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Continued: Pepin, Wis., blacksmith achieves excellence in ironclad art

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 3, 2013 - 10:55 AM


Q: What are the best parts of the job?

A: I enjoy designing things, and finishing a job is always satisfactory. But sometimes there are a lot of struggles in between.


Q: What do you do when you make a mistake?

A: Start over.


Q: What got you interested in this?

A: I grew up in Baltimore. When I was in junior high, we took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, and I was fascinated by the men who were demonstrating blacksmithing. I went home and built a forge in our back yard. My dad wouldn’t let me use cement because he didn’t want it to be permanent, so I used mud between the bricks. It would fall apart in the winter, so every spring I had to rebuild it.


Q: What were your other youthful passions?

A: Art and woodworking. I also was very interested in glassblowing — I think there’s something about me and fire — but you can’t go home and do glassblowing in your back yard.


Q: Having grown up in Baltimore, how did you end up in this part of the country?

A: Kitty (Catherine) is from Minneapolis. She remembered Stillwater as being very beautiful — which it is. But it’s also very expensive. We just kept moving down the river until we found a place we could afford to live.


Q: What motivates you?

A: I’m always trying to do something that I haven’t done before. If something’s too easy, it’s not interesting.

  • related content

  • Project: Achieving Excellence

    Tuesday February 4, 2014

    Learn about everyday Minnesotans who exhibit mastery -- the combination of knowledge, skill, experience and understanding that offers a deep command of a topic or activity.

  • Tom Latané is a self-taught master blacksmith who operates out of a shop in Pepin, Wis. On this day, he was working to craft a key for an heirloom chest.

  • A sampling of the keys that Latané has made for old mechanisms, using hand tools only.

  • Tom Latané worked on a key for an heirloom chest, below.

  • Where to find them

    Thomas Latané’s ornamental ironworks are for sale in his shop, 412 2nd St., Pepin, Wis. A gallery of the work also is available on the shop’s website, For more information, call 1-715-442-2419.

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