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Processional Cross: New Images

Posted by bighornforge on December 15, 2016


Here are two professionally shot images of the Processional Cross that was made for St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Forestville, WI.  Images taken by George Lottermoser, of Lottermoser and Associates, Germantown, WI.

This piece is mild steel, hand-forged, and has a Gilders Paste (TM) finish. The fleur-de-lis pieces are of French repousse’,  made from 18 gauge mild steel sheet.

Designed and executed by Dan Nauman.



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Processional Cross

Posted by bighornforge on September 5, 2016

Processional Cross 3

Processional Cross.  17″ x 24″ x 96″.  Mild steel, Gilder’s Paste finish.  Main bars are 5/16″ square, and there are roughly 40 forge-welds in this project.  The French repousse” process was used to make the fleur-de-lis, rosettes, and button husks.  The 43″ tubular staff lifts off the base for processions.  made for St. peter’s Lutheran Church, Forestville, WI.


Processional Cross

           Processional Cross

Processional Cross Detail


Professional images will be taken and posted here in the near future.


…Dan Nauman

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Birch Point Elk Antler Chandelier

Posted by bighornforge on May 28, 2016

BP Chand 6


This is the Birch Point Chandelier.  Designed and executed by Dan Nauman.  It was installed May 26, 2016 near Hayward in northern Wisconsin.  I was assisted in the installation by my assistant, Jeremiah Backhaus, who also helped me with some aspects of making this piece.  One of the owners, as well as his friend who did the timber frame work on this lodge (hand hewing and all), also helped with the install.BP Chand 7

The piece is approx. 72″ x 84″, with a 10-1/2′ drop.  It is made of mild steel, copper, slumped glass, and elk antler sheds.  I made almost every piece on this chandelier, through hand forging, and  French repousse’.  The exceptions were three collars that were bored out by a friend, as I did not have a large enough drill bit for my lathe, nor a boring bar.  I also had the patterns for the birch leaves laser cut by Muthig Industries in Fond du Lac, WI.  The stems were cut purposely wide, so I could forge them down to round.  I then hand-veined, then hot-sunk the leaves into a tree stump to give them volume and movement. The piece was sand-blasted, and has a poly-chrome paste finish.  John Abler, of Abler Art Glass in Kiel, WI ( made the two glass shades which are 10″ and 14″ in diameter.  The glass was slumped in sections, and leaded together to from a hemisphere.

BP Chand 12


The elk antler sheds came from Idaho, specifically: Yellowstone Antlers, Donovan Shipton (  Don did a fine job of finding three matched sets, that were relatively close in size from one set to the other.

BP Chand 15


The piece was wired by Zach Skarda at Heritage Lighting, Cedarburg, WI (


BP Chand 4


The piece was sandblasted.  I then applied black Gilders Paste (TM).  Once dried, I polished the entire piece.  A second application of paste was applied to give the piece bronze highlights.  The image below better illustrates those highlights.

BP Chand Install 2 (2)


BP Chand 3



Once the piece was installed, the owners delighted us by giving us a tour of this fine lodge, designed to give the feeling of a 1940’s vintage east coast hunters lodge, complete with full bear mount, elk shoulder mount, a mammoth wood fireplace in the great room, and of course, a timber-frame log construction…of which was hand-hewed locally by artisans.  Further, they prepared a fine meal centered around a side of bison, prepared to your liking, asparagus, wild rice,  fine red wine, ice wine after supper, and also strawberry rhubarb pie and strawberry shortcake…all home-made, and all served beneath the warm glow of the newly installed elk-antler chandelier.

The evening was capped off by stories and yarns.  I awoke early the next morning (5:45), made coffee, and from the porch overlooking the lake, I watched the sun’s rise.  Serenaded by loons, and entertained by two otters, the morning started off perfectly.  Our hosts then prepared a fine breakfast, and again we dined under the light of the chandelier.  A delightful climax for a journey that began last December.

…Dan Nauman

28 May, 2016

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork | Leave a Comment »

Elk Antler Chandelier “In Progress” Images

Posted by bighornforge on April 14, 2016

This elk-antler chandelier is being made for a “cabin” in northern Wisconsin.  When completed, it will have 15 lamps, and two stained-glass shades, one mounted at the top, and one at the bottom.  There will be added metalwork to mount the shades as well.

Stay tuned to see the finished product.


Birchpoint Chandelier April 12 G

Birchpoint Chandelier April 12 F

Birchpoint Chandelier April 12 E

Birchpoint Chandelier April 12 C

Birchpoint Chandelier April 12 A

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Dan Nauman Interviewed on “BlacksmitHER” Podcast

Posted by bighornforge on November 13, 2015

BlacksmitHER Cover


Just a quick note:

Last week I was interviewed by Victoria Patti of “BlacksmitHER Radio”, a podcast site where Victoria has candid interviews with metalworkers, artists and artisans alike.  The address is  In this interview, Ms. Patti essentially announces to the listeners one of my new endeavors: I am the new editor for the “Hammer’s Blow“, a publication provided by “Artist Blacksmith Association of North America” (ABANA).

If you are so inclined to listen to my interview, it is episode #48.  Thanks so much, Victoria.




…Dan Nauman

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“Console Table 2015” by Dan Nauman

Posted by bighornforge on July 31, 2015

Console Table 2015 C

Console Table 2015

The debut of “Console Table 2015” was last evening, at an event entitled, “Artist Bike Night” at the “Iron Horse Hotel” in Milwaukee, WI.  I was invited to exhibit there along with three other artists.  I must have seen over three hundred bikes…mainly Harley-Davidsons.  It was an enjoyable, and LOUD, evening.

