Chris Rider bends a three-eighths-inch steel horseshoe against his leg during a demonstration at his Thomasville home. Rider discovered his ability to
Chris Rider bends a three-eighths-inch steel horseshoe against his leg during a demonstration at his Thomasville home. Rider discovered his ability to perform feats of strength when he was dared to tear a phone book in half. He started training professionally in 2007 and now makes his living as a strongman. He is featured in "Bending Steel," a newly released independent film. (Sam Kalina)

Christian Rider might not look like the kind of guy who creates one-of-a-kind works of art.

The burly Thomasville strongman bends steel rods into sculptures and wine racks.

And Rider, 36, does it all by hand, without the aid of a machine.

Each sculpture, some of which are made of 1-inch thick steel, takes upwards of 20 hours and a bit of muscle to make. The one-of-kind sculptures range in price from $424 to $3,399.

"I have a general idea of where I want a piece to go, but mostly I just go with it," Rider said of the artistic process.

Old-timer: The old-time strongman got his start in showing off his feats of strength more than 10 years ago, when a co-worker of Rider's at Tyco Electronics saw a strongman rip a phone book in half on television.

The next day at work, the co-worker asked Rider if he could do the same thing.

"I picked up a phone book off the shelf and ripped it in half right there," Rider said.

From there, Rider was hooked and became a strongman. Rider can bend adjustable wrenches in half, roll frypans into a tube form and bend 11-inch bolts into S's.

Rider performs at such events as corporate gatherings and parties. When not

performing, he works as a warehouse worker.

But it's strongmanship that gets Rider going. He's performed at Coney Island, where old-time strongmen became all the rage more than 100 years ago.

The first strongmen would woo a crowd by taking on feats, such as bending bars and twisting horseshoes. Rider takes his cue from the early pioneers and helped bring the attraction back into the public eye.


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Film: While bending steel takes strength, Rider said a can-do mindset is also needed to perform the tasks.

"It's a different kind of strength," he said. "It's all about what's between your ears."

Performing does have its hazards. Rider has torn muscles, broken bones and was stabbed in the thigh by a baseball bat when he broke it in two.

Despite the injuries, Rider said the reward is well worth the risks.

His strengths have attracted the attention of filmmakers who made the documentary film "Bending Steel."

The movie follows Chris Schoeck as he trains with Rider, who also served as a mentor, to become a fellow old-time strongman, said Ryan Scafuro, the film's producer and director of photography.

"We decided to film Schoeck's journey, and Rider was instrumental in helping Schoeck build his strength and technique, and preparing Schoeck for his first performance," Scafuro said.

The film will premiere at film festivals later this year.

-------------------The movie

For more information about Christian Rider, go to strongmanchrisrider.com. To view his art, go to handbentdesigns.com. For more information about "Bending Steel," go to bendingsteelmovie.com.

-- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.