Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories featuring the five finalists in the 11th annual Carroll Biz Challenge. The competition, which will conclude Aug. 18 with a live finale at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster, is run by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. For more about the chamber and this event, visit carrollbizchallenge.com.
Jacob Selmer, of Taneytown, combines his love for metal working and his passion for history to make tools and decorative steel products.
Selmer’s Iron Works is one of five finalists in this year’s Carroll Biz Challenge, an annual “Shark Tank”-style competition. This year 44 applicants, all local entrepreneurs, pitched their business ideas in the hopes of winning a $10,000 grand prize and additional awards. Finalists will make live pitches to a panel of judges during a finale Thursday in Westminster.
Selmer is a blacksmith who creates iron work primarily from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal, using tools to hammer, bend and cut, then create items to display in homes or to be given as gifts.
Selmer’s work is influenced by the blacksmiths who forged iron hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
“It was all handmade and I appreciate that now. I’m making metal that will last for years,” he said.
Selmer’s shop is located on his 24-acre farm in Taneytown. Though he’s been a blacksmith for many years, Selmer wants to register his business as a Limited Liability Company, or LLC, in Maryland.
If he wins the challenge’s grand prize, he will use the money to host forging classes in a large commercial building on his farm.
“I would put that money toward student workstations,” he said. “Everybody would have their own tongs and hammers to use. Everybody would have the same hand tools. Instead of just myself [forging], I can have everybody working. I would have four forging stations, with classes on the weekends.”
Blacksmiths were central to medieval times, often setting up shop in a place of importance in the center of a village. They would make weapons, nails, furniture, locks, horseshoes and armor. The blacksmith became essential to any town, and their techniques improved accordingly.
Carroll County Breaking News
Selmer said there is a lot of interest in Carroll County in colonial and Civil War history, so he makes hinges for barns and basic hardware to reflect those time periods. People want hardware items that reflect a bygone era, he said.
Now 40, Selmer start forging at age 16, “As a teenager, I wanted to make things,” he said.
When he’s not working in his shop, Selmer is an engineering manager at Knorr Brake Company in Westminster, which manufactures braking systems, passenger doors and climate-controlled equipment for mass transit customers.
Selmer is also a member of the Blacksmith Guild of Central Maryland Inc., a nonprofit, educational corporation dedicated to preserving and promoting the art and craft of hand forging iron.
As part of the guild, Selmer has held demonstrations and sold some of his pieces. The guild hopes soon to resume forging classes at the Carroll County Farm Museum, which have been on hold since the start of the pandemic.
For more information on Selmer’s work, go to https://www.selmerironworks.com.