Hans Early-Nelson, 29, Minneapolis, metalsmith, swimmer


Like father ... “I started metalworking pretty young, disassembling household objects like VCRs, washers and dryers — and most of the time not putting them back together. My father is a sculptor, and he built wooden boats — sailing vessels and rowboats — when I was young. I started building my own sculptures with his welding machine at the age of 10 or 11.”

... like son? “My father, Scott Nelson, is also a swimmer. He didn’t push his swimming influence very hard on me, but at the age of about 8 my parents said I should try the swim team at the YWCA. But there was a solitary component to it that I didn’t like. I played soccer, baseball, basketball. ... I tried them all, and nothing really stuck till high school. My body changed a lot doing shot-put and discus. I preferred those more methodical, technical sports. Finally in 11th grade I started swimming for the swim team.”

Speedo required “Honestly, the requirements for a Speedo can be a big hang-up, and for me, that was a big part of my coming-of-age, getting over that. I broke through that and ended up being very successful right away, slashing all my times within weeks. “

Schwimmer “Throughout high school I did a little bit of welding, and ended up doing an exchange program in Germany where I worked with a furniture welder. After a few months with them I found a blacksmith to work with. I also swam with a team there.”

From wrench to belt buckle “When I returned a year later I ended up going to welding school at Dunwoody. I started Primitive Precision Metalcraft in 2007. I work 10 to 12 hours a day. I mostly do commissioned work, custom home fixtures like handrails and copper vent hoods, pot racks. I’m also striving to make more sculpture. And I make jewelry from upcycled objects. I use old bolts, wrenches, rusted and pitted sheet metal and just about any found metal object over a few inches long to make bottle openers and belt buckles.”

Fit to be free “I have a mentality of being prepared for any situation, for being able to be spontaneous in life. On any given day at the workshop there might be a 2,000-pound table that I have to move a few inches across the floor or I might have to be hammering for hours at a time. If I’m not fit for that, I will surely injure myself — either by a missed blow or repetitive stress. So I definitely strive to be as strong as I can. That also provides me with the mental strength I need to stick to my work and be clearheaded.”

Working warrior “I swam quite regularly since 2004, but recently I realized it wasn’t enough to be able to handle the shock of the grunt lifting I need to do, so I started doing core fitness and HIIT [high-intensity interval training] classes. A lot of the influence has been from my girlfriend. She works out at least every other day, and we’ve been active in yoga and acro-yoga [a blend of yoga and acrobatics]. The acro-yoga has helped my posture. When you’re standing at the anvil there’s a tendency to want to bend over. I’ve been able to take a tai chi pose to keep my spine straight while bending my legs. It makes you feel more like a warrior instead of a slave while you’re working.”