All spears are, in a way, the works of others.
Those spears that inspire me are the ones made by Milton Betts, Wendlin Pimple and of course the Skiple brothers, Joseph and Edward.
My name is Jeff Olson. I’m a metal artist that uses traditional blacksmithing tools to create my works of art.
Besides metal sculpture, I do restoration metal work for collectors and clients who are missing handles or latches from antique furniture or turn-of-the-last-century heirlooms.
Dark House spear collectors have sought me out to repair spears they’ve acquired at auctions, garage sales or estate sales. Sometimes these one-of-a-kind items are in desperate need of repair. That’s where I come in.
I can tell you right now that it’s not all fun and games. There’s major league responsibility that comes with working on high dollar works of art. Most of the spears that come to me are in bad shape.
They arrive bent with the barbs sometimes filed off completely. Most have broken or missing tines. In some cases they’ve been haphazardly brazed with brass rod or MIG welded by some poor soul who was inexperienced and just trying to keep the spear serviceable.
The owners of these spears want me to be as minimally invasive as humanly possible. They want them restored to the original “antique look” without looking like they’ve been restored. It’s like being one of those artists who “forges” famous paintings. I have to study the near century old craftsmanship of the original maker and duplicate their work.
Hey I get it. I’m the same way about my tools. I’m sensitive to the clients who have that pained look in their eyes like they’re leaving their new born baby with some stranger they just met.
For me, it’s a labor of love. I enjoy hand forging spears the same way those craftsman did in the early 1900’s. Using the traditional tools of a blacksmith.
Being able to restore spears that were originally made by those popular makers from the past, allow me to get an intimate look into how a spear was made. With my experience, I am able to see things that only the maker of the spear has seen. Like center punch marks on the tines that were hidden inside the shaft or imperfections in the forge welds. These spears all have their own unique story and when I work on restoring the spear, I consider myself fortunate to get to learn their tale.
Yes, I do make spears. But don’t spread that around.
I’m not currently taking orders and I’m not ever going to mass produce. That will just take away the enjoyment of the journey.
I have a few spears currently out to family and friends this year (2020) and two of my spears have been custom made for a company that provides unique bucket list adventures right here in Minnesota at The Off Grid Oasis. This year, my spears will be put to the test. I’ll make adjustments based on the feedback I get and then begin forging more spears for public consumption in the spring of 2021.
Old spears are getting almost impossible to find these days. There are serious collectors roaming the internet and decoy shows buying up all the old spears and putting them up on walls or hiding them away in a safe. A shame really, I suspect the makers intended them to be used for generations to provide meat for the table.
I hammer forge my spears the exact same way that craftsman like Milton Betts, Wendlin Pimple and the Skiple brothers did. And I make them for the same reason. To be used on the hard water.
My spears do have their own flavor of artistry, but in the end, the most important thing to me is that they fly true, penetrate good and hold the fish.
I’ve found that there are two kinds of craftsman out there these days, those that chase the dollar and “likes” and those that chase the skill.
I’m pursuing the skill.