Bighorn Forge Celebrates 20 Years in Business

On March 22, 2013, we celebrated 20 years in business here at Bighorn Forge.  A lot has happened in those 20 years.

Forging as an amateur since 1979, it was in 1993 that Dan Nauman quit his sales job and went into forging full time.  By 1994, he had 2 employees.

In 1995, we opened another shop in Baileys Harbor, WI, which is on Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula.  This shop, built in 1904 by August Zahn, a German immigrant, is on Hwy 57, and right on Lake Michigan.  It was built in the Scandinavian style of the cord wood construction, and had wood, end grain floors.

By 1998, we were making things not only for the general public through commission work, but also for Pottery Barn, and the Kohler Company.

Also in 1998, Bighorn Forge (Dan Nauman) was the project director for the video “Forged Elegance”, which was based on the life and work of the famed master blacksmith, Cyril Colnik (1871-1958)  Bighorn Forge owns the copyright to this production, which aired on Wisconsin and Milwaukee Public Television.  (Copies available through “Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum.)

In 2000, we opened a third shop in historic Cedarburg, WI, in the Cedar Creek Settlement, which included several other shops i.e. a winery, a pottery studio, several antique shops, and much more, all located by a picturesque dam on Cedar Creek.  This three story limestone building was built in 1865 originally as a woolen mill.  Between the three shops, Bighorn Forge had 14 employees.

In 2002, we closed the Baileys Harbor shop to concentrate more on the Cedarburg facility.  By 2004, both Pottery Barn and Kohler took their business overseas to China, and by 2006, we closed the Cedarburg shop due to dwindling retail sales.

The following recession hit us hard, but we managed through it by the grace of God.  Nathaniel Reinartz, a former employee, continued to work in the Kewaskum shop independently, and was a great help to Dan when needed.  Another former employee, Jeremiah Backhaus, also stayed on as an apprentice.

In 2006, Dan was offered a position as “Professor of Forging” at the “American College of the Building Arts” (ACBA)  in Charleston, SC. Though teaching is a passion, Dan reluctantly turned down the position for personal reasons.

In 2010, “Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum” had an exhibition of Dan Nauman’s ironwork, entitled “Expressions in Iron.”

Beginning in 2009, Bighorn Forge began sponsoring several interns from the ACBA from four to 10 weeks in the springtime.  Those interns include Jimmy Breazeal, Colin Crader, Aislinn Lweis, and Mackenzie Martin. ( Another intern, Luke Jepson, will be interning here this Spring.)

2012 saw the departure of Nathaniel, as he built a fine blacksmith shop on his new property in Campbellsport, WI.  Dan misses his company, but is happy that he is off on his own, and faring well.

Other highlights include many fine commissions at some of the finest homes in the Midwest, including the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Herman Uihlein Mansion, Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, Lynden Sculpture Garden,(all in Milwaukee, WI), the Executive Mansion in Madison, WI, Paine Art Museum in Oshkosh, the Harvey Firestone Jr. Mansion in Cleveland, OH, and many more.

Bighorn Forge has won four international awards through the “National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association” (NOMMA), one in 2005 for a chandelier made for the “Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion” in Milwaukee, WI, one in 2008 for “Port Washigton Driveway Gate”, Port washington, WI, and two in 2013, one for “Bronze Railing” and  the other for “Entrance Gate”, both at “Lynden Sculpture Garden” in Milwaukee, WI.

Dan Nauman is currently working in his Kewaskum facility, and can say with great relief that the recession is behind Bighorn Forge, and we are looking forward to whatever the good Lord brings us in the future.  Jeremiah continues to apprentice with Dan, and Dan is also continuing to teach many workshops both in Kewaskum, and elsewhere in the country.

It is by the amazing grace of God that we have come as far as we have in the past 20 years, and we praise Him for all He has provided for us.  Dan also thanks his dear wife, Toni Farrell, for believing in him.  He also thanks all the other folks, blacksmiths, friends, and clients for their support over the years.  Thanks to all of you.
Looking forward to the next twenty years with vigor.
…Dan Nauman

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.”  Psalm 46:1-2

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  1. Presley - February 26, 2016 Reply

    Nice to know your story. I am very novice with oxy acetylene decorative cut lighting. I look forward to growing to new skill and professional levels as well. – Presley

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