Emmert Studebaker, co-founder of SOFA, was active in the organization of ABANA in 1973. With this interest, he recruited Larry Wood and Bob Zeller to begin teaching classes in 1977 & 1978. There was at that time a small group in Northern Ohio calling themselves the “Ohio Artists Blacksmiths;” Barry Wheeler, Bruce Washington, and Mark Bokenkamp were involved. Emmert independently worked with them and ABANA to organize the first two or three Quadstate events at the Studebaker Homestead.
After holding several groups of classes, Emmert recruited his students to form SOFA, following the guidelines established by ABANA. Once SOFA was organized, Emmert turned the operation of Quadstate over to SOFA. SOFA became the 13th Chapter of ABANA in 1981.
SOFA grew to over 50 members very quickly because of the facilities provided by the Studebakers, and due to the guidance of Emmert and Larry. It represented a unique situation with a home blacksmith shop, education facilities and eager-to-learn individuals.
With continued growth in several years of teaching the basics, tending to members interests, and solid organizational influence, SOFA was able to become self-supportive. By then there were several other ABANA Chapters in the southwest that were in the same position. Over time, ABANA was losing influence and control over the rapidly-growing world of modern blacksmithing; to avoid financial and legal responsibility, ABANA was reorganized to be a major center of information and a gathering point for anyone interested in blacksmithing. This change in ABANA’s structure re-classified Chapters as “affiliates,” allowing them to be independent organizations.
There are currently over 80 affiliate organizations. ABANA still produces several excellent publications and offers assistance to affiliates and blacksmith’s both financially and through providing help in communication of activities worldwide.