This piece, 16 x 18 x 25-1/2 in, was inspired by the large acanthus leaf on the upper portion of the “S” scroll.  I had been wanting to make that leaf for several years.  So I finally made it last month, while visiting my friend Tom Latane’, a fine fellow and blacksmith in Pepin, WI.  Tom and I had been working on twin projects, two tin kitchens, on and off for the last couple years together.

Unfinished Tin Kitchen (a.k.a. "reflector oven")

Unfinished Tin Kitchen (a.k.a. “reflector oven”)


Well I finally finished mine, and thus I had a day or so to “play” in Tom’s shop before returning home, so I began to work on the leaf.

Console Table 2015 B

Upon finishing it, I thought it was too nice a piece to not have a home or function, so I designed the console table around the acanthus leaf.  Yes, this is backwards, as the leaf is usually the salt and pepper, not the main course.  However, that is how this piece evolved.  I initially designed this project to be a shelf bracket.  I worked a little on it one day, set it aside in the shop to work on a project that pays the bills.  I would glance at it every so often, and think, “What does this piece want added to it?”  So it evolved slowly to what you see here in these images.

This is definitely not how one should execute a project, however since this was a piece for me, and to be used as a display piece, I bent the rules a bit.  That said, I did have a full scale lay-out of the primary shape on the lay-out table.  Every so often, I would take a piece of soapstone and draw in another element.  The lay-out kept me honest, and the project sound.

One aspect of this project that I enjoyed was using copper for the repousse’ elements.  I typically use 18 gauge steel, but in this case I used 16 gauge copper.  It forms very easy compared to steel, as one might expect.  However, it also shows every hammer blow…on target or not.  That said, the errant blows are more easily erased in copper than those in steel.

Console Table 2105  A



The finish is primarily bee’s wax, however the table pan was finished with black “Gilders Paste”.  I plan on topping the pan with 3/4″ marble or granite.

By the way, if you ever wish to have a truly fine dining experience, I highly recommend “Smyth”, the restaurant located inside the “Iron Horse Hotel”.  I have dined there on several occasions, and every time the cuisine has been exceptional.  We ordered two hors-d’oeuvres; one was spiced goat cheese, and the other was  seasoned scallops on a bed of fresh corn.  The hotel and restaurant are a stone’s throw from Milwaukee’s “Harley Davidson Museum”.

…Dan Nauman

“Nobody goes there anymore…it’s too crowed”. – Yogi Berra, when asked about a local restaurant.

Posted in Bighorn Forge/Nauman Ironwork, Decorative ironwork, Repousse' | 2 Comments »

Blacksmith Images from Amateur Photographer Augie Stark

Posted by bighornforge on May 7, 2015




These images were shot by amateur photographer Augie Stark, who visited my shop on two occasions this year.  Augie is taking a photography class at the University of Wisconsin/Madison.  Dan in shop line drawing 2

Dan in shop Line drawing

Dan at work B&W


Very impressive images, as they show texture, and great composition…both qualities I enjoy, and why I particularly enjoy B+W photography.  To truly appreciate these images, click on them to see a larger image.

Thanks Augie, for sharing these!

…Dan Nauman

“Nobody goes there anymore.  It’s too crowded.”- Yogi Berra   (talking about a popular restaurant in his old St. Louis neighborhood.)

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Restored Twin Gates Receive Gold Medal

Posted by bighornforge on April 7, 2015

Edgar Brandt Gate, restored in 2014 by Dan Nauman, and Finelli Ironworks.

Edgar Brandt Gate, restored in 2014 by Dan Nauman, and Finelli Ironworks.

NOMMA 2015 Top Job Award

Jim Korosec of “Finelli Ironworks”, contacted me a few years ago to help his company restore two sets of identical gates in Cleveland, Ohio.  That was the beginning of a long, interesting, and sometimes trying journey.

I am pleased to announce that through a combined effort with “Finnelli Ironworks” of Solon, Ohio, a gold medal was awarded for both our efforts last month by the “National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Assoc.” (NOMMA), at their annual “Top Job” competition. As only one company can enter for a given project, only “Finelli Ironworks” was recognized, however “Bighorn Forge. Inc.” will receive a duplicate gold medal along with a certificate.

Gate detail- rosette

Gate detail- rosette

We reproduced all of the rosettes, husks, and acanthus leaves for these gates, primarily using the French repousse’ method of metal forming.  The original pieces were machine stamped.

I was assisted in part by Jeremiah Backhaus, who helped make the 100 compound rosettes (50 compound rosettes per gate, 200 total pieces.)  Some are near the top of the gate, all in a row, and some are at about waist height, all in a row (see image below.)

Gate detail- compound rosettes, 100 total

Gate detail- compound rosettes, 100 total

Gate detail-square compound rosettes, 64 total

Gate detail-square compound rosettes, 64 total

This effort took well over 1100 hours, and resulted in two carpal tunnel surgeries for me.  To give you an idea as to how much time is invested in each piece, each compound square rosette above has about 5-1/2 hours invested x 64 sets.  That equates to 352 hours, just for this series of pieces.

Gate detail- top

Gate detail- top

These gates were originally made by master blacksmith Edgar Brandt (1880-1960) of France, who made and shipped them for the estate of “Harvey Firestone, Jr.” in Cleveland, Ohio. (Original photo below.)

