Kent and I have been together for 25 years. We have 6 children ranging in age from 1.5 – 23 years. Starting out young, we worked many jobs to support ourselves over the years. We have always made a point to find joy in what we do to earn a living, even in entry level positions. Kent’s pursuit of the arts led him to blacksmithing. As a young man, he was introduced to the craft and it caught hold. He served as an apprentice on and off for a cumulative decade, learning the basics through repetition and thousands of hours of grunt work.
Toiling over fire and anvil to hone his skills working in iron fit right in with his love of this city and her architecture. He’s spent years studying our founding fathers, the brewers and builders that gave Milwaukee her distinct look. He shares that passion with every member of our family. You can’t drive anywhere in this town without passing a building that Kent knows the history of and will tell you all about. By age 10, our boys could take you on a tour and would be able to tell you if the ironwork on a building was done by Cyril Colnik, the master blacksmith in Milwaukee 100 years ago. Our personal story *is* our business because our business is our family.
This loan is special because:
More about this loan
We are Milwaukee Blacksmith, a family owned and operated business. Kent is our lead blacksmith. We have been in business for 10 years, starting with a business partner in the beginning to acquire the tools and first year start up we needed to begin. We took the profits from a large project 5 years ago, bought out our business partner and became a full time family business.
My name is Shannon and I handle all the invoicing, marketing, promotion and press for the shop and organize events. I also take care of incoming email requests and scheduling for classes. Our daughter Zoey is invaluable at preparing large quantities of stock for production and design work. Our 3 sons; Miles, Birdie and Oscar and our Eldest daughter Zoey all apprentice with Kent in blending traditional blacksmithing techniques with modern conveniences. Miles’ significant other Diana is also learning her way around the shop and enjoying metal working as well as doing drawing for us while she attends MIAD.
Since we began, we have focused largely on custom work, restoration of Milwaukee’s historic ironwork and building our presence and reputation. Operating on a shoestring budget, we have always utilized our family and assets to help the business. Everyone pitches in and we use our family car to travel to shows, both to sell and spread the word about our company. We find most audiences really engaged by the conversation. People are excited to learn this craft still exists and to go home with heirloom quality items they can add to their homes.
What is the purpose of this loan?
A loan of $10,000 helps us pay for a hammer, a punch press, a multi head drill press and an industrial grinder for the shop. These second hand tools will bring fresh life into the shop and increase productivity and make larger scale projects more accessible to us.
The Sahinler SM50 pneumatic forging hammer operates differently than our current belt driven hammer, a 1916 Little Giant. It hits harder and with greater articulation. Utilizing that control allows a piece to get further into the finishing touches mechanically which helps save Kent’s arm on large pieces. Getting the grunt work of a piece done in this fashion also helps Kent focus on working with the boys in teaching finishing techniques.
The punch press is a mid century machine that allows us to punch holes into steel as opposed to drilling. This allows us to move faster and creates a scrap piece left behind instead of the usual shavings that would end up on the floor and thrown away. We use those scraps in art pieces, an aspect of the shop where the kids get to bring their visions to life instead of the manufacturing someone else’s design and need. The lack of waste appeals to us as nearly everything we create is recycled from something else.
The Burgmeister drill press and industrial grinder/buffer are WWII era machines that will streamline production. They will allow us to drill pilot holes, finish holes and tap for mechanical assembly and finish pieces faster than their 110v cousins.
Years in operation: More than 5 years