Steven Beane & Paul Robinson Clinic
26 farriers and apprentices were amongst the privileged few to attend a clinic hosted by Paul Robinson and Steven Beane at The Forge, Stoneleigh. The clinic had been presented as an auction prize at the Handmade Shoes (UK) Ltd Competition Presentation Dinner and raised a tremendous £3000.00 for Cancer Research.
The two clinicians, Paul and Steven, hardly need any introduction. Paul Robinson, World Champion Blacksmith in 2008 is the current National Champion following a tremendous week at the Royal Show. A prominent member of the Irish International Farrier Team Paul lives and works in Scotland where he is partner in business with 2008 Reserve World Champion David Varini.
Steven Beane is the current World Champion Blacksmith and European Champion. A formidable presence on the competition circuit Steven has been a member of the England International Farriery Team for the last 7 years, this year helping to secure the International Team Horseshoeing Championship title back from Wales once more! Steven lives and works in North Yorkshire and has just begun to conduct clinics for small groups of people at his forge.
The morning began with a practical demonstration provided by Paul which was peppered with questions aimed at giving away his best kept secrets! Paul shod a front foot with a three quarter fullered toe-clipped shoe, made a hind preventer with a twist on the inside and a 25 minute deep-seated bar shoe from 1 ½” stock.
Before any big competition Paul practises foot dressing a couple of times a day. He carries a clock in the van and allows himself just 7 minutes to dress a foot after which it is judged by David Varini, a gentleman who apparently does not give away marks easily! Initial rough rasping is undertaken to make the foot flat. Paul uses a Safe Edge rasp for the bulk of the work but uses a Majicut rasp for finishing off, both of which have been used for two sets prior to a competition to “take the edge off”. Pauls states that trimming is a skills test - a trim can enhance the shoe once on the foot. The foot is polished at this early stage to ensure there are no rasp marks prior to fitting and suggests that it is always good practise to come back and look at the foot for a second time.
In competitions to avoid panicking when the bell goes it is important to see what you need to before the start of a class. Paul allows 7 minutes for a trim, 5 minutes for the nail and finish and the rest of the time available in a class is given to shoemaking. Having a clear plan ahead of you prior to the start of the class helps to maximise effectiveness.
Shoemaking practise includes taking old shoes off the stock pile, measuring the width and length and making shoes to match. When shoeing a foot Paul measures the widest part of the foot to where you would like to shoe to finish, normally erring on the slightly generous side. In our demonstration the foot measured 6 ¼” by 6 ¼” and using 1” by 3/8” bar stock Paul added an additional 2 ½” to give a length of 15” to allow for a ‘bump in the toe’. With the heels of the foot fairly balanced a true centre mark was given.
Throughout the demonstration a close eye was kept by spectators on the tools Paul used. Stamps are made by Paul prior to competitions for specific classes – at The Royal this year Paul had a pritchel and two stamps for each class entered. It was noted that the fullering created a quick and clean cut reiterating Paul’s belief that many fullers are too fat. A piece of cardboard in the shape of a ring is kept at home to assist with re-shafting - every shaft is therefore the same diameter. The shoe was rasped first – prior to fitting! Demonstrating confidence in his method, Paul generally knows at this stage whether or not the fit is accurate! Just prior to nailing-on the sharp edge around the foot is taken off as it has a tendency to ‘splay out’ when placed on the ground – Mustad nails from home are generally brought to competitions.
As an apprentice with Jim and Allan Ferrie Paul practised shoemaking frequently often copying shoes Jim and Allan were practising for competitions, making something different maintains your interest and keeps pushing the goals. Today even when Paul is not competing he regularly makes stock shoes on a daily basis with the apprentices. For every single shoe he makes, for stock or for competition, a system is in place. The importance of ‘working a fire’ and keeping it running was noted helping to maintain efficiency whilst working – Paul rarely uses a striker.
Perhaps nowadays Paul does not make as many shoes as in he did in the beginning of his career. Through experience more emphasis has been placed on effective practise – once you “have sussed out how to make the shoes you don’t need to make as many”. Paul demonstrated an accurate technique in shoemaking reiterated by the high specification of tools made in preparation for competitions. Observing it was obvious that a lot of thought is taken in his approach to both shoeing and shoemaking revealing an assured methodical talent in both phases.
Following a short break for lunch it was Steven’s turn. Steven shod a front foot with a three-quarter fullered shoe, a hind foot with a quarter clipped three-quarter fullered shoe and made the hind preventer shoe that was part of ‘class 60/70’ in Calgary this year.
Citing that the key to practise is preparation Steven works in the same way at home every day as he does in competition. Similar to Paul the assessment of the foot prior to shoeing was highlighted – a “flat foot is a flat foot” however the opinion of ‘balance’ varies between individuals. Steven always asks a judge to look at a foot prior to trimming often telling the judge what he intends to do with it - reiterating the need to know “where the goal is”. It doesn’t matter who the judge is; “a good job is always a good job”. You shouldn’t try to shoe for a judge, you should always shoe for the what the foot needs.
