The Old West lives on in Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach Blacksmith Kenn Kimberling at his handmade Forge Cart. Photo by Chris MacDonald

I came to a screeching halt, while traveling down South Pacific Avenue–Couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a blacksmith with his 19th Century Traveling Forge in front of a house. He was attracting a crowd. Bicyclists stopped in awe; walkers came over to ask questions; everyone going by had big smiles on their faces. It was something out of the Old West movies that you don’t see unless you visit Knott’s Berry Farm.

Come to find out, the smithy, Kenn Kimberling, was the former, longtime blacksmith at Knott’s that my family enjoyed as we watched him make horseshoes, tools, spoons and bottle-openers.

“Your handmade tools are fantastic,” said Sunset Beach’s Renee Balcaen, who stopped her bike to view the amazing Forge Cart. Balcaen, who grew up in Eastern Kentucky and whose father was a blacksmith, marveled at the hammers and tools that Kimberling had created. “What wonderful memories this brings back for me. My daddy would have loved to see your cart.”

The Sunset Beach craftsman, a second-generation blacksmith, was getting his handmade, antique replica Traveling Forge Cart ready for an event the next day at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona. He often travels to fairs, rodeos, craft shows, California Missions, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and especially schools to preserve the past and present living history “edutainment” (education & entertainment).

The friendly, one-time train robber at Knott’s, knows how to put on a show. When dressed in his cowboy hat and western gear he has been mistaken for County Star Tim McGraw. He tells you the history of blacksmiths–how they learned their much-needed trade from veteran smithies by  traveling from town to town, repairing metal goods, making hammers & other tools, and sometimes being farriers–shaping horseshoes, then fitting them on horses.

He built his working, antique replica coal Forge Cart, which has double-chambered bellows (that furnish a strong blast of air) that are necessary to shape metal.

In the 19th Century, Sunset and Seal Beach had blacksmiths, who assisted ranchers and cowboys. There were large cattle drives down a main trail (now Beach Boulevard) to ships, which transported them throughout California and elsewhere.

Fittingly, Kenn’s son, Pierce, also is a blacksmith and member of the California Blacksmith Association. His wife, Nickolette, practices an ages-old craft of hand-making candles. The delightful family and their unique skills continue to draw attention.

“We did a double-take while passing their Forge Cart,” said Senior Pastor Joe Pedick of nearby Calvary Chapel of the Harbour, who was driving with his wife, Kathleen. “We had to stop and check it out. This is something you never see. They’re a real asset to the Sunset Beach Community and bring the Old West alive.”

To find out where you can see videos about Kenn and the Kimberland Traveling Forge, line up a history demonstration at your school or event or just to learn more about blacksmithing, contact him at 714-981-9189; email:; website: