Hand crafting Christmas gifts is fun, and personal pieces of myself. They are not stress free. If you hate how stressful

Christmas shopping is, never hand craft them. If you’re going to start planning, start now, and yes, I know it is March.

Just trust  me on this.

I have created Christmas gifts for the past three years. My first was the first knife that I have ever made. It is a railroad

spike knife that I hand forged with a BBQ pit, hairdryer, and piece of railroad track, which I made for my brother-in-law.

A year ago I drew my sister in law’s name. She is a photographer, so I created my first picture frame easel made without

welding or rivets, just wrapped with copper wire.  Plan on seeing  copper used with my work a lot because her easel came  out

awesome.  I wish I had pictures of the knife and easel, but I don’t. You will have to wait for future works on this blog, Etsy,

and craft fairs.

Crazy me, as the two years before, decided to make this year’s Christmas gift an item that I have never crafted before.

I thought that I was going to be smart this year and make my mistakes and study knives, not the gift. I also thought

that I was going to use a huge leaf spring an antler bowie-knife.


After taking forever trying to cut off a piece using the edge of my anvil, I knew that it would take too much time and

propane. Christmas may come on the same day every year, but this year, it was coming way too fast.

I had two other knives planned as study knives. A cheese knife with a tiny piece of antler, and an exact copy of the latter

gift knife. You already know the other huge bowie-knife could not happen, however now because I was not using the leaf

springs, they had to be transformed into the gift.


I forged the coil spring into a blade using my propane forge and a real anvil, faster than that first spike knife in a

BBQ pit. Then I ran out of propane. I hardened it with a BBQ pit faster than forging.( Just heat it until a magnet will

not stick to it, and quench it in oil.) Everything was perfect. I had forged copper and made a guard for it, and decided

to fit it on the tang before tempering the blade. I quickly found out that the steel had hardened perfectly with a very



I SNAPPED THE BLADE, THEN I SNAPPED! Inside I ran, freaking out thinking of  all the work and time that

had went into it, and how t was the Saturday before Christmas. I was ranting to my wife about the recent nightmare

telling her and myself, that my brother doesn’t know what he is getting. I can buy a gift card and forge a beer opener

to go with it.

After spending some time talking with my broken blade, and looking through my knife books, I remembered grinding

broken drill bits in machinists school. I was looking at photos of stock removed made knife tang. I decided to grind the

broken blade back to life.

The finished blade turned out much finer and fit tighter then the forged tang. I was looking at knives on Facebook

when I saw an antler knife so polished, it looked wet. After a few comments, I found out how they polished theirs’. I will

use that technique for as long as I use antlers.  I will at some point use antlers with candle holders and lamps.

It’s time to give the knife back to my brother. I don’t have time to make my first ever knife sheath. I did not have the

leather, even if I was awesome at it. I keep my future antlers, exotic wood pieces, and I bought some knife blanks, and

keep them by my bathroom sink for inspiration. I noticed that one had a sheath that would work. It was not perfect, but

it worked well. Had I not broke the blade, I could have never used it.


Remember the leaf spring that I did not have time for? That will be transformed into a huge meat cleaver. I can’t know

whom the next Christmas creation will be for, and I hope I really do get to have study work first. But I promise this year

will be fun to read, and your next favorite treasure may be coming to Etsy, Kick Starter, or craft fairs very soon.



“Steampunk This Perfectionist Mind Spa.”

As a former student of industrial machine shop, an artist blacksmith and tool repair tech, steam punk is a media that fits me  almost perfect.

The only problem is, in steam punk, nothing fits perfect and I like perfection. I have toyed around with the idea of making steam punk jewelry, but never got around to it.

Then during a visit to my best man Travis’ house, so he could clean my computer, we got on the subject of steam punk, but not steam punk jewelry.

Steam punk everything IT, smartphones cases, keyboards, laptops, and also furniture. I know after that, I could not avoid steam punk anymore.

With steam punk, I am starting where I’m at and that is with polymer clay over glass candle holders.

I will use power tool parts from work, faux polymer clay wrought iron scroll work, gold polymer clay, and copper wire.

 In the future, I will employ my machinist, knife maker skills and blacksmith skills to steam punk. I will also add new media as I obtain them.

My current plans are to learn lamp work glass ,blown glass, glass fusing, metal clay, and Damascus steel.

As a mix media artist, I will not be held down by one style. Not even the awesome steam punk as perfect for my skill sets as it is.

There will always be room for steam punk, because of its ability to take me out of my perfectionist mindset when needed.

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Mix Media Artisian And Storage Auction Embellisher.

I am connecting arts and craft with modern techniques and trends.

My point of view is that it doesn’t matter where the techniques or media come from or if it’s completely made by traditional methods or modern.

The exception is when it’s for a history themed event of project, such as a renaissance festival or plantation home.

If I am working with hand forged steel and I am embellishing it with lamp work glass and it looks like a candle holder, it is one.

If it’s good to sit on, then it is a chair, and if it is beautiful on a chair, then it’s a pendant. Same technique, same media, very different item.

Forged steel and lamp work are just two media acts of many that I either will use, or have used in the past.

I try learning from the best online and in books, and hope to return the favor by inspiring works of others.

I also am highly influenced through social media and our www.gofundme.com/m4dns project.

I love meeting fans, customers, and fellow artist at craft fairs, flea markets, renaissance festivals,  and storage facilities.

I will play with many styles and trends. Some, more than others, but never staying at just one. Please tell me your favorite styles and media and we will create awesome new creations. Thanks for reading.

Stephen Mark Lato

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“My Pair Of Aces In The Card Game Of Life.”


 My sister-in-law, a fellow crafter, drew my name not once, but twice for Christmas.The first year inspired my new art, media. The second year gave me the knowledge to pursue it. She seemed unsure if her gifts to me were liked. Of course, they are. They are from my Christmas list. The effects on my life and family, I did not see coming.

As a fan of world strongest man contest, arm wrestling, martial arts, and being a person that has worked on his grip and forearms since he was 13, I put  John Brookfield’s book on my list. Not only did I get “Mastery Of Hand Strength”, I got his other one, ” The Grip Maste’s Manual (not on my list), and “Native American Crafts and Skills.’ But that’s another post  when I start camping and hunting.

The “Grip Master’s Manual” has three pages titled “The Village Blacksmith:symbol of functional strength.” I had seen blacksmith at civil war reenactments and had thought about forging vs. machining in machinist school. Soon after I found out about forging knives. Being a person that has cooked his whole life, and was in scouts for some years, I love knives.

The following Christmas, as luck would have it, she drew my name again. Awesome! Three more books, any one which would have been great alone. I received “Fancy Knives”,that wil teach and inspire years of knives and embellishments for my mix media decor, jewely, and furniture. “Modern Blacksmith” will make blacksmithing for profit possible, and “Blacksmithing For The Homestead” gives me a place to start, and teaches me about functional forged items that I can craft. There are lessons and skills of the six books that will be passed down to my children and grandchildren.

I put hours of thought into every item on my Christmas list because I know how powerful and influenced my books are. She bought me six. She just had my beautiful niece, so I’m not sure when she will be back at work. She is an awesome child and family photographer. Her website is www.ellphotography.com, and she is also on facebook.

Sabrina and I will both be supporting other artist and crafters, both with blog post, and by buying their items for us and for resale. We will help fund crowdfunding projects once our own house is in order. I can’t thank her enough, so get your beautiful family to ellphotography and have her take your photos.

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