Composition & Connection: A Modern Metalsmith’s Journal on Forging, Education, & Sculpture


Last week we taught a 1-week private workshop with Chad Kucherawy.  Chad has been a student at CMA serval times before and this was his 3rd private workshop with us.  The first two private workshops we forged a hacksaw frame and the first of many “dead man” stools we have created.  

We really like working with chad, he is a great student, hardworking, inquisitive, has interesting ideas, and challenges us to be the best instructors we can be.  

The hacksaw frame workshop was a great experience, Chad created a hacksaw frame we like to forge heavily inspired by our experience forging them with Seth Gould.  This workshop was very rigid from a design perspective.  We didn’t veer too much from the example I presented him with on day one.  This is an intricate project and a valuable experience simply from a technical standpoint, so we didn’t dive too deep into the design aspect of forging for this exercise.


The next time Chad came to learn we took the same principals and techniques used to forge a dead man stand that Dan Neville and Zach Lihatsh designed and tweaked it to be an adjustable stool, rather than a shop tool. This was a fun challenge because we had some parameters we wanted to follow, such as the forging techniques necessary to join the piece, but we had to do some design changes in order to make it a functional stool.  

This was a super successful experience. We created the stool and since it was an object for inside the home, rather than shop tool. We had fun spending time on small details like brass tube rivets, more elegant stock sizes, the finish, and the wood for the seat.  

When Chad called me about a third private workshop, we spent a long time considering the next project.  I provided my feedback as an instructor about techniques I felt he needed to work on, and he gave me feedback about the kind of experience he was looking.  

After several phone calls, lots of thinking and consideration for the project, we settled on a piece of furniture. This decision was not easy as there are many exciting things that can be created. We wanted to work more on the design aspect of the craft, something we at CMA are focusing more heavily on in our workshops these days and that isn’t taught as much as strictly technique-based classes and workshops.

I have always felt like it’s hard to do anything in the craft of forging technique-wise that has not been done before. What makes new and interesting work is the design aspect of the craft.  An example of this is a slit and drift hole, that’s not new, but when you look at the work of Peter Braspenninx you’re blown away because of his unique sense of design, time, and care he takes at the drafting table. I think one who may possess strong technical skills but struggles with design will struggle to create new and interesting work.   

With that being a big part of this experience, Chad, Dan and I sat down for the entirety of Monday morning figuring out what he wanted to create.


Chad came to CMA with the idea of wanting to create a table, more of an end table, less of a coffee table. He wanted riveted joinery and to include some structural material. Monday morning we came up with a concept for riveted corner connections with square bar and angle iron for the top and corner tenon joinery for the stretchers. Once we settled on something that Chad was happy with we started a discussion of how to turn concept to reality.

Riveting through the diagonal cross section of square bar is tricky. We came up with a plan to hot forge a flat round section on the top of the diamond while preserving the corner on the underside in a “V” block tool on the hammer. We made a special tool for the job, a flat bottom round punch with a small point in the middle. The point actually serves two functions, it allows you to easily index in your center punch on the hot material and leaves a center punch mark in the forging for easy center finding later on the drill press.     

We spent the rest of the day sampling and trouble shooting and am happy to say that we were able to create a strong and attractive corner connection using this concept. We spent a long-time doing R&D for the right tooling and process because we knew that this corner connection would be the highlight of the table. Perfect example of process dictating aesthetic.

Once we got comfortable with the process, we started to create the actual table. With a loose sense of how Chad wants the finished product to be, we built all the legs and corners, working from there using process to inform decisions as they come. 

Another highlight worth mentioning in this sheet metal top and the broke edges.  Breaking the edges gives thinner sheet some more structure, makes it less tinny, and actually may take out any warp or bend in it from the rolling process. Considering this detail the decision was made to lower structure side pieces and use the bent sheet metal as an accent, creating a sweet negative space reveal all the way around the table between the top and the frame.  

All in all this was a great project to be a part of.  It was an ambitious build, one that demanded an attention to detail, custom tool making, lots of problem solving, and all the normal challenges it takes to create a custom table with four legs that sits level and doesn’t rock! 

I want to thank Chad for coming back! It’s always a pleasure to work together. He makes me a better educator and hopefully we make him a better blacksmith! Thank you all for reading and your interest in Center for Metal Arts! We hope everyone is staying safe and we’re optimistic about a great 2021 workshop schedule! 



Pete Mattila Photo by Scott Gelston

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