Image of Edgar Brandt gate, taken shortly after original installation

Image of Edgar Brandt gate, taken shortly after original installation


Harvey Firestone, Jr.

In order to reproduce these many forms, there was extensive research into the original pattern development, which was difficult as many original pieces were so rusted away, that only fragments remained, as the images below demonstrates.

Pattern development, based on remnants

Pattern development, based on remnants

Recreated acanthus leaf pattern, approx. 16" x 49"

Recreated acanthus leaf pattern, approx. 16″ x 49″

The image above of the very large acanthus leaf pattern shows some of the remnants used to approximate the original pattern.  Note that the original “parrot’s beak” at the end (scroll-like termination) is missing entirely.  Five pattern changes on the parrot’s beak, along with three test pieces, were made before settling on one that proved to work well.

Below are some images of some of the many reproductions.

Husks- 16 total pcs. Note pattern in the foreground.

Husks- 16 total pcs. Note pattern in the foreground.

Compound rosettes, eight total sets.

Compound rosettes, eight total sets.

Various reproduced forms

Various reproduced forms

Some rosette sets for one gate.

Rosette sets for one of four gate leaves. (Above)

Rosette #2 Repro and Original

Original machine stamped piece on right, hand formed reproduction on left.

I would like to thank Finelli Ironworks, and specifically Jim Korosec, for getting me involved in this project.  By the way, Jim found me via this blog site.  The owner of the gates was ready to fly to France to find someone who could reproduce these pieces by hand.  However, just prior to him leaving, Jim found me through this blog-site, and e-mailed me about this project.  I responded, not expecting a reply from Jim, as I receive many such inquiries regarding parts made by French repousse’.  Typically, when folks realize the time it takes…consequently the monetary investment…they back off in a hurry.

However, Jim ended up calling me, and said the owner was going to fly to my shop the next day to meet with me.  Since I was driving out to Maine to teach repousse’ in just two weeks, I said that I would stop by (in Cleveland, Ohio) on my way back, so there was no need for the owner to fly to my studio. And so, I met with Jim and the owner in Cleveland in August of 2012. Obviously, they trusted that I could do the job.

Below are the very last parts I made for this project, which are ribbon bows made of 20 gauge sheet metal.  There is roughly seven hours in each bow, of which there are four small and two large versions. These proved to be some of the more challenging of the forms.  However it is challenges such as this that keep me returning to the studio.

Bows three

Three of the four small ribbon bows, approx. 20″ x 20″.

Original bow to the left, repro on right.

Original bow to the left, repro on right.

There is always a bittersweet end to such a journey.  I’ll admit, there were many times I was bouncing off the walls because of some of the repetitious aspects of this project. For example, when I was working on the square rosettes, of which there were 64, (and it takes about 5-1/2 hours per rosette)…when I got to rosette number 15, I was already seemingly headed for the loonie bin, wondering if I’d keep my sanity with so many like parts with so much detail.  The carpal tunnel symptoms didn’t help, either.

However, what kept me going was that I mentally prepared myself beforehand, knowing that I’d hit the proverbial wall at some point, and so I expected this monotony to happen…several times.  I also kept thinking that when the project was completed, I could stand in front of those gates, and have a fine feeling of accomplishment.

I also thank the owner of these gates for trusting in my abilities.  (I keep his name anonymous in respect of his privacy.)

And so it has ended, with that very satisfaction as my main reward.  I also learned a great deal during this process.  Lastly, I wish to thank the Lord my God for giving me the where-with-all to accomplish the task.

…Dan Nauman, April, 2015

“Leadership is the ability to transform vision into reality.”– Warren G. Bennis

Posted in Decorative ironwork, Repousse' | 3 Comments »

A 2015 Blueprint for an “Artisan’s Assembly of Metalworkers”

Posted by bighornforge on February 24, 2015


Cyril Colnik (second row, third from right) and his employees (undated photo.)

This is a compilation of thoughts and ideas spawned from seasoned, and learned artisans in metal who have offered their wisdom in an effort to improve a metalworking organization.  I dedicate this text to these individuals, indeed hoping that this initiates a trend towards positive change, improving and solidifying the future of forging, along with complimentary forms of creative metalwork.


“A leader takes people where they want to go.  A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter

It has been over 40 years since the renaissance of forging and shaping metal began.  Numerous organizations have sprouted, some flourishing at some points during this time period.  Making a living shaping metal was merely a dream for most in the 1970’s.  Today, though still not common, hundreds of men and women provide for their families by making things of metal; some full time, others part time.  Over the four decades, such progress has been achieved that we can identify some of the metalwork made during this span as being made in a specific decade, or by a certain individual.  Where once it was difficult to find a book on forging, today, not only are there numerous books, but we also have the Internet, providing information on metalwork literally at our fingertips.  This knowledge base has increased at an alarming rate.  What was almost lost has now been re-established in not only the minds of those shaping metal, but also in the minds of architects, interior designers, and even the every-day ordinary person with simply a passing interest.  Many artisans who began their journey in metal in the 70’s have grown by leaps and bounds learning many aspects of design, architecture, and process.  The work that these artisans produce can sometimes be compared to the great masters, while others express new and exciting designs.  For most, this maturation process took much longer than the average college education, and longer than the master guided apprentice/journeyman (guild) system of long ago.

