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Blacksmiths haven't all disappeared
August 17, 1981

Larry Tuttle

Blacksmiths did not disappear when Gun Smoke went off the air. In fact several are alive and well in New Plymouth.

Larry Tuttle, 55, has been working as a blacksmith for more than 40 years. His father, Ray Tuttle, opened the New Plymouth blacksmith and welding shop about 65 years ago.

Tuttle said the demands for blacksmith work are not as great as they once were. Today, a blacksmith's work involves the sharpening and repairing of blades plows and other tools.

"It's about 10 percent of our work," said Tuttle. "It's not much, but it's keeping us busy."

Today, Tuttle said blacksmiths use electrically powered welders in their work. Tuttle waid oldtime blacksmiths would heat their metals in a forge and weld by hand, but that type of work is too time consuming and is no longer financially sound, said Tuttle.

However, the forge is still used in order to straighten or sharpen tools, and Tuttle said he would never be able to fix certain farm equipment without it.

Tuttle said he has stopped shoeing horses although his dad enjoyed doing it. "It doesn't appeal to me," he said. He recalled one horse his father shod, that a group of men ended up fighting a block down the road before it finally calmed down enough to be shod. "It took half the day to shoe that horse and I think Dad only charged him $6," said Tuttle.

Tuttle had adjusted his business to the transitions in technology. The changes extend from horse powered to mechanical, from hydraulic to electrical. Tuttle has noticed changes in the economy as well.

"The prices today are probably ten times greater that they were then," said Tuttle. "Back in 1919, you could buy a ton of coal for $16. Today, the same amount cost $240."

When Tuttle isn't pounding a hammer into a weld or bending a piece of metal to meet specifications, he teaches his apprentice Fred Hill the tricks of the trade. Hill is learning the trade in order to open a shop of his own in Payette.

Tuttle said his shop is fairly well known. "We've had people come in for repairs as far as Rupert to LaGrande."

Tuttle recalled how his father started the shop after moving his family from the east to the farmlands of New Plymouth. After establishing himself as one of New Plymouth's productive farmers, Ray Tuttle served in the Army during World War I.

In 1926, Ray Tuttle decided to organize his own blacksmith business, having worked in shops since he was a teenager.

"He just kind of worked into it," said Larry Tuttle, recalling his father's start in the metal and iron business. "He worked for a blacksmith, shoeing horses before he gradually worked into other things. Eventually, he bought the blacksmith out."

Ray Tuttle acquired his first shop in the mid-20's. The shop was located on New Plymouth's main street at the time. He later moved his operation down the street to a livery stable. The stable was quickly converted into a shop. The shop is known as one of New Plymouth's earliest buildings. Today, that building still stands with Tuttle's original sign hanging over the entrance.

At one time, Larry Tuttle said they were thinking of tearing down the old building to make room for expansion. But Tuttle said they never got around to giving the shop a new look.

A strong and persistent man, Ray Tuttle managed and operated the shop. Not even sickness prevented him from working in the shop.

"The doctor told him that there will never be a future in the type of work that he was doing," said Larry Tuttle. "He went on to live 35 years after the doctor said that. He died when he was 80. Within ten days of his death, he was still working in the shop."

At 55, Tuttle still remembers how hard his father worked and has carried on the family tradition in admirable fashion.

At one time, Ray Tuttle welded together a needle for a local doctor. Needless to say, he could have repaired almost anything at the time.

Larry Tuttle would find time after school to assist his father. During his high school years in the early 40's, Tuttle began working part-time and learning the trade. It wasn't until he returned from serving in the army in 1948 that Tuttle began working full-time.

For Tuttle, the blacksmith and welding life has been nothing short of rewarding.

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