The Farmer’s Forge is owned and run by Mick and Mardi Henricks. We began discussions with Mick about 12 months ago after our friend John Steel (Fe+C Forge) tipped us off. John was aware of our search for an Australian axe maker and how we had been failing up until that point to find someone suitable.
Shortly after sending Mick a message via Instagram, he called me and we instantly hit it off. Mick’s enthusiasm is infectious although when he sends us pictures or samples I am not sure who is more excited... him or me. I guess it doesn’t matter because this is the stuff that makes me love my job every single day.
Oops, this is meant to be about Mick and Mardi so let’s ask some questions...
Hi Mick and Mardi, Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We know Mick as the dirty, sweaty face of The Farmer’s Forge ;), tell us what you do Mardi and please don’t be humble. Do you have to whip Mick into line from time to time?
Thanks for inviting us to Curly Questions Chris & Lauren!
I fumble my way through the Administration side of things here at the Forge, and have recently made my way to the workshop to assist Mick with the leather work. This is the most nerve-wracking job I’ve ever had! Mick is an absolute perfectionist, so I’m always worried I’m going to stuff something up! He’s also a very nice perfectionist, so he would never tell me if he wasn’t happy with it! (either that, or he’s scared of me….very likely the latter…).
Mick is the epitome of a Creative personality, so while that is ideal for the incredible work that comes out of the shed, he’ll be the first to tell you that his organisational skills are not one of his strengths! So I guess my other role around here is “Chief Nagger”. We have a daily “Meeting” at the smoko table where poor Mick is subjected to a list of questions from me “have you called this person back?”, “what’s the ETA on this order?”, “have you seen that email from such and such?”. Poor bugger, he can’t even enjoy a cuppa in peace these days….
Where did the name “The Farmer’s Forge” come from? Do you also have a farm? What do you produce?
We bounced a lot of names around in the beginning and finally settled on The Farmer’s Forge, which seemed fitting as we operate out of the shed on the family cattle property. We’re located 27km from Roma, Queensland, where we breed black Angus cattle. The workshop is, by far, Mick’s favourite paddock and definitely receives the most attention.
When did The Farmer’s Forge begin? Did it start as a hobby that grew into what it is today? What got you interested in making axes? Do you make anything other than axes?
Yes, it definitely began as a hobby and grew from there. The Farmer’s Forge was officially launched in January 2020, however, Mick had been making metal pieces and tooling for years before that. For his birthday in 2009, I bought him a voucher to attend a Blacksmithing Workshop at the Cobb & Co Museum in Toowoomba. He absolutely loved it, and that’s when I really noticed the obsession with Blacksmithing truly begin. Mick attended as many workshops as he could over the years, while also balancing family, work & farming commitments. It was pretty clear that, after more than 10 years, this “phase” wasn’t going anywhere.
We were making a random selection of products to begin with – basically whatever we were asked to make. I think the sledge hammer was first, then came knives and bespoke custom pieces such as bells, signs, gates, fireplace sets, even some garden ornaments at one stage. We soon realised that all these little one off pieces were time consuming and not profitable. If we were serious about running this as a business, we needed to streamline our production and focus on a set range that suited Mick’s skills and what our customers were looking for. We narrowed it down to the most popular products that were able to be posted with relative ease – Knives, Axes & Hammers. We were just taking custom orders with this, basically whatever people wanted we made. This really helped as we began to see what the most popular products were. Along the way, Mick found that he wasn’t loving knife making (even though he was bloody good at it!), however, he REALLY enjoyed axe making. So we stopped taking knife orders and began concentrating on a range of Axes and Hammers.
Mick has always had a fascination with axes, which probably came from his childhood. His dad, Robert, was fiercely protective of his axes and wouldn’t let the kids touch them, even when they were older. He’d let them use any power tool in the shed, but hands off his precious axes! Isn’t it true, we always want what we can’t have! hahaha
At what point did you think “It’s time. Let’s make this our business”?
There were quite a few factors that helped make the decision.
Firstly, the drought. In 2019, things were looking pretty grim as the effects of the drought were taking its toll. We had de-stocked a lot of cattle and Mick was looking at getting a job in town. It was tough because he loves working with cattle, and I could see how much he loved working in the shed, so any other job would have been soul destroying for him.
Secondly, not only was Mick loving his hobby more and more every day, but he was actually bloody good at it! As mentioned earlier, Mick had been tinkering around in the shed, making custom pieces for friends and family. The pieces he was creating were amazing, and we were getting some excellent feedback, and word of mouth was spreading. I asked him if I could put pictures on Facebook, as Mick didn’t have social media back then, and he initially said no – he felt uncomfortable about drawing any attention to himself.
And finally, Mick mentioned that he’d like to buy a Forging Press, so I told him that if we were spending that amount of money, we would need to try to sell these products! We agreed (eventually!) that a Facebook and Instagram page would be the best way to start (as it was now 2020 and the global pandemic meant no travel or markets). It wasn’t until we started the pages that we were aware of the wonderful blacksmith community out there in social media land – he thought he was one of the only ones! He eventually got his own Facebook account and he was hooked – joining all the blacksmith groups he could find…I created a monster!
So, in January 2020 we officially launched The Farmer’s Forge, and things have just grown from there!
Mick, you forge the most beautiful axes from a lump of steel. I believe that there is no molding involved. Can you tell us what this process entails? You also hang them using our fantastic Australian timbers and make the leather sheaths. What is involved here?
Yes that’s right, it’s all open dye forging. We don’t use any molds or closed dye’s. I do now have a little black book where I’ve noted all the dimensions, weight, processes etc to keep our axes consistent (I initially was storing all that info in my head). In the beginning with our axes we used more material than we needed and ended up cutting off waste and spending a lot of time grinding. Now, we use almost the correct weighted material and come very l close to completely forging in profiles with only minimal grinding at the end, so it is almost forged to finish.
Yes, the handles and leather sheaths are all made in house. Once again, the axe handles have evolved after many hours of research, seeking advice & feedback from others, and a lot of trial and error. I wanted to create a handle that’s true to how an axe handle would have once been, keeping in mind that the design needs to be practical yet unique in style. The leather sheaths are all cut and sewn in our workshop – this is a husband and wife effort here, with Mardi recently being recruited to assist with leatherwork! So far so good, only disagreements so far have been our different choice of music!
Your forge and farm are in South Western Queensland. I have to ask, are you a little cray cray? Most blacksmiths are located in much colder climates where it makes sense to stand in front of a forge.
Yeah, not too many ‘smiths out this way! Honestly, I think if you are born and bred in it, you don’t really feel it as much. But yes, it does get bloody hot sometimes and it is a very dry heat. I pump plenty of electrolytes in to my system during those summer months.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
Just thank you for inviting us to be a part of this. Moreover, thank you for entrusting us to create the Carving Axes for you and for all your help and guidance along the way. It’s been such a rewarding experience, not only for our business, but also to be able to provide an Australian made alternative for wood carver’s. This is very close to our hearts and we hope we can continue this collaboration for many years to come.
Thank you for time and an extra big thank you for being the maker of our amazing carving axes. Your attention to detail and quality of axes is exceptional!