Fort Langley blacksmith fills empty stockings with stocking hanger fundraiser

A unique fundraiser will help a Lower Mainland cause.

Jeff Chenatte

By Glenda LuymesSpecial to the Langley Advance

There’s a soft sizzling as Jeff Chenatte buries a pencil-length piece of steel in the coals atop his forge.

The blacksmith turns a crank and a blast of air turns embers to flames, transforming the metal from grey into a glowing orange.

Using tongs, Chenatte quickly removes the steel from the fire and curls the now-malleable metal around the sharp end of an anvil with a hammer.

There’s a loud hiss as he plunges the hot steel into a quenching tub of cold water. “That’s all there is to it,” he says, dropping the finished product into an outstretched hand.

For all the fire and fury, the result is surprisingly elegant: a stocking hanger that looks like an upside-down candy cane with a whimsically whorled tip.

Chenatte’s purpose is also elegant in its simplicity.

The blacksmith and acting cultural services manager for the Township of Langley will be fashioning stocking hangers for donations to the Empty Stocking Fund at Fort Langley’s Christmas on King Street event on Dec. 10.

“It seemed like the ideal charity to support with a stocking hanger,” said Chenatte, who has the broad shoulders of someone comfortable wielding a hammer.

Despite the blacksmith’s appearance, it was actually urban planning that led him to the forge.

“I didn’t like to get dirty, so I studied urban planning in university,” he said. “It’s funny how life comes together.”

While working at the Burnaby Village Museum in 1992, Chenatte tried his hand at blacksmithing. It came easily to him and metalwork has been part of his life ever since.

When he took a job at the Township of Langley working to improve and promote programs at the Langley Centennial Museum, Chenatte was thrilled to learn from old-timers who picked up the trade as boys.

They included George Muller, who has volunteered at the B.C. Farm Museum, next door to the Langley Centennial Museum, for 20 years.

“I’m proud to be part of the lineage of craftsmen who have been doing this for thousands of years,” said Chenatte.

“I hate our throwaway society. I love the fact that there’s craftmanship and pride in every piece that comes from the forge.” Both the Langley Centennial Museum and the B.C. Farm Museum will play host to visitors seeking an old-fashioned, family-focused Christmas event on Dec. 10 (from noon to 8 p.m.).

Together with the Langley Arts Council, the museums have planned a “Made in Canada” marketplace on King Street in the heart of Fort Langley, featuring 30 different local artisans, food trucks, childrens’ activities, live entertainment, carollers and a visit from Santa.

Chenatte will be at the farm museum’s forge for the entire event, making stocking hangers in return for donations.

He’s hoping to raise at least $500.

He can also count on support from the Langley Centennial Museum’s 50 volunteers, who have chosen to support his fundraiser with their Christmas volunteer luncheon.

“An event like this is what community is all about,” he said. “It’s helping right in your neighbourhood.”

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of corporate sponsors, local business, community supporters, and, of course readers, the Empty Stocking Fund raised more than $300,000 last year.

That money was distributed to 27 community agencies across B.C. to help buy gifts and food hampers for those in need.

Funds are administered through The Province newspaper’s partner, United Way of the Lower Mainland. The Province pays all the administration costs, so 100 per cent of the funds raised goes to those who need help.

– Glenda Luymes is a Vancouver Province reporter
• Click here to read more from The Province

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