Martin Reinhard, Stavely, Alberta
Swiss blacksmith in the dragons’ den
Martin Reinhard (58) is the ultimate Self-made Man.
There is nothing this artisan blacksmith is not able to make himself. I will give you a list:
– smoked and air-dried meat
– copper cheese pots
– heating systems
– any tools
– building, electrical, plumbing
– steam sauna
– outdoor bread oven
– copper cooking pans
– smoked salmon (he fishes, too)
– he hunts and he has an organic garden
His top selling item is a tool for making kindling (called Mr Quicksplit) for 149 Canadian dollars. He developed it to perfection during 20 years.
With this product, Martin was on the nationally famous TV program “Dragons’ Den” where rich investors offer money to entrepreneurs with a successful product. Martin Reinhard was a hit on that show. Two big investors were interested in a share of Martin’s business. They now own part of his company.
Martin is genetically “enhanced”. His Swiss father built wood stoves, these beautiful European wood stoves with tiles. Martin could not escape the talent of a fourth-generation wood-stove building family from Sarnen (Swiss canton Obwalden). So he became an artisan blacksmith.
In 1976 he immigrated to Canada, spent a year in the North of Alberta working for oil companies. Then he got a job in Calgary in the steel manufacturing industry.
But forging was his passion. He founded his own company in 1982. Its name was a true tongue twister: “The old Swiss Blacksmith Shop”.
Today, Martin has a well-known store and gallery in Nanton, about 45 minutes from Calgary. His studio and house are in Stavely. From his house, he has a 180-degree-view of the Rocky Mountains, and on the other side, of the prairies.
That is where we got a hold of Martin Reinhard with an UPC (Urgent Phone Call).
Martin, what on earth connects you with Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood?
I made a jail set for one of his movies “Unforgiven”. They needed an old fashioned jail with steel bars. I made stuff for other movies, too, like “Into the West”.
Well, you obviously are “into the West”, having moved to a rural area in Alberta. How big is your property?
80 hectares. My house is an old homestead that American settlers built in 1905. I renovated the entire house. I have 60 cows and 60 calves on my land.
But no wife?
No, but I’m looking for a nice woman with Swiss roots to share the country life with.
How does she have to be?
She should love nature and the country life. I am a hunter. She should be interested in organic gardening because I am pretty much self-sufficient. I grow potatoes, carrots, Swiss chard, salad, garlic, peas, beets, beans. I love cooking and good food!
Martin, is there something you cannot do?
I am not that good of a writer like you are, I do much better with my hammer smiting hot iron.
Okay, can you tell us about the Calgary Stampede World Championship for black-smiths?
In 2002, there were 13 countries in the competition. I represented Canada and I won. I even beat the Swiss!
Well, that’s something! A Swiss beating the Swiss. What makes Swiss blacksmiths so good?
You can learn the craft really only in Europe. In Switzerland, we are trained from scratch. Being Swiss born, I am for quality, not for quantity.
What do people in Alberta and Canada buy from you?
Recently I made a huge entrance gate that cost over 60000 dollars. I make antique-looking chandeliers for wine cellars. Wrought-iron work is the “jewellery” for log homes. I make old tools, door handles, stove doors and all kinds of decor. I also forged cow bells …
… and your daughter’s wedding bands.
Yes. They will look beautiful. I will forge until I die. We blacksmiths are a bit crazy. But it is the greatest profession I can think of. Every day, I get to learn something new.