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– Henry Ford  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 5 May 2020  

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Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  Faces of Black Forest
  From a hotelier to a welder
  By Leslie Sheley

   Weston Paas has been a blacksmith for 10 years; he owns Heart’s Fire Forge in Black Forest. He is also the grand champion of History channel’s, “Forged in Fire,” which aired in February.
   Paas said the History channel reached out to him two years ago when they saw his work on Instagram. He declined at that time because he didn’t think he had all the skills he needed, specifically knowing how to do a Damascus pattern on welded steel. He taught himself the technique and eventually contacted them; and they accepted him for the seventh season of the show.
   The competition lasted two weeks, most of which was in New York City, Paas said. They worked with different types of weapons. After the type of weapon for the competition was revealed, the participant had limited hours to finish the project.
   In the first two rounds, they had to turn hatchets into Japanese woodworking knives, he said. In the final round, they had to craft a Zulu war axe, which is a ceremonial weapon — a status symbol rather than a functional weapon. “They’re (the Zulu war axe) just a thin piece of metal on a little stick, and I had to build one that would sustain chopping a door in half,” Paas said. He was in South Africa and Zimbabwe in the 90s with his family, and they actually brought back a hatchet sized Zulu war axe, he said.
   Paas won the competition.
   The History channel kept the winning axe, which might be used as a prop in a future movie, he said. Paas won $10,000, and donated a portion to the Wounded Warrior Project. He said his grandfather was in the U.S. Navy during WWII, and he has friends who are veterans. “I’ve done a lot of things off and on with Wounded Warrior and this was a good opportunity to give back,” he said.
   Paas also sponsored a veteran who wanted to take a class at the Kilroy Workshop in Colorado Springs. Occasionally, he said he rents space at the workshop when he needs big, heavy machinery for his projects. Paas also teaches there every Tuesday. (Because of the coronavirus, the school is closed until further notice.)
   With two different degrees, Paas refers to himself as a jack of “a lot of trades.” He graduated from the University of Hawaii in Manoa with a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing and tourism. He also received a culinary arts degree from Western Culinary Institute, now known as Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in Portland, Oregon.
   As a native Coloradan, Paas grew up in Basalt and graduated from Aspen High School. His family was in the hotel business for three generations, and he would have been the fourth generation. In 2007, Paas said he took a year off to do something different while their hotel was under construction. He went to New Zealand to work at Allan Scott Family Winemakers; during that time, he took a day blade and knife making class — his first experience with blacksmithing. Paas said when he went back home in 2008 to work at the hotel, the great recession had changed everything. The family business was shuttered forever.
   Today, Paas is a general blacksmith and welder, and makes fireplace surrounds, stove hoods, firewood storage shelves, signs; plus custom projects and weapons. He said he is mostly self-taught, learning by trial and error; but he acknowledged that he learned from other blacksmiths as well.
   Paas said he is available to help others interested in blacksmithing or metal work. Paas also recommended taking classes at Kilroy’s Workshop.
   Nine years ago, he married Ginny Ferguson. “It’s my sister’s fault we met,” he said, laughing. “My wife was my sister’s big sorority sister at Pepperdine.” The couple has two children: a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.
   They moved to Colorado Springs almost six years ago for Ginny’s work; and, wanting to live outside of the city, Black Forest seemed like a good choice since her parents lived at Cathedral Pines. “I love the whole area, the trees; it feels like we’re out of the city farther than we really are,” Paas said. “The people and community are great; they’re always making me laugh. It’s a fun place to be.” He said he also likes living on 2.5 acres so his kids and dog have plenty of space to run and play.
   Paas said he is a fan of the outdoors and has always spent time camping, hiking and fishing; and snowboarding and skiing when he was younger. “When all of this (coronavirus) blows over, my family is hoping to go on a camping trip in Utah this summer,” he said. Right now, he and his wife take turns helping the kids with online school, Paas said. “The last month has been interesting; it’s slowed my business down a little bit, but it’s all about finding that new normal.”
Weston Paas won $10,000 in a History Channel competition with a winning axe, and he donated part of his winnings to the Wounded Warrior Project. Photo by Leslie Sheley
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