Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When Art and Craft Combined in One Tool: Steve Teichman's Hoof Nippers

by Fran Jurga | 23 June 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Back in the depths of winter, I was at the American Farrier's Association Convention in Tennessee. The annual fundraising auction there is a special treat because it is a collection of work by farriers, for the most part, or by artists who have painted or sculpted farriers or hooves or horses. From the tiniest, most delicate ring to a huge, rough-hewn coffee table or a towering wine rack, each treasure is one of a kind and somehow bears the indelible stamp of farrierism on it. Unmistakably. Undeniably. The prices that these items usually bring are as impressive as the workmanship.

This year, I was knocked out the most by this pair of GE nippers. Yes, this is a standard out-of-the-pouch pair of GE nippers. But they have been transformed by farrier Steve Teichman of Pennsylvania, who is also a master at artistic engraving. Steve's work is subtle and very fine, and the fact that he would choose to engrave a tool that has reins that are edged in different ways is testimony to his confidence in his art. Surely these are the nippers that would have manicured the hoof walls of the horses in some fantasy kingdom faraway. They looked enchanted.

What are nippers?
For those readers who are not in or around the farrier world, nippers are sort of long-handled toe-nail clippers for horses. The three main cutting tools used in trimming horses are the nippers for the wall, the sole knife, and the rasp for flattening the foot and dressing the wall. Nippers come first and there's no going back if you nip too much. They are used to clip the edge of the hoof wall and come in different lengths, and there are racetrack nippers and saddlehorse nippers. The cutting edges of the blades, where they meet, are very sharp, so that a farrier can nip accurately and get a clean cut on a hard, dry hoof wall as well as a soggy, soft one. Farriers take very good care of all their tools, but are especially careful of their nippers. The nippers in this photo are made from a high grade of steel by the GE Forge and Tool Company of Arroyo Grande, California. I've always wondered when riveted or hinged nippers first came into use and where. Does anyone know?

I admired Steve's nippers all week but when the auction started, they were one of the first items to go. The room was only half full and they sold for far less than their real value, many of us thought. I was crushed, and glad Steve wasn't there. The buyer got a real bargain. And he knew it, too.

As much time as Steve spent engraving the nippers, I think I have spent trying to get a good Photoshop image of them. My friends Liz and Garnet Oetjens took great photos, but they always look different on the computer screen and I've been afraid to post a photo because I want to do Steve's work justice. But enough time has passed: suffice to say, the dark areas are just shadows, not any artifact of the engraving or manufacturing the nippers.

The next AFA auction will be at their 2010 convention in Portland, Oregon February 24-27. I'm sure all the artists are busy working on their masterpieces now. Enchantments are underway in studios, forges, basements, garages and through camera lens across the USA. I'll be amazed, all over again.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

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