However, while metalworking individuals have matured, metalworking organizations have not kept up with their maturation process. Some organizations began and flourished with their original game-plan, specifically geared towards artists, beginning smiths, and hobbyists, while others targeted specific process, modern technology,  or leaned more heavily towards the business of metalwork.  Unfortunately, these organizations planed out, and failed to take the lead; their original game-plans wore out, and eventually outdated.


For example, learning to forge in the 1970’s was a scatter-gun approach.  Students had no clear path to learning, so they enrolled in just about any workshop, bought any available books, and sought anyone who smelled like coal to teach them. Today, though we have a bounty of resources to learn from, as well as places to learn, learning continues to be the scatter-gun approach.  Even with this vast knowledge base, and with numerous learned individuals, we still do not have an established, clear, and linear path to learn how to forge...not one.  Yes, we can turn to many forging how-to books and instruction manuals, but none have proven to be a thorough treatise, nor a linear method for the student (or even an instructor).  This is but one of the issues that has sadly never been seriously addressed by any metalworking organization. There is a need for metalworking organizations to mature, and there are numerous other outstanding reasons to do so; safety in the studio, as well as product safety and integrity heading the list.

“Leadership is the ability to transform vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis

Since 1996, these and other issues have been highlighted through numerous conversations with many people, whom I shall refer to as “senior smiths”, or those who have dedicated their lives to shaping iron, mainly by use of hammer, anvil and forge.  Many of these individuals have pushed themselves to learn the processes  of the great masters, i.e. Tijou, Mazzucotelli, Colnik, Yellin, Benetton, Kuhn, and others like them.  They then apply and push themselves to master like forms, or then progress to design and create fresh ideas.  Many of these senior smiths have offered opinions about what is lacking, what was missed, or what is needed in an organization to more properly lead, teach, communicate, and prepare highly motivated, interested, and devoted individuals in designing, studying, and shaping metal (See “Note #1” below).  This dialogue speaks mainly for these senior smiths, as well as for some younger smiths, who are driven, determined, and disciplined in metalwork.

Kehlhammer work - 19th Century

Kehlhammer work – 19th Century

Note #1: It is interesting to note that many individuals dedicated solely to forging would not be satisfied with an organization based solely on forging. Many of these individuals also understand and appreciate many forms of well designed and well executed metalwork that utilize cutting edge technology i.e. MIG and TIG welding, laser and plasma cutting, and more. Many also understand that to make a living shaping metal without sometimes using cutting edge technology is difficult (though not impossible).  It is also commonly accepted that if artisans and artists expect metal design to progress, that there must be freedom in the processes and technology in order to do so.  Thus, an organization that promotes and represents these many forms of metalwork would be acceptable, however with a caveat: The organization must delineate each discipline as separate from the other(s), strongly highlighting each discipline’s peculiarities to avoid confusion between disciplines. These distinctions are key in order for the organization to be successful.

For clarification purposes in the organization, it must be noted that each of these are indeed separate and distinct disciplines: 1.) Forging 2.) Electric welding (includes arc, MIG, and TIG) 3.)  Fabrication (not utilizing forged elements nor forged joinery) 4.) Casting 5.) Stamping 6.) Machining (lathe, mill, CNC, etc.)

Diversion full view

“Diversion” by Dan Nauman. Forged and fabricated, 48″ x 88″, mild steel, natural patina. 2012. Edgewood Orchard Gallery, Fish Creek, WI.

Here is a 2015 combined overview of the existing metalworking organization’s dynamics, as well as the roots of some of their issues, and some potential solutions :

1.) Many observations by the senior smiths speak of a lack of design leadership, as well as forging fundamental leadership.  

So…who are our leaders, and where are they? It would be easy to play favorites here, but clearly a leader would be one who shows proficiency at his or her craft.  Other indicators would be business success, notoriety outside of the organization, proficiency at teaching the respective craft, and a proficiency in organizing and managing.  These attributes largely describe a business owner.  Of the successful business owners I know, many work 50, 60, or even 70 hours per week.  This does not bode well for one who is asked to volunteer a great deal of time to run an organization outside of their work environment.  It is well known that “time is money.” That said, a volunteer based organization will not likely have many individuals reflecting the above listed attributes running the organization on a regular basis, or consistently.  Volunteering gets old in a hurry when there are major problems within your own company.  Many older, and/or retired artisans also feel they have already put in their proverbial dues by serving earlier in life.  (For solutions to this situation, see #3 below.)

2.) Many site the publications as being sub-par, siting several cover images in particular.

Say what you may, but folks do judge books by their covers.  Simply put, the cover ought to represent the craft’s best in design and craftsmanship.  The publication’s contents should do the same.  However, many articles are written in a folksy manner, contain poor images (i.e. poor lighting, background, noise, etc.).  This is due in large part as many articles are written by the membership, not by journalists or professional writers.

Other complaints include editorial responsibilities, i.e. bad lay-out and format (lay-out too busy, graphic noise, contrasting color, etc.)  If an organization pays professional writers to write the articles, the resulting essays will be well written, but sometimes lack insight or substance.  The reason is likely that some of these professional writers are solely reporters, and not familiar with metalworking disciplines. Thus the resulting article may miss key points, miss emphasis on the process(es) used, and terminology is sometimes confused.

