Sara Dahmen, House Copper in Grafton Village, Wisconsin - PBS Food

Sara Dahmen, House Copper in Grafton Village, Wisconsin

If it’s copper cookware you need, just ask Sara Dahmen!

Sara created her own apprenticeship opportunity by reaching out to a local craftsman preserving a dying art—creating tin, iron and copper cookware using centuries-old techniques.

Sara Dahmen at work
Sara Dahmen works in her garage/workshop

Lidia connects with Sara Dahmen, one of the only female coppersmiths in the world—to see where she and the master tinsmith create cooking utensils and pots using tools from the 1700’s and 1800’s.

Lidia, Bob Bartelme, and Sara Dahmen
(left to right): Lidia, master tinsmith Bob Bartelme, and his apprentice Sara Dahmen

Sara Dahmen was conducting research for a historical fiction book (Doctor Kinney’s Housekeeper, set in the mid-1800s) and was intrigued to learn that back in the day, women used to place orders for cookware with local coppersmiths. She soon realized that much of our wares are no longer available like they once were and no one was making uniquely American copper designs anymore. She looked around and happened to find a man named Bob Bartelme, a retired Harley Davidson mechanic, who had become a master tinsmith in his retirement and happened to live 15 minutes from her in Wisconsin.

Copper Ware for sale
Sara and Bob’s work on display at Bob’s shop Backwoods Tin & Copper

She visited his shop to learn more about the art of smithing and started going every week. She became his apprentice, and he taught her how to make copper cookware as well as how to form copperware from flat sheets of metal (something that no one else in America is doing by hand). They also work together to create vintage reproductions of tin and copper used in America in the 1700s and 1800s with tools from that time period. “I really wanted to make American cookware available to the public in a way that it had not been available over the last 50 years,” she says. “I wanted (cookware) that was historic, and that used designs dating back 200 years.”

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