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      Bark River blacksmith forges ahead

      George Potvin retired from the Escanaba paper mill a few years ago and is now a full-time blacksmith. It TMs a unique trade he TMs nearly perfected over the last 53 years.

      The temperatures in his forge can reach between 1600 and 1800 degrees. The blower being turned forces air into the fire to help burn the coal.

      I always was doing this full-time for a long time, explains Potvin, and it was more or less like doing two jobs, I guess. Then when I retired, I just went into this full-time."

      Many of his made-to-order pieces make it into his wife's gift shop, which is just next door. It TMs called the 10 Mile Creek Forge, Pottery, and Lighting. Like any business, it's affected by the economy.

      Maureen Potvin said last year was the worst year by far. Their summer sales rely heavily on travelers, but business picks back up as the temperatures drop. In fact, November is their best month.

      But I still think, you know, fall colors and everything, explains customer Darlene Hall. It'd be a beautiful ride to come up and do some Christmas shopping or just shopping for yourself."

      A popular seller are Potvin's handmade knives.

      But what keeps him forging away?

      Of course I get a lot of joy out of making the piece. I don't want to ever stop making stuff. I TMm going to keep doing it as long as I can," Potvin said.

      Potvin is also sharing the art with others by offering one-day blacksmithing classes where folks can learn basic techniques like hammer control, punching, and bending.