, bladesmithing and other heritage trades.

"Expertise and innovation in the skilled trades, such as bladesmithing, is in our region's DNA and it is the foundation of the establishment of UAHT as Red River Vocational-Technical School in 1965," UAHT Chancellor Chris Thomason said. "The James Black School of Bladesmithing will celebrate and elevate our shared history of producing the world's best artisans in bladesmithing and historical trades."

Program courses will include Introduction to Bladesmithing, Forging, Beginning Bladesmithing, Intermediate Bladesmithing, Handles and Guards, and Damascus Steel.

"The new bladesmithing school will seek to create an educational experience that will infuse the unique southwest Arkansas heritage and culture with both historical and modern practices." Thomason said. "UAHT will work collaboratively with Historic Washington State Park and the Arkansas Department of Heritage to teach and celebrate Arkansas' role in the history of bladesmithing simultaneously with the cutting-edge skill and innovation in the art that was born here."

TC's bladesmithing school is named in honor of Bill Moran, who is known as the father of modern Damascus steel and is credited with reviving the ancient art of bladesmithing. Moran taught the first classes at the school and often said taking the two-week introductory course would knock five years off of a beginner bladesmith's learning curve.

Depending on the subject matter, TC's courses can last from several days to two weeks. Students can learn the skills they need to go through the American Bladesmith Society's process of becoming a journeyman or master bladesmith.

Course options include introduction to bladesmithing, advanced work in Damascus steel and handles and guards.

For more information, go to Texarkana College's website at texarkanacollege.edu/bladesmithing. More information on the UAHT program will soon be available at uacch.edu.

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