Metalwork's Eternal Allure
The heating and shaping of metals for human use—in simple tools, weapons, jewelry, and more—have propelled civilizations for a long time. Archaeologists have found evidence of basic copper smelting and smithing dating as far back as 8700 BCE; during the Crusades, the Muslims beat their European opponents partly because of the superior steel in Persian swords; and gold has been worshipped almost everywhere. In this issue, we’ll highlight some of today’s most remarkable metalworkers, exploring how their crafts have helped shape our history.
When Bob Kramer decided it was time to make his own cutlery, he had no idea that his career turn would take him deep into the secret lives of knives. Now he’s established a reputation as one of the most revered bladesmiths in the world—playing David to the Goliath cutlery manufacturers of Germany and Japan.
Story by TODD OPPENHEIMER
Photography by MICHAEL MATISSE and MARTY NAKAYAMA
Sometime in the 1800s, long after the Persians had beaten back the Crusaders, the technique for making the mighty swords that won those battles was mysteriously lost. In the centuries that followed, Europe’s best metallurgists repeatedly tried to revive this craft, with no luck. Then, in the 1980s, a lone horseshoer in Florida named Al Pendray started tinkering with steel recipes. A Craftsmanship mini-documentary
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
Marino Menegazzo spends his days hammering gold leaf into sheets so fine that your slightest touch will make them dissolve. His workshop—a simple brick building hidden on one of Venice’s myriad piazzas—was once the home and studio of Titian, Italy’s immortal Renaissance painter. Come visit with the world’s last true master of handmade gold leaf—an ancient craft where the hand can still beat the machine, every time.
By ERLA ZWINGLE
Every few years, some new razor system hits the market pledging to save your face and your pocketbook. Virtually all of them miss the boat, because the golden age of shaving occurred 50 years ago. The good news is that all that vintage gear is still available, and a few entrepreneurs are now making beautiful modern versions. A visit with the American craftsmen who are making what might be the best of those razors.
Story and Photography by TODD OPPENHEIMER
In the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Hugo Kohl has pulled off what might be the ultimate act of sustainability—at least regarding jewelry. Through years of painstaking, costly, often fruitless detective work, he rescued an era of early American jewelry manufacturing technology that was on the brink of extinction. Now Kohl is one of the few people in the world making a class of vintage jewelry that is truly authentic. And he swears that the system in his shop is the only way to do capitalism.
By ALISON MAIN
Other Topics In This Issue
Who would think that a collection of sewing enthusiasts, dedicated to the anachronistic art of making old-fashioned clothes, would stumble onto a path that revives quality, comfort, ecological consciousness, and respect for the female form in all its varieties? Just ask the historical dress community’s thousands of followers.
By BETH WINEGARNER