by Gary Cooper

Gary Cooper was asked to take a look at a massive antique doorway in a private home that no longer functioned.  The doors were so large and heavy that they were not mounted with traditional hinges but with a pin mechanism mounted in the floor.  Needless to say, Gary was able to repair the doors so that they operated once again.  In the course of the repairs, the owner spoke to him about his interests and learned of Gary’s blacksmithing skills. The owner mentioned that St. Andrew Episcopal Church in Highland Park had plans for two free-standing Advent wreaths. This church has an impressive double doorway and decorative iron work leading to a side chapel area created by none other than Samuel Yellin. 

This was a challenge.  Now that Gary was awarded the commission the reality of making the projects before Thanksgiving started to set in. The wreaths had to blend with the interior design of the church.  Gary relied on ideas he had seen at conferences, in periodicals, advice from other smiths, and his own ingenuity. He recalled a candle holder made of holly leaves he had seen in the Hammer’s Blow.  He made one to show the Altar Guild.  His basic drawings had more meaning with an example they could hold in their hand.  Stability of the stands was a major concern.  They had to be bottom-heavy for balance and safety. 



For the wreaths, he decided to use 1” channel he saw demonstrated at a SOFA Conference by Bruce Woodward.  This material looked heavy, could be textured, and had character. 

He used a fuller to flare the toes and used a fuller in a perpendicular position to add texture.  One of the problems he encountered was keeping the 8’ length of channel straight, it had a tendency to bend and go “out of whack”. A bending fork helped round the length for the circle.  Candle cups made of 1½” and 2” pipe were the perfect fit. 

For the vertical section, he used 1½” square bar, 30” long.  The entire length was reforged, tapered, split and splayed. It was also  hammered to compliment the  channel material.  The  three legged design was used for stability. Chasing added detail to this area.  Because of the weight, a support system was added beneath the three legs made of 3/8 round stock. This would keep the legs true during moving and storage.  


The wreaths were so well-received by St. Andrew’s members that he was commissioned to make a Pascal stand for Easter.  Its design included grape leaves, vines, and leaf bud candle cups. 

Sometimes the simple task of opening one door can lead to many opportunities and learning experiences.  Gary said that each project he has completed since the initial project has become easier and more comfortable. 

Going through that 1st door was indeed just the beginning…    


Detail of Channel



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