Potential solutions for #2 would first be to insure that the editor is of the mindset.  He or she would be familiar with several forms of metalworking. The publication would have regularly contributing writers, all of whom are established in some form of metalwork, some or all of whom are paid to provide these articles.  Member submitted articles would require sound content, and images that reflect professional qualities.  Member submitted articles would also be accepted/rejected by an established review committee that works closely with the editor.  The category (of metalwork), quality of articles, and cover image selection would be by recommendation of this committee.  Specific departments would be established (i.e. forging, fabrication, restoration, reproduction, etc.) for continuity from one issue to the next, with lay-out that is high on essay and image content, and less on exotic page color, design, and font.  Broader content could be accomplished by an “International Communique” department, as well as through regional editors, i.e. East coast, West Coast, Midwest, etc.  If there is nothing to report for a given department in an issue, it would be noted “No Report” or “No Article Submitted for this Issue”.

To help insure quality submissions, an annual “Members Choice Awards” would be held, based on publication submissions.  Awards, based on images and design in the publication, would be for each category (see #II in the outline below), awarding gold, silver and bronze medals.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.  The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”  – Max DuPree.

Gate Design #2

“Pool Gate Drawing #2” by Dan Nauman. Graphite and ink. 2007. (Artisan’s collection.)

3.) Standards, education, and identification of achievements.

A.) Starting with the latter, if you sign up for a workshop, often the workshop is listed as for a beginner, an intermediate, or for an advanced individual.  We can all define a beginner.  However, what defines “intermediate” or “advanced”?  (Think on this for a moment.)  There are no universally accepted, nor accurate definitions of either as a gauge for learning metalworkers, especially where forged work is concerned.  Ask a room of ten people in a given workshop to describe what an “intermediate” is, and you’ll receive eleven different answers.  You will likely receive a very huge and diverse cross section of what the requirements are for any given level.

Example: When a forging workshop is billed as “advanced”, many might assume that an advanced individual is well acquainted and competent with forge welding.  However, because of today’s lack of level definitions, likely one or more members of a given advanced workshop would not be able to weld very well, or perhaps may never have forge welded anything at all.   This is not so much an issue with a student with a mild interest in forging, but what of the other students in the advanced workshop?  Will they get equal attention time from the instructor?  Or will the instructor be mired down showing a novice welder how to weld?  Or worse…several novices?!  One instructor I know lamented that he taught an advanced workshop that involved knowledge of forging, hardening and tempering of carbon steels, along with power hammer work, only to find out that two of his five students had never had a forging hammer in their hand prior to that workshop.

Thus, to help solve this problem, there is a need for a system that identifies an individual’s forging achievements.

B.) What about the instructor’s capabilities?  How does the student know whether the instructor knows enough about the craft to teach…and if he does have the requirements, can he teach the processes clearly?  It might clearly state “master blacksmith” on the teacher’s card or bio, so he must be a capable teacher, correct?  Unfortunately, (and sadly), there are many instructors out there who should not be teaching or demonstrating.  Since there is no established criterion for an individual to prove an individual’s achievements, nor their ability to teach the craft in any way, shape or form, ….anyone, no matter their capabilities, can bill themselves as a forging instructor, teacher or demonstrator. So, for the unfortunate students, it is truly a roll-of-the-dice as from whom they will be learning…and what they will learn, right or wrong.

I have heard of one horror story where a person was teaching regularly (and charging a fee) with under a year’s worth of forging experience…and that experience was based on only two weeks of formal instruction.  He gets away with it because, let’s face it, in today’s world most people (i.e. beginners) have no clue about forging.  A good analogy would be touting the fact that one can “imitate Abraham Lincoln orating when he was 25 years old.”  If you’ve never seen or witnessed the original, it all looks and sounds fantastic!

Many seasoned smiths can think back upon what they used to perceive was great design and workmanship, only to realize later what a disappointment that work really was back then.  Remember that work of the 1970’s?  Everything was extreme twists, dragons, and letter openers, and many of us thought it was all wonderful.

Thus, knowing whether an instructor is competent will help the young students, as well as maturing students greatly.

“Leaders think and talk about the solutions.  Followers think and talk about the problems.” – Brian Tracy


“Progression of a Bobeche” Storyboard, by Dan Nauman. 15″ x 24″. Repousse’ in mild steel, wax finish. 2005. Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Milwaukee, WI.

B2.) But because an instructor is capable, doesn’t necessarily mean he can teach the fundamentals well, linearly, or clearly.  A universally accepted curriculum is needed, so everyone teaching can read from the same book. Beyond that, a system to train instructors should be developed, (perhaps a mentor-ship program) to insure the very best teachers for the students.

C.) Today, there are several individuals identifying themselves as “Master” blacksmiths.  A true master (of anything) is a title awarded by a guild (or at the very least, a committee), to an individual who has met the criterion set forth by the guild.  Since the guild system has ceased to exist, these modern day “masters” are self proclaimed, and have done so based on their own criterion.  Unfortunately, this again causes confusion in many circumstances, as these “masters” could potentially be merely novices who went to Kinko’s to have business cards printed with “Master Blacksmith” by their names.  Sadly, their students, and sometimes their clients are duped into believing these individuals are reputable, competent, and proven in their designs and workmanship.  Likely, many times their students will be taught the “long way around the barn”, or wrong altogether.  Also likely, their clients are left with a poorly designed piece that neither fits their style, nor the appropriate proportions of the given space.

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.  You cannot blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore M. Hesburgh

Note #2:  Many snarl at the notion of established levels, but as is being shown here, clearly established levels will aid in teaching and learning.  It may be that those who turn up their noses to established levels fear that their true level is lower than they might believe.  In other words, they fear they might be exposed as being less than they pontificate.

