As part of his work process, Karl uses antique 19th century tools. These include a range of pre-Civil War tinner's stakes used for shaping the metal, mid-19th century swedges, along with pre-1870 tinner's hand-crank machines he himself has restored. The only electric tool he uses is a soldering iron. His primary medium is authentic, hot-dipped tinplate, the kind 19th century tinsmiths would have used exclusively until the 1890s.
In addition to making tin pieces, Karl also offers 19th century tinsmithing demonstrations. A popular ‘living historian’, Karl’s summer calendar is typically filled with regional living history events, the organizers of which contract with him to interact with the public and demonstrate the art and craft of tinsmithing.
Karl’s tin work has been purchased by many private individuals across the United States, and he has done commissioned work for a variety of people and organizations, including an art museum, a historical society, and two historic sites. See his 'Events' page for more details and this year's schedule.
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Originally a college history professor with a specialty in the history of Asia, Karl J. Schmidt (b. 1963) trained more recently as a historical tinsmith with Loren Miller at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island, Nebraska in 2014, and with master tinsmith William McMillen at Historic Eastfield Village in rural East Nassau, New York in 2015. He took an Advanced Tinsmithing workshop at Historic Eastfield Village in August 2018. Over the past four years, Karl has been ‘self-apprenticing’ as a tinsmith, building on the training he received from his two tinsmithing mentors, honing techniques, and experimenting with different projects.
Karl makes 19th century reproduction tinware based on original pieces and patterns. In addition, he enjoys making new creations, mostly decorative, which are popular items with the public. These include Christmas ornaments of various kinds, tree tinsel, and tree toppers.