Joe Grace balances his job as a roads contractor with metal work, creating made-to-order artworks when he’s not welding and fabricating.

Story By Kerry Sharp

Joe Grace has always loved working with metal. He grew up longing to be a blacksmith, but with no pathway open at the time to learn the age-old craft, he opted for the next best thing and became a welder – though not always a welder of the regular kind.
When the former South Australian fencing contractor and head stockman is not fixing broken-down tractors, trucks and excavators as a Main Roads Department contractor, he’s in his huge leased shed on the edge of the Ord River, NT, creating intricate steel and wrought-iron artworks for a growing fan base of clients sending in orders from across the country. One even got shipped off to England recently.
“I always reckoned that if there was anything such as a past life, I must have been a blacksmith,” he laughs as he works away on his latest order, from a Canberra family called the Kellys. He’s etching and cutting away at a design featuring their namesake, Ned Kelly, on a decommissioned gas bottle welded onto a base of old car springs to be used as a fire pit. “It’s a fairly new line but extremely popular and we can’t keep up with the demand,” he says. “A bloke at the local dump saves the old gas bottles for us, and we recycle them as these really nice fire pits, instead of him having to turn them into scrap."

This story excerpt is from Issue #100

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2015