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Published: 6/27/2007

Smithing enthusiasts meet at Sauder Village to show their mettle

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bill McMillen of Glenmount, N.Y., demonstrates how to make a mug from tin to enthusiasts at Sauder VIllage. Bill McMillen of Glenmount, N.Y., demonstrates how to make a mug from tin to enthusiasts at Sauder VIllage.
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ARCHBOLD - They were talking tin - tips, tricks, and techniques - during a convergence at Sauder Village in Archbold where 45 participants from across the country gathered last week.

The special event was attended by tinsmiths, coppersmiths, and other sheetmetal workers from California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nevada.

Don Rasmusson, who lives south of Weston in Wood County, worked with Sauder Village's tinsmith Mike Runyon to promote and organize the convergence.

"We've never done anything like this before. It is unique, and it shows what technology can do," said Mr. Rasmusson on Friday. Missing from the scene that day was Mr. Runyon, who was ill.

Mr. Rasmusson explained that many people attending the convergence are interested in preserving techniques used during America's early colonial days. But the participants met through modern technology - namely, chatting online at the Tin Tinkers Group's Web site.

"We meet on the Internet every Tuesday and communicate with each other," said Mr. Rasmusson, a sheetmetal worker in Toledo. "We network continually, but we never see each other." That is, until last week.

Participants' nametags included their online screen names so that others could recognize them easily.

"It's a neat mix, today's technology bringing all of us together so we can keep something old alive," he said. "We want to preserve the heritage, but we keep up with what's going on today" with the trades.

Tinsmithing and coppersmithing is a passion for many people, and it's a hobby, too.

"The people who are here are passionate about it," said Ann Lux, curator at Sauder Village. She noted that the village offered an "ideal set up" for the convergence, including a work area where participants could hone their skills and a meeting place where they could gather to discuss the trades.

Before the convergence got underway, Mr. Runyon described the event as "the big national gathering for metal workers."

The event allowed participants, including blacksmiths, pipe fitters and historians, to exchange ideas with fellow metal workers; learn historically accurate methods of manufacturing; see newly discovered techniques; trade tools, and swap ideas on how to improve productivity.

A highlight of the weekend was the hot dipping of tin sheet which involved dipping a plate of sheetmetal into molten tin. According to research conducted by the participants, hot dipping was done in the early 1700s, said Mr. Rasmusson who volunteers to demonstrate tinsmithing at the Isaac Ludwig Mill near Grand Rapids.

"We're doing this here today because we cannot get hot-dipped tin in the modern market," he explained. At one time sheets of hot-dipped tin "came over on the boat from England," he said as he stood near makeshift furnaces.

Keith Johnson of Watertown, Wis., uses hot-dipped tin plate, as well as copper, when he makes mugs, tankards, and other items. His passion for tin is more of a hobby, than business, but he sells his handcrafted wares.

"I like to work with tin better than copper. I like the feel of it and the history behind it," Mr. Johnson said as he carried his drinking water in one of his handmade copper tankards. The tankard had a fly lid on it. The fly lid is so named because it keeps out flies, bees, or other critters out of the tankard's beverage.

Bob Allio, of Cooperstown, Pa., Friday was making an oil-type candle, similar to one on display at Thomas Edison's birthplace in Milan, Ohio, where he stopped enroute to Archbold for the convergence. "I've always liked old things," said Mr. Allio.

His wife, Nancy, who says she's her husband's "sidekick," showed photographs in a scrapbook of the many tin sconces, lanterns, candles, and other items that Mr. Allio has made.



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