Tag Archives: darkhouse spearing
Dark House Spear Restoration.
A conversation with Minnesota metalsmith Jeffrey M. Olson.
Wendlin Pimple Spear Restoration.
My name is Jeffrey M. Olson. I am a metalworker who specializes in repairing and restoring antiques. My latest challenge was restoring a dark house fishing spear that was hand forged by renowned spear maker Wendlin Pimple.
Wendlin Pimple was an Austrian immigrant born in the 1860’s and settled in Albany, Minnesota. His spears were made in the 1940’s and 50’s. They are rare and sought after by collectors. They are preserved as family treasures, passed on from generation to generation.
This Pimple spear was brought into the shop in rugged shape.
A tine was missing all-together and it had a lot of ugly brazing on it.
The original 7 tine spear was now a 6 tine spear. Now to be fair, I give the metalworker credit for doing what he had to do to make the spear serviceable. The tines were all, for the most part, evenly spaced and the spear was serviceable.
The first step was to remove the brazing to get all the tines free to assess the condition of the tines individually.
Once the tines were cleaned up, work began on straightening the center tine. Using the traditional blacksmithing tools in my shop, I heated the center tine and forged it straight.
Experience tells me that with every restoration, there will be unexpected surprises during the process. This project would prove that to be true once again.
Upon straightening the center tine, several cracks were revealed from the original forge welds that threatened the structural integrity of the spear.
Once the center tine was repaired, work began on forging a new tine to match the one that was missing. Even though the client said this spear was to be a wall hanger and he would not be using this spear to fish, I chose to use a hay rake tine instead of mild steel to keep the spear as original ass possible.
In my mind, this particular spear will still be around decades from now. It will out last me and eventually end up in the hands of someone who may want to use the spear for what Wendlin Pimple forged it for in the first place. To put meat on the table.
Another BIG challenge to the restoration process is getting the new parts you have fabricated to look weathered and worn just like the original old parts. This is hands down the MOST important concern the client has. They want it restored but not look like it’s restored. So I have to constantly remind myself “not to make it look too new” during the entire restoration process.
The final step and most difficult is reassembly. With all the grinding and filing that happens during the repair and restoration, the pieces and parts no longer fit together like they originally did. So assembly and realignment can be tricky and take lots of patience.
Restoration complete! I’m very happy with the restoration of this Pimple spear. Now to get it back to the client!
My Dark House Spear.
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.