Established levels also serve as a benchmark, or a sort of achievement award for aspiring individuals.  Consider this: What good would it have been for you if you had no idea what your grades were in grammar school?  It is no different in forging and other disciplines.

Still others feel that established levels will create an elitist contingent.  Believe me, the contingent exists, titles or not, so that is not a valid concern.

Note #3:  Many who turn their noses up to labels or achievement levels say “My portfolio is all I need to declare and prove my competency.”  That may be true, both to their credit, but also perhaps to their detriment, as it may show how incompetent they are, and sadly many do not even recognize their own incompetence.  Their portfolio might show what appears to be fine workmanship, however we all know an image may be deceiving or enhanced.  We ourselves have “our best side”, and likewise, so do some of our earlier works.

Beyond that, an image cannot prove out structural integrity.  Have you ever approached a table, forged or not, and upon placing  pressure upon it, had it shift miserably…so miserable that you dared not place a full glass upon it?  That table looked just fine as you approached it, however just looking at it did not prove its integrity, or lack thereof.  Likewise, an image proves nothing of structural integrity.  Form follows function, and we’ve all seen seemingly wonderful designs, only to find out later that though it looks great, it functions poorly.  Thus, one’s portfolio is not solid proof of one’s competency in design or workmanship.

“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald H. McGannon

LYWAM Dan and audience

Dan Nauman, Artist in Residence, Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI. July 2011

The solution to Items #3 A-C would be to establish a well thought out system of achievement levels.  This system should be based on the knowledge and experience of several seasoned and learned individuals who would pass the criterion in item #1 (above).  Once a system has been established, a test period should ensue, and then an annual review board should evaluate how well the system is working, and make any necessary revisions.  This review board should be in close contact with craft schools, forging organizations, and affiliates.

Some form of accepted instructor criterion should be in place to insure instructor competency.  Again, perhaps a mentor-ship program could be in place where aspiring instructors could work alongside established instructors, until they learn the methodology of teaching the respective craft.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that certifying instructors would be a positive step for the betterment of the students, and especially the craft itself.

As mentioned above, a test period for the initial instructor training should be put in place, followed again by annual reviews by a board, also involving craft schools, forging associations, and affiliates.

D.) However, more importantly, before a curricula or achievement levels can be established, there needs to be a forging standard to measure by.  But what standard?  That is correct, there is no standard for forging, so at present, there is no concrete measuring stick to determine the level of competency of any individual.  On another level, in the building trades, there is no “Forging Standard” to insure the safety of the product.  That alone is a recipe for disaster.  In addition, there is also nothing in place to insure safety in the forging studio.

Broken pier leg due to lack of material.

Broken pier leg due to lack of material.

Think on this for a bit:  What denotes a sound tenon joint (see above image), a sound upset right angle bend, or a sound forge weld?  For example, if a railing used as a barrier is constructed, and any one of these should fail, lives are in jeopardy.  Simply stating that a railing can withstand 200 ft. lbs. from any given direction is not enough to insure safety, as if these joints are improperly executed, they may fail over time, and perhaps in a short time at that.

Finally, without a proper forging standard,  it is impossible to develop a proper forging curriculum.  The standard must come first, then the curriculum may be written.  The curriculum should be of a linear nature, gradually immersing the student into more difficult processes.  The student should then be graded, and finally awarded for any and all achievements.

Standards, curriculum, education, achievements, and safety…these all work together to better the craft, as well as the craftsman.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it always has.” – Margaret Mead.

4.) Forged, fabricated, or?

When we see an image in a publication or a piece in a competition, we need to know more specific information.  We can all identify with marveling at a piece of metalwork, then wondering how a specific motif was accomplished.  Some of us can also relate to viewing a project billed as “forged”, only to note that most of it has been MIG welded, ground with a right angle grinder, used cast or stamped elements, and truly the only “forging” were some hot-formed and bent bars.  The problems here are many.  For the learning metalworker, primarily interested in forging, trying to figure out how a piece was formed is hard enough without being miss-identified regarding process.  Many “forged” projects have hidden MIG, TIG, or arc welds…we need to know this, if we are to truly understand and appreciate what we are looking at.  Unfortunately, this information and more is not honestly presented, or it is even hidden for whatever purpose.  Even honestly stating that a piece is “forged and fabricated” does not go far enough, as we need to know what was forged, and what was fabricated.  Example:  How does a student know if a leaf is forged, cast, stamped, or by means of repousse’ merely by looking at it?

On another note, in a competition, it isn’t fair to one who primarily forged something to be competing with another project that is mostly fabricated, but entered as mostly or wholly forged.  In this case we are comparing and judging radically different processes, and nobody truly wins.

Without clearly defined submissions or entries, the integrity of the publication or competition may be compromised.

Altar candlestick for St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Fayetteville, NC.

“Altar Candlestick” , by Dan Nauman. Mild steel, 24″ x 36″, Gilders Paste finish. St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Fayetteville, NC.

Example:  In the image of the candlestick above, can you determine simply by looking at it whether it is 100% forged, 90% forged, or forged and fabricated?  What do those terms (forged, fabricated, etc.) actually mean?

Potential solutions obviously involve honesty on the part of whomever is submitting the information.  However an experienced review board could also determine whether a project passes the criterion for “forged” or falls more correctly into “fabricated”, or “forged and fabricated.”  Further, demand to know what parts of the project were forged, what were fabricated, etc.

