Salamander Forge
Salamander Forge Design Steve Gropp Process Location Contact
Salamander Forge Salamander Forge


Salamander Forge is located on Orcas Island, Washington. The island, the second largest in the American San Juans, is at almost the furthest northwest corner of the continental United States. Surrounded by water, blessed with great natural beauty, this place has been my home since 1975.

Almost all of my work are local commissions, custom made to fit a specific setting and purpose for a particular client. I work closely with architects, designers, contractors, and clients to design and fabricate work that will enhance and complement a finely crafted home and its setting.

The structure that houses the business has evolved over the years. From what was once a small but efficient woodworking and carving studio, with a small annex for metalwork, the shop has grown to fit larger projects and the forge itself.

Outside view of shopThe biggest and most welcome addition was the construction of a permanent roof structure over the forging and fabrication area in 2006. This also gave me the means to install good lighting, as well as a 1 ton swinging jib crane. This crane allows me to safely lift and move heavy projects and tools.

For the first ten years, this area was simply protected from the weather by a canvas awning. In this relatively mild climate, I enjoyed the feeling of openness and the constant intimate contact with the weather and natural woodland environment.

The fact that most of this part of the shop is still open, but covered, means that I have less restriction on the size of the pieces I create. The fact that the building would be considered small, for such a productive full time business, means that projects once begun have to move on and out.

shop is fully equipped with tools and machineryThe shop is fully equipped with tools and machinery. The complete woodshop also houses various shears, brakes, punches, specialty hammers, anvils, and stake tools, for small scale sheet metal work.

The machine room for the metal shop is efficiently set up with saws, grinders, vises, lathe, and drill press.

The outdoor forge is equipped with several power hammers, anvils, forges, presses, post vises, cone mandrels, as well as hundreds of hammers, tongs, and hand tools.

The fabrication area is well laid out with various modern welders, plasma cutter, oxy/fuel cutting and heating torches, and several large steel layout tables. A 5'x10' platen table is just outside to aid in bending heavy bars to a specific shape.

A 50 ton hydraulic ironworker makes quick work of shearing raw stock to length, as well as punching various sizes and shapes of holes in metal plate. Another annex contains a long layout table with overhead hoist, racks for storing an inventory of steel stock, as well as a painting and finishing area.

hot metal gives up its secrets slowlyMetal is a tough material, resistant to change. It cannot be worked directly by hand, but must be shaped and manipulated with tools. Something which seems so hard and unyielding can, with the proper tools, technique, and heat, be made to flow into the most wonderful living shapes.

The hot metal gives up its secrets slowly, requiring patience combined with forceful strength, to bring the artist's vision to light. To me, it is not so much about the metal or all of the wonderful tools involved, but the incredible magic process that allows creation to happen.

Steve Gropp 3/7/07


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Photography by Bill Dean, Mary Gropp, Steve Gropp, Martin Taylor

© Salamander Forge, Inc., 2007
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