Prior to recent years Steven sited foot trimming as one of his weaker points and worked on this for some time with Derek Gardner. He started the demonstration by dressing the foot across the toe to get it flat and then working up the sides and letting the rasp flow around the foot. Loose sole is removed. The foot is viewed from all aspects and walking away from it before coming back for a second look. Steven believes that you have “one go at making it flat, the second attempt can improve it by 0.2 but make it worse by 0.6! It is either trimmed flat or not”. ‘3M’ blocks, available at DIY stores, were endorsed for their finishing properties on a foot – much smoother than rasps or the more commonly used sanding blocks.
As soon as Steven meets a horse, in competition or at home, he begins to consider what to put on the foot. Measuring the front foot in the demonstration to 7” at the widest part, an additional 2” was given to allow to allow for a “big toe” resulting in bar stock of 16”. (For hind feet he typically allows an additional 1 ¾”.) In one heat the toe of the front shoe was ‘jumped’ to increase the width, thus resulted in the steel becoming ¾” shorter overall. Once the branch is turned, prior to fullering and nail holes Steven advised checking the length of the section. Fullering should be a series of lines, with all lines being parallel to produce symmetry within the shoe. Throughout the shoemaking you should always try to be remembering the shape of the foot. Good nail holes are a must with back pritchelling to tidy them up and there should not be any movement at the back.
Once more fire efficiency was highlighted as important to avoid losing time; you should have one shoe in the fire whilst working on the other. Moving around the anvil enables you to see the shoe from all angles as it is worked. Steven bob punches clips straight off the anvil instead of using a hardy hole as he finds that the hole can often dictate the shape and size of the clip. If the clip is not straight it is likely to be because your hands were in the wrong position. At home Steven does not rasp a clip and he believes you shouldn’t have to – it alters the shape and fit. If rasping is necessary it should be carried out prior to fitting to ensure a perfect clip fit. On the hind shoe the clips are drawn and then fullering is undertaken to either side of the clip, this ensures that when the clip is drawn the fullering is not pulled to the outside.
Steven does not approach the horse with the shoe until he is happy with the shoes at the anvil. When fitting he holds the shoe off the heels at the initial burn to get the clip fitted and to prevent over burning of the heels - Steven would not burn on a shoe until he is happy with the desired outline fit, as with every burn the foot changes shape slightly. If the initial fit is a little tight you can draw a bit out of the toe - when competing everyone makes mistakes it is about what you can make of it and improve it.
Similar to Paul, Steven also always takes his own nails to competitions. Steven rings clenches off slightly longer than wide to make sure a bit is left to avoid twisting the nails and leaving them with a horrible end. A personal preference for square clenches is mentioned and judges opinions will differ but all like to see them “safe and the same”. A nail line can be improved with good clenching.
The hind preventer shoe from Calgary was the final demonstration of the day. This particular example reinforced Steven’s belief for a systematic approach to making shoes – reinforced with a clip chart detailing exactly what was to be achieved in each heat. This process was the consequence of examining the shoe to note all points and features, making the shoe and, as it initially took too long to make, re-evaluating the method to decide where heats could be taken out to save time and increase efficiency. To check size of the shoes for the classes at Calgary Steven had a ‘box’ similar to those used to the judges made – all competitors know how hard it can be to measure accurately with a ruler when your hand is shaking in a class!
Prior to competing at Calgary this year Steven did not practise shoeing but concentrated on the ‘points classes’ to ensure that he qualified for the top ten. Steven bizarrely suggested practising when you are tired is not such a bad thing – perhaps even makes you more efficient! In the run up to a big competition such as Calgary Steven employs another farrier for approximately six weeks to help with his daily shoeing otherwise, with the additional practising, he finds it is too much to do. All stock shoes needed during this time are made in advance so that he can really concentrate on the competition shoes, normally practising for about 1 ½ hours a night and tries not to work past 8.30 – 9pm. Steven cited Gary Darlow, amongst others, as having taught him a lot – not to over practise shoes and that you should never stop thinking about the competition shoes and re-evaluating your methods. Perhaps it is this evaluation of forging that allows for a certain degree of flexibility – you should always be prepared at competitions to adapt, for example in Calgary the steel is a slightly different size and specimens can quite often look a bit different on the day. Learning from others was highlighted as vitally important, Steven believes it is not possible to do it all yourself.
Five minutes prior to the start of a class Steven finds it useful to take himself away from other competitors to go through the class in his mind. Working efficiently saves energy and time. Forging is about controlling the section – perhaps the hardest bit of a horseshoe is remembering to do on one side exactly what was done on the other; knowing what you want to do at each stage is crucial.
Steven’s demonstration was clear and, similar to the morning, displayed accuracy and thought in both his forging and shoeing. Renowned for his dedication to competing and the work that is put into honing his skills it was clear to see that the hours have well and truly paid off.
The day provided a useful insight into the working of two farriers at the utmost top of their game. Whilst similarities exist, each had their own individual method and approach to working. This was a rare opportunity enjoyed by those who attended and perhaps made all the better by knowing that it was for charity! Sincere thanks from all who attended the day to both Steven and Paul for giving up their time, and of course just a few secrets!
To view the complete selection of images taken on the day visit the Photo Gallery!