Perhaps categories could determine: A.) Period Forging ,100% forged (only forging processes including the nine forging fundamentals listed in #3 of the “Clarification notes” below) 2.) Modern Forging 90% to 99% forged 3.) Forged and Fabricated (Less than 90% forged.)  Note: These are only suggestions, and could be redefined.

Other pertinent information would suggest, A.) Who designed the project? 2.) What determined the discipline(s) used? Certainly these clarification aspects could be defined even further and more clearly.

There also needs to be clear definitions regarding disciplines, i.e., 1.) Forging 2.) Fabricating 3.) Machining 4.) Casting           5.) Welding 6.) Etc.

Some might feel these distinctions are too picky.  However, consider how many times you have asked the question, “How was that motif executed?”, only to find out that the process used was not even close to what you had considered.  You may have even been disappointed to learn that it involved no hand skills by the creator. We need to be more scrutinizing in how we present projects to others, so others may clearly understand and thereby learn.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”- Albert Schweitzer

Summary:  This is serious stuff.

To implement any of the above ideas and programs will take a dedicated force, and years to conceive, refine and finally establish.  If it happens quickly one should question the integrity of the program.

For now we can agree that no existing organization:

A.) Caters well to a solely forging based member.

B.) Clearly distinguishes between forging, fabrication, period work, etc.

C.) Has a linear, progressive, and well-planned teaching program for forging.

D.) Insures the competency of instructors, teachers, or demonstrators.

E.) Has established a forging standard.

F.) Has attempted to establish achievement levels or status, based on an individual’s accumulated knowledge and skill base.

LYWAM Folks examine sample  pieces

Audience participation at “Dan Nauman, Artist in Residence”. Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI. July 2011.

Action:  A new blueprint is needed to establish a new or existing organization that addresses the above issues.

An “Artisan’s Assembly of Metalworkers” association likely would be widely accepted, with proper monitoring, and implementing the above thoughts and ideas.  Again distinguishing between disciplines, is of the utmost importance.  Also there will need to be solid leadership in the senior category, and likely the organization would not be of a non-profit status…and much much more, as discussed above.

The outline below is designed to begin the process of organizing these thoughts and ideas for whatever organization that realizes the value of such wisdom.  (Note that the items are not listed in order of importance.)

Some clarification notes:

A.) This text has avoided the use of the word “blacksmith” as it does not clearly describe what one does, nor does it define a process.  The word “blacksmithing” is not recognized by most dictionaries as a word, and also does not describe a process.  Thus, neither word will be found in this text.

B.) The word “artisan” is used in this text to describe a creative metalworker.  As one must be an artisan to be an artist, we are not excluding artists from this dialogue.

C.) The word “forge” and its derivatives define a unique discipline defined by primary processes of which there are nine fundamentals: 1.) Drawing down 2.) Upsetting 3.) Cutting (splitting, slitting, or surface embellishment) 4.) Bending 5.) Twisting 6.) Joinery (rivets, collars, lap joints, mortise and tenon, etc.) 7.) Punching 8.) Drifting 9.) Forge welding.  The products created by forging use only these fundamentals to produce a piece in its entirety.

D.) The word “fabricate” and its derivatives define a discipline where forging is not used as the main process, where metal is fused by electric welding, and by use of catalog parts, i.e. cast or stamped, are employed.

E.) There may be a category of metalwork that employs both forged and fabricated disciplines, and thus will be denoted as “Forged and fabricated.”

“Leadership and learning are indispensable of each other.” – John F. Kennedy


for a 2015 “Artisans Assembly of Metalworkers”

I.) Define Vocabulary

   A.) Forge 1.) Period forging 2.) Restoration 3.) Style 4.) Other categories

   B.) Fabricate

   C.) Etc.

II.) Categories/Departments

   A.) Forged 100%

   B.) Forged and fabricated (hybrid) 1.) Percent forged 2.) Percent fabricated

   C.) Fabricated 100%

   D.) Art/sculpture

   E.) Period/Historical

   F.) Restoration

   G.) Decorative Art

   H.) Level 1.) Beginner 2.) Amateur 3.) Seasoned professional 4.) Or?

   I.) Organizational leadership panel

III.) Publication

   A.) Good quality articles 1.) Pay for articles 2.) Regular seasoned contributors 3.) International communique 4.) Regional editors 5.) Leadership panel (accepts/rejects articles) 6.) Refuse folksy articles.

   B.) High quality, professional quality images only.

   C.) Editor must be of the mindset.

   D.) Articles must declare specific criterion 1.) Material 2.) Process(es) 3.) Size x, y, and z 4.) Approx hours to complete 5.) Designer 6.) Category (see #II.) 7.) Finish 8.) Year made 9.) Creator’s name(s)  10.) Level of metalworker based on experience  11.) Accept that all categories might not be addressed in every issue.  a.) If a category/department is not addressed, say that “No report” or “No articl submitted for this department.”

   E.) Editor should seek authors for specific categories.

   F.) Cover 1.) Chosen by leadership board (not by any one person, i.e the editor.) 2.) Must be from an article in current issue.  3.) Must be highly representative of a specific category/discipline.

   G.) Advertising review committee.

IV.) Annual Member’s Choice Awards”.

   A.) Awards for each category/discipline 1.) Gold, silver, bronze medals awarded

   B.) Awards given for works shown in last year’s publications only. 1.) Helps to insure quality articles and images are submitted 2.) Competition helps insure best works are represented in magazine.

   C.)  Annual awards banquet.  1.) Separate awards for special works.

   D.) Awards announced through bulletins in creator’s hometown.

  E.) Online voting?

