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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 5:52 pm | Fair with Haze 62º


Hans Duus Forges a Name for Himself As a Local Blacksmith with a Global Touch

Solvang native — and councilman — crafts ornamental wrought-iron products but finds custom lighting design is a particular speciality

Blacksmith Hans Duus got his first anvil at age 10, and has spent a lifetime building a reputation for his lighting fabrications. His products are shipped around the word, all from his small shop in Buellton. 'You can go to school to be a blacksmith, but really it comes down to natural ability, finesse and attention to detail,' he says. (Raiza Giorgi / Noozhawk photo)
Blacksmith Hans Duus got his first anvil at age 10, and has spent a lifetime building a reputation for his lighting fabrications. His products are shipped around the word, all from his small shop in Buellton. “You can go to school to be a blacksmith, but really it comes down to natural ability, finesse and attention to detail,” he says. (Raiza Giorgi / Noozhawk photo)

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The rhythmic sounds of pounding hammer against hot metal is oddly soothing as professional blacksmith Hans Duus bends an iron rod around his anvil to create a beautiful shape.

He goes into a trance as he works, and every few minutes, when he places the iron back in the fire to heat, he smiles and tells his story of learning this Old World craft and blending it with his modern style.

“My dad gave me my first anvil when I was 10, and I always spent my time building things with my hands,” he said. “I love fire and what it can do to metal.”

Duus is a lifelong Santa Ynez Valley resident, and even though his shop is small, he has had a big impact — worldwide — with his custom lighting and ornamental iron pieces, including chandeliers, wall sconces and iron staircases.

His work is featured in several Las Vegas casinos — such as Mandalay Bay, The Venetian and the Monte Carlo — and he has built lighting pieces for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions in Hollywood; Orlando, Fla.; and Japan.

Blacksmithing began in the Iron Age when man began making tools from iron and other metals. In 1500 B.C., the European Hittites conquered present-day Syria and began smelting iron. They were the first known civilization to make wrought iron, according to the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association

Duus’ blacksmithing skills were first developed in the 1960s when he took a welding class at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

“At 2,000 degrees, iron goes into this malleable state, which is so fascinating to me,” he told Noozhawk.

Duus took a summer job as an apprentice for Walter Christensen, who started Old World Metal Craft, and advanced to lighting design for the hospitality industry.

“You can go to school to be a blacksmith, but really it comes down to natural ability, finesse and attention to detail,” he explained. “In my opinion, women make some of the best blacksmiths because they have much better hand-eye coordination than most men.”

Duus worked for Old World Metal Craft for 14 years before branching out and starting his own company, Hans Duus Blacksmith, making gates and railings. But his passion is lighting design, and he decided to go back to what he knew best.

“I wanted to expand into the national and international market, and lighting is the best way I knew how,” he said. “I wanted to do projects that really stood out.”

Duus said his most perplexing job was recreating light posts for the Leland Stanford Mansion in Sacramento. The imposing, 19,000-square-foot mansion was owned by Gov. Leland Stanford, who served as governor in 1862–1863 and was president of the historic Central Pacific Railroad.

“It was built in the mid-1800s and there were only fuzzy old photographs of the original light posts, which led up this magnificent staircase,” he said. “Two other contractors they called couldn’t do it, but I gave it a shot and did the best I could.”

Since the mansion is now owned by the California Department of Parks & Recreation, he spent hours with the state architect reworking drawings and giving it embellishments fitting of its Victorian era architecture.

Duus prides himself on his attention to detail and working with his clients to ensure they are getting the best craftsmanship. He says he loves being ornate, but he also has created a line of fixtures that customers can order directly from him.

His latest collection, called Urban Barn, combines a mixture of industrial with steam punk and rustic wood. The style is increasingly popular and often featured in current home design magazines.

“The Urban Barn can be residential, but I really see it in breweries, wineries, restaurants and hotels,” Duus said.

Even though Duus spends a lot of time manufacturing and shipping all around the world, he is really a homebody who loves contributing to his community.

“I was born and raised here, and my wife says you can’t complain about what is going on if you’re not involved, so I got involved,” Duus laughed.

He and his wife, Carla, have been married since 1989, and they’ve raised their two sons — one each from previous relationships — in Solvang. Duus has served on the City Council since 2008 and is a fixture at local events.

Duus was a volunteer firefighter in Solvang from 1977 to 1989, which he said were some of the best times of his life helping others. He also teaches welding technology at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

“It’s great to be able to teach people a skill they can use for life,” he noted.

Duus hopes to switch his focus to product development from manufacturing as he currently is developing a line of pot racks with a major kitchen retailer. He said he can’t provide details just yet.

His son, Aaron, works with him now, and he hopes he will keep the business going after he fully retires someday.

“I didn’t just hire my son,” Duus said. “He went and worked for someone else and came to me asking to get hired. I would love to hand him the keys one day.”

Click here for more information on Duus’ lighting fixtures, or call 805.688.9731. His shop is located at 75 Industrial Way in Buellton.

— Raiza Giorgi is a Noozhawk contributing writer from the Santa Ynez Valley. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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