On a cold fall morning last November, a group of us huddled around a blazing hot portable forge set up in front of my urban church. As a part of their “forging peace” tour, Ken Martin and his son Mike were demonstrating how they transform guns into garden tools. Tagged the Peacemaker Tour, members of RAWtools.org travel the country repurposing donated weapons into hand tools to be used in the creation of something new and with the intention of preventing the weapon’s potential use for future violence.
Donors receive a garden tool for every gun they offer the program; leftover metal is made into additional tools which are sold to fund the organization. RAWtools is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where a local police station is participating in the project. Donated guns are disabled and cut into pieces using a chop saw before they leave the police station.
After this demonstration I have a new appreciation for handcrafted tools and how much effort it takes to shape them into a finished product. A propane tank attached to the forge fueled a red-hot oven beside an anvil bolted and chained to a large wooden stump. We heated our piece in the 1800-degree forge for about 90 seconds before moving it to the anvil where we took turns swinging a 4-pound sledgehammer to flatten the blazing metal into a garden mattock. Each time we pounded the hot metal about 20 times before it cooled and began to harden again. This process was repeated for over an hour until a flat end and a fork could be created with a hole pierced in the center to accept the wooden handle. The gun’s serial number was stamped on the finished hand tool creating a significant connection. Handles for the finished tools are purchased locally and a small olive branch is etched into the end; a reminder that you are gripping a promise of peace while you work.
An AK47 rifle was the first gun given to the RAWtools program in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. The donor, a man who owned many rifles, wanted to show his support for a ban on assault rifles. Other guns have been donated by victims of crime. Future plans include a database containing stories like these alongside information about each donated gun and the tools that came from it.
RAWtools work is inspired by a verse in the bible that reads: “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” These tools are forged with love and made in peace to nurture new life.