Nov 9, 2015
Dan Nauman has been forging since 1979 and has been forging
professionally since 1993. A turning point in his
blacksmithing career was when he spent eight days learning from
Francis Whitaker in Carbondale, CO, and three years later took
Whitaker’s Master Class. With that knowledge, he started his
forging business in Kewaskum, Wisconsin. At one point, he
owned and operated three blacksmiths shops and up to 14
employees. Dan has demonstrated/taught at numerous
blacksmith conferences, schools, and colleges. He has won two
international awards for design and workmanship from the National
Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association (NOMMA.) He
served on the (ABANA) board of directors from 2000-2006 and is now
the new editor of the Hammer’s Blow magazine.
What we talked about
- Dan’s interest in blacksmithing derived from a childhood of
self-sufficiency at a family summer cabin in the backwoods of
Wisconsin. He visited a blacksmith shop nearby and was excited to
see the craft was still alive.
- He eventually signed up to take a workshop from the blacksmith
shop he visited a couple of years earlier. The owners of the shop
were impressed with how quickly Dan was learning to swing the
hammer and asked if he would like to work at the shop in trade for
knowledge. Dan said yes!
- Soon he was signed up with many ABANA affiliates, the Illinois
Valley Guild of Metalsmiths, Blacksmiths Association of Missouri,
Indiana Blacksmithing Association, Alabama Forge Council and more,
to learn what other’s around the country were doing within the
- His turning point in blacksmithing came when he spent eight
days learning from Francis Whitaker, a modern master blacksmith who
worked with Samuel Yellin and Julias Schramm.
- In 1993, Dan opened his first blacksmith shop and was able to
survive with an income from this business. Two years later, in
1995, he noticed there was a blacksmith shop in Bailey’s Harbor, WI
(the Cape Cod of WI) that he wanted to be involved with to sell his
- Then Dan was able also to lease the blacksmith shop where Dan
took his first class; this would make three blacksmith shops that
Dan was running at the same time!
- Filling his retail shop in Bailey’s Harbor with forged pieces
and filling wholesale orders for The Pottery Barn and Kohler were
the main source of income for 11 years. In 2003 both of those
companies stopped ordering from Dan and went to China to fill their
- Dan is now a “one man band” working out of his shop, Big Horn
Forge. He teaches blacksmithing classes out of his shop, offering
11 workshops for up to 4 students at a time.
- Dan was offered a grant from the Francis Whitaker Educational
Blacksmith Foundation to photograph the works of Cyril Colnik, the
famed Austrian-born metals master. This led him to become the
project director on a documentary film called "Forged Elegance."
The video aired on Milwaukee and Wisconsin Public Television.
Colnik worked as a smith in Milwaukee during the late 19th and
early 20th centuries. His works can be seen around Milwaukee—most
notably at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.
- In 2005, Dan won a National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals
Association (NOMMA) “Top Job Award” for a chandelier made for the
“Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion”, Milwaukee, WI. It was one of the
hardest jobs Dan had ever completed.
- Another NOMMA Top Job Award Dan received was for a set of gates
he worked on in conjunction with Finelli Ironworks. He made 100
compound rosettes and 64 sets of compound square rosettes (with
each rosette taking 5 ½ hours to make) for the gates.
- Dan is now the new editor for the ABANA publication called the
Hammer’s Blow magazine.
- Dan’s meaning of being a blacksmith and how the 9 forging
fundamentals (drawing, upsetting, bending, twisting, joints, forge
welding, punching, slitting) cannot be found in any other metal
- He talks about his direction for the publication, including
metalworking compliments such as repousse and chasing. Peter Ross,
Tom Latane, Doug Wilson and Bob Walsh will be his “writer’s
Dan’s Bighorn Forge website - http://www.bighornforge.com/
Facebook page for Bighorn Forge, Inc - https://www.facebook.com/Bighorn-Forge-Inc-202367173116761/
Bighorn’s Blog website - https://bighornforge.wordpress.com/
A Big Thank You to today’s sponsor – ABANA
If you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you
would support the show by:
Thanks so much for your support!