IV.) Develop Forging Standard

   A.) Create before creating a forging curriculum.

   B.) Establish committee to do so

V.) Develop a Forging Curriculum

   A.) Teach fundamentals first.

   B.) Teach stylistic, national, period, and process differences

   C.) Have targets (levels of accomplishments.) 1.) Recognition of achievement.

VI.) Dues

  A.) Dues should be significant to insure the best service to the membership

   B.) Significant dues help to deter wishy-washy membership

VII.) Organization may not be a Non -Profit entity.

   A.)  Allows organization to pay for: 1.) Articles 2.) Board of Directors (justifies their time spent away from their business, and helps to insure board member works…no work, no pay.)

   B.) Allows organization to write articles promoting business, products or entities.

VIII.) Board of Directors

   A.) Must have a representative from each discipline/category.

   B.) Will be paid for tenure

   C.) President must be a seasoned professional

   D.) Former presidents help guide newly elected presidents for one year.

   E.) Limited terms

   F.) Annual meetings 1.) Fall on same day every year 2.) Paid for by association a.) travel food, lodging, stipend.

IX.) Conferences

   A.) Education Focus

   B.) Concentrate on addressing skill levels

   C.) Concentrate on categories/departments 1.) Period forging 2.) Restoration 3.) Design 4.) Others

   D.) Location 1.) Different and rotating locations

   E.) Demonstrators 1.) Chosen by leadership committee 2.) All expenses paid.  3.) Stipend 4.) International flavor

   F.) Gallery

   G.) Public involvement

   H.) Auction

X.) Social Media

   A.) Web-site

   B.) Forums

   C.) Discussion boards

XI.) Funding

   A.) Dues 1.) Divisional fees a.) Beginner b.) Professional c.) Student d.) Small business

   B.) Grants

   C.) Patrons

   D.) Benefactors (bequest)

   E.) Event fees

   F.) Workshops

XII.) Membership Empowerment

   A.) Biennial survey

   B.) Board responsiveness

   C.) Membership forums 1.) Blog oriented 2.) Letters to the editor 3.) Complaints and solutions

   D.) Review cycle of organization status.

XIII.) Structure

   A.) Mission statement

   B.) By-laws

   C.) Procedures

   D.) Infrastructure 1.) Publication(s) 2.) Technology a.0 e-mail b.) Web-site c.) Forums

(Conclusion of outline.  Obviously, much needs to be added, massaged, and clarified.)

Cyril Colnik

Cyril Colnik (Undated photo).

   Conclusions “For the Good of the Craft”

Solid leadership from well seasoned artisans is essential for a truly successful metalworking organization. However the reality is this: If we expect leaders to lead, and to do so with vigor, likely they will need more of an incentive than simple “passion for the process.”  Compensating them for their work (i.e. articles, board membership, demonstrating, teaching, etc.) would be a win for all parties involved.

Create a forging standard to A.) Produce a forging curriculum B.) To establish achievement levels C.) To teach D.) To insure safety in the shop E.) To insure safety of the products E.) To potentially certify forging students and forging instructors.

The purpose of compiling this information is in response to the many who have shared their wisdom over the last 25 years or so.  This text is put out there for any existing organization to adopt, dissect, or glean what they can from it.  Perhaps some energetic individuals will rally and create an entirely new organization based on this content.  In any event, it is hoped that those who care will review these thoughts and ideas in earnest, and some benefit will result for the good of the craft, the good of the students, and for general safety.

Any and all comments are appreciated regarding this text.  Only reasonable comments will be published. Vulgar language and sophomoric comments will be deleted.

This text in no way indicates my attempt to launch a new organization, or to undermine any existing organizations.  Rather, this labor is intended for the good of the various disciplines of metalworking.

Lastly, I resounding “Thank you” to all who contributed to this text.

Respectfully submitted,

Dan Nauman/Artisan-Designer- Owner/ Bighorn Forge, Inc.

February, 2015

(Note: Images used are intended solely as examples, and not intended for self-promotion.)

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Repousse’ XI: Wood Forming and Misc. Tools for Repousse’

Posted by bighornforge on February 13, 2015

This is s continuing series, consisting of the writings of French repousse’ master Nahum Hersom.

I have transcribed exactly as Nahum had written, unless indicated by ((double parenthesis)).

I photocopied his 8-1/2″ x 14″ workbook at a Kinko’s in Boise, Idaho in 1994.  Unfortunately, some of the information is missing, as the copy “runs off the page”.  As my scannercan only scan 8-1/2″ x 11″ pages, I have split the pages into two parts, i.e., 1A + 1B, 2A + 2B, etc.

There is no typed verbiage to accompany the following copied images.

Wood Forming  and Misc.Tools for Repousse’

Hersom's Written Wood Forming Tools 1A

Hersom's Written Wood Forming Tools 1B

Hersom's Written Wood Forming Tools 2A

Hersom's Written Wood Forming Tools 2B

Hersom's Written Wood Forming Tools 3

Miscellaneous Repousse’ Tools 

Hersom's Written Misc Forming Tools 1

((My two cents worth on making wood tools:  I have found that laminating wood together, by gluing several smaller pieces together, helps to prevent cracking, as opposing grains keep the neighboring piece(s) from readily cracking.  I also drill a hole through the wood, then glue and insert a wood dowel  of the same diameter as the hole.  Sometimes I’ll add two or three dowels at different levels. This also helps to keep the wood tool from cracking.  DN))

((End of this Section))

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