tinsmith

Dennis Kutch, 49, has taken up the ancient trade of the tinsmith. Through practice he has become a skilled artisan.

ODON — The residents of Daviess and surrounding counties are diversely talented peoples. Hidden along gravel roads and tucked away in towns and neighborhoods are people who are skilled artisans that practice skills of long ago; skills passed down through the generations from one craftsman to the next.

Along a gravel road on a small farm in northeastern Daviess County lives a craftsman plying the trade of the tinsmith. According to Wikipedia, a “smith” is a person involved in the shaping of metal objects. The word “smith” is derived from the old English word smite, meaning to hit or to strike, as when the craftsman smites the metal to shape it with his hammer. A tinsmith makes or repairs things made from tinplate, which is a thin piece of mild steel coated with tin.

When 49-year old Dennis Kutch was a young boy, he was fascinated by the work that took place in the back room of the Odon Hardware. In that back room was a man operating old tools powered by a hand that bent, cut, rolled and folded pieces of thin metal into stove pipes and heating ducts. Unbeknownst to young Dennis at that time was that these primitive tools, in an even earlier time, were used to make cups, coffee pots, pie pans, candle holders, and all sorts of useful items. They were the tools of a tinsmith.

Almost two decades later, Dennis would once again see these same kinds of tools in the garage of an old man from Bicknell — and they were for sale. Dennis bought them and like many other interesting items that would catch Dennis’ eye through the years, they were put away to be studied another day. Karen Kutch, Dennis’ wife, affectionately calls him a pack rat. Looking around his shop one might think that Dennis never met a tool he didn’t like.

Dennis will tell you, “I like to work with my hands.”

He also has an eye for detail, which is very handy if you ever decide to be a tin smith.

About five years ago, Dennis was at Connor Prairie when he saw a man using tin smith tools and hammers and anvils to make cups and pots out of tinplate. Dennis recognized the tools. He had some just like them stored away somewhere in his shop.

Not too much later he had an idea that he would like to pass on a skill to his young daughter, Lora. He would learn to be a tin smith and his daughter would be his apprentice.

Dennis is a fast learner when it comes to making or fixing something with a tool, and a one-day class at Connor Prairie introduced him to how the tools worked, even though most of the tools he wanted to learn to use were manufactured between 1850 and 1900.

In the past five years he has become a very skilled tin smith, and his daughter, Lora, a seventh grader at North Daviess High School, has become his skilled apprentice. He is sought out by Civil War re-enactors who demand perfection when it comes to creating a reproduction of a Civil War era military cup or pot.

“The Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 re-enactors are just as demanding,” Dennis says. “They will bring me a period cup and will expect no less than one made to those exact specifications.”

Dennis does about five shows a year, including the pioneer village at the Indiana State Fair. He has a real nice shop set up in a trailer where people can see him ply his craft as he explains the use of each tool and anvil.

A Dennis Kutch hand-made cup will cost you about $8, an ornate candle lantern or coffee pot about $75. They are each a work of art. As of now, you can only purchase one if you catch him at a show, or if you can find his farm hidden along the back roads of Daviess County. For directions you can call him at 636-7853.

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