Joe and Patrick Kavanagh - Metal bending and rolling

Joseph Kavanagh & Patrick Kavanagh

localized metal annealing Baltimore and Abingdon, Maryland
2018 - 2019 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs
Joe and Patrick Kavanagh - Metal bending and rolling

Joseph Kavanagh and his nephew, Patrick Kavanagh, work together at the Joseph Kavanagh Company, a metal bending and rolling company established in 1866 by Joseph’s great-grandfather, Joseph M. Kavanagh. Today, Joseph owns the company with his brother and sister and is a master of localized annealing, a technique in which a small section of metal is heated and softened for bending while the remaining metal stays hard. A casual observer might think it is an easy process; a casual observer would be wrong. Annealing is an art form that involves subtle hand movements and absolute control of the section of metal being heated. Joseph’s mastery of the process has allowed him to refine the craft into a subtle art, with the visual changes in the metal as well as the smell of the heated aluminum factoring into his process and decision making.

The Kavanagh family first entered the business in 1866 as coppersmiths. It is fitting, then, that Joseph and Patrick’s apprenticeship began with the two working together annealing copper, the simplest material to anneal and work. From there, Patrick and Joseph have worked with steel, brass, and finally aluminum. Each material presents its own challenges and lessons. Through the apprenticeship, Patrick has learned the subtle hand skills that are necessary to move the metal while managing the blowtorch. At the end of this apprenticeship, Patrick will be trained with the necessary skills and craftsmanship for this careful work.

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