Exhibitors share history during Volcano Days

VOLCANO – Blacksmithing, sawmills and making cornmeal and apple cider have been a part of the Volcano Days for much of its 25-year history.

Some are hobbyists while others make a living off the art or at least make enough to keep the hobby going without being a financial drain.

Christopher Thomas, of Mason County, took up blacksmithing as a hobby in 1994 and has exhibited the art about three times. Thomas said he does not make much money from his hobby.

“Right now it’s just enough to pay for the materials,” he said. “It’s something I like to do.”

Thomas said he began making knives for himself and has made a variety of items from a campfire tripod for Civil War re-enactors to knives to “S” hooks.

“I’ve made things for people from other things,” he said. “One person brought me a ball bearing from their first car and I made it into a knife.”

Thomas said he has always been interested in art and he sees blacksmithing as an art.

“I’ve always like art and I like working anything in the art of metal,” he said.

Keith Mason, of Clarksburg, was exhibiting one of the many steam engines seen at Volcano Days during this weekend’s festival. Mason acquired his steam engine, a L. Spence machine, in 1966 at Nutter Fort.

According to a sign posted with the machine it had been in a storage shed since 1914. He invested 763 hours in restoring the steam engine. It is thought to be the only one of its kind in existence. It was made in 1883 by the Ohio Valley Agriculture Works in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, a company that was established in 1840.

Mason has been exhibiting the engine at Volcano Days for the past seven years.

Reno resident Jeff Kennon was exhibiting his saw mill works during Volcano Days. He began operating a saw mill in 1995 after working 20 years in the construction business.

“I have a kiln to dry lumber and do this full time, ” he said. “I hope to have a wood shop to use the wood and that I’ll eliminate the middle man. It will be a way to make more income from it.”

Kennon said working with wood was a lifetime interest for him.

“I’ve always been interested in wood and trees,” he said. “I worked in construction for other people for 20 years before I got into this.

“I don’t really know what led me to get a saw mill I just did, it was always in the back of my mind, I guess.”

Kennon said there is a large demand for his product. He supplies lumber for a variety of uses from farmers to hobbyists to cabinet makers.

Cornmeal and apple cider were two things made by Ivan Banks, of Banks Family Farm of Petroleum, during Volcano Days. He said the apple cider grinder and press was one he inherited and came from North Carolina. He said the apples came from his property.

“We just pick the apples off the ground,” he said. “I shook the tree this morning to get some more.”

Banks said he does not sell the apple cider, but he does sell the corn meal and bird food he makes with the other steam machine he refurbished.

“We don’t sell the apple cider,” he said. “We give it away.”

Banks said he took over the cider and corn meal exhibit from Amos Totten, of Washington, W.Va., five years ago who began it in 1989 at Volcano Days.