JRR Tolkien wrote of a world where dwarves crafted magic swords and elves made fine armor. But fantasy stories aren’t the only place folks can master metalwork skills. The first two kids to finish a 4-H welding project in Sanders County were Jacob Naegeli and Bryant Normandeau. Seventh graders at the time, they learned the steps of cutting, shaping and joining metals with help from volunteer Jon Wall, a retired welding
JRR Tolkien wrote of a world where dwarves crafted magic swords and elves made fine armor. But fantasy stories aren’t the only place folks can master metalwork skills. The first two kids to finish a 4-H welding project in Sanders County were Jacob Naegeli and Bryant Normandeau. Seventh graders at the time, they learned the steps of cutting, shaping and joining metals with help from volunteer Jon Wall, a retired welding instructor. It was hard being patient, said Bryant, because he and Jacob were eager to make cool stuff. Things heated up quickly. Inspired by medieval history and fantasy stories like “Lord of the Rings,” the 4-H welders transformed an industrial art into a creative challenge, crafting decorative swords and armor from real metal. But that was just the beginning. Over six years in the project, Jacob and Bryant have made everything from dragonflies to 9-foot tall human figures to palm trees — even a nativity set. Together they’ve donated more than 35 metal sculptures to local auctions and fundraisers. As 4-H teen leaders, the two have passed on their skill. When their instructor moved away, the welding warriors took on the challenge of teaching three new members to weld, with volunteer help from their dads. They’ve gone on to teach more than 17 4-H’ers how to weld. The first year, welders learn to cut and fuse metal with oxy-acetalene torches. In the second year, they learn arc welding, which uses electricity. That’s some pretty hot stuff, but Jacob said that all the welders pay attention to working safely. The hardest part is learning how to handle all the creative freedom and responsibility that they are given. It takes some patience and maturity to learn the process. Jacob said that the key to motivating new welders is letting them make fun things. Sometimes they buy sheet metal, but lots of sculptures use recycled metal scrounged from old scrap piles. “It can be more fun…” said Bryant, “Sometimes when you take a piece of junk and another piece of junk and put them side by side, it will inspire an idea you’d never have considered.” Both he and Jacob want to continue their interest in metal sculpture. Bryant plans to major in metal fabrication. “I’d never have considered it, until I started welding,” he said. Jacob plans to major in Architecture in college and maybe start a business that combines metal work and landscape architecture. With help from a 4-H Foundation People Partners Grant, Jacob and Bryant are helping this year’s welders make decorative metal banners to beautify downtown Thompson Falls. Among the 11 returning welders and six new welders this year, Jacob and Bryant see one of their greatest rewards: the future leaders of welding projects in Sanders County.
Montana 4-H Programs
Montana 4-H is the state's largest out of school youth development program, offering a wide range of programs that are sure to capture your interest. Montana 4-H provides in-depth leadership development programs, such as the Ambassador Program and 4-H Congress. There are also a variety of training programs for both youth and adult volunteers. Interested in international exchanges? Montana 4-H has a variety of programs in several foreign countries. Check out all that Montana 4-H has to offer below and get involved in those programs that will help you "make the best better".