Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The name of the town comes from a local blacksmith shop that was established in the early 1800s. It was an influential business named after the Little Pigeon River. The name of the forge became synonymous with the town itself. It’s only fitting, then, that Dollywood has its own functional blacksmith shop inside our theme park.
Because it’s 2020, perhaps you’ve never visited a blacksmith shop before. Let me share a little about Dollywood’s Valley Blacksmith & Foundry.
As you walk through Craftsman’s Valley at Dollywood, you’ll recognize the distinct smell of the blacksmith shop—fire and hot iron. Here, our craftsmen are capable of building just about anything with iron. They take custom orders, but most of what they do is ornamental. Their most popular-selling item are signs.
I encourage you to linger long enough to watch our blacksmiths work. If they’re making a sign, here’s a recap of what you’ll see: To make the pattern, the craftsmen will place the letters, numbers or message onto a template where it will be pressed into a “flask” with green sand. Green sand is finer than what you would find in a sand box or on the beach. It’s made specifically for sand casting. The craftsman will make a hole so hot aluminum may be poured later. With the pipe in place for the hole, the blacksmith will sift a fine first layer of sand on top of the template before dumping the rest of the sand and packing it in. The craftsman will create a channel for the aluminum to follow, careful to wipe away loose sand to avoid imperfections in the cast. Screws are added to the original template mold to lift it out and protect what will be the new sign.
The aluminum starts as a big brick that is melted down at 1300 degrees. Once it’s liquid, the craftsman ladles it out of the furnace and pours it into the mold. Within five minutes, the temperature will drop below the melting point. It will take about an hour to completely cool. When the sign is cool, it is removed from the mold, painted and polished. Voila! The result is a brand-new sign that can be proudly displayed anywhere.
It’s pretty cool to see it come together. Until you can be at Dollywood again, check out this video to see our craftsman John at work!