Keeping the trade alive

Taw Tshering is renowned for making various types of household tools out of aluminum, silver and other metals

For almost four decades he has been mastering the craft he had learned when he was just 13 years old, forging scrap metals into remarkable tools, which besides ensuring him a decent livelihood also made him a household name in Trashigang.    

Taw Tshering, 50, from Pakaling in Radhi gewog is one of the few remaining blacksmiths in the dzongkhag, who has passionately continued with this age-old trade that is fast disappearing today. 

Renowned for making various types of household tools, including kitchen utensils, rings, bracelets and wine pots out of aluminum, silver and other metals, he spends most of his time working tirelessly in his small hut to meet the growing demand for his products.

For crafting cooking utensils he usually uses discarded aluminum, wires rods, old aluminum products, and other items. Waste aluminum is melted over simple fires, and the molten metal cast is then cooled and forged into shapes. 

“I was just a teenager when I first laid my hands on the hammer, mainly watching my elders forge metals into various products. After that I never looked back,” he said.  

Originally from the highland of Sakteng, where the scope for his trade was limited, he, along with other blacksmiths in the village relocated and settled in Pakaling some 35 years ago.

However, with changing times the art of blacksmithing is fading away. 

“There are only about five blacksmiths in the gewog and the younger generations are not interested to take it up because it’s too labor intensive,” he lamented, adding his own four children refused to follow his footsteps.  

Rather his children opted to pursue school education over his trade and are all settled elsewhere today.  

“Even unemployed youths in the village are not willing to take it up as a profession. I feel only if we mechanize the whole process then perhaps they would be interested,” he said, adding that this trade is seen by many as a lowly job.    

However, he reminded that the income from blacksmithing is quite substantial when compared to other jobs. Today, Taw Tshering earns between Nu 15,000 to 20,000 per month but occasionally he is able to earn over Nu 40,000, which has ensured a comfortable life for him and his wife.  

“I get orders from almost all the dzongkhags in the country,” he said, adding that he also has supplementary income from farming.

The only challenge is that he has to travel to other villages to buy charcoal for the purpose of molding the metals. 

Tenzin Lhamo from Trashigang