New august utility knife finished

1084 carbon steel oil quench hardened and drawn spine. German silver guard, spacer and pins, black fiber spacer. Ebony handle.



BegInning Bladesmithing workshop-how i started with minimal tools. —suppoRted by the iowa Arts CouNcil and the state historical society of iowa.

On June 15 at the Mathew Edel Historic Blacksmith Shop, 214 1st St, Haverhill, IA 50120. The workshop is limited to 6 students aged 18 or older the one day workshop will run from 9am to 4:30pm. The fee is $69 which will cover materials. I will be leading a very basic workshop on how to start bladesmithing with minimal tools. We will cover the rudiments of knife terminology and design then move to making a one or two brick forge, and how obtain a serviceable anvil for cheap.

We will begin to forge a shop/utility knife with an integral handle. You will be introduced to finishing what is generally called a “brute de forge” knife.

For more information Contact me or the Iowa Arts Council if you are interested.



Drop point hunter-utilty finished.

This is the finished wip I posted earlier.

1084 steel, stainless guard and spacer w/ black fiber spacer. Stabilized almond wood. Quenched and differentially tempered.  SOLD   Thanks to my ABS masters and journeymen teachers and to the Iowa Arts Council for their support.

1084 steel, stainless guard and spacer w/ black fiber spacer. Stabilized almond wood. Quenched and differentially tempered. SOLD

Thanks to my ABS masters and journeymen teachers and to the Iowa Arts Council for their support.

New knife almost finished

Gettin’ there.  


Still have resolve the end of the handle, tweak the shape. Then finish hand sanding and apply wax or oil, etch my marks,  hand finish the blade and ricasso and final sharpen.

This is the first tome I’ve used almond wood  it smells good but cracks and checkers too easily. Thus I stabilized it with resin under vacuum and then 200*F

1084 carbon steel, stainless guard and spacer, black fiber spacers and home stabilized California almond wood handle.

Part of this project is supported by the Iowa Arts Council via a grant I received from them.

First steps to forging a chopping blade towards ABS JS testing

Here are some stills of one of my Master Smith teachers, Brion Tomberlin during his American Bladesmith Society (ABS) Intro to Bladesmithing Class demonstrating initial forging steps to make a chopper to be used in a Journeyman performance test.

These are just a microscopically small part the ABS intro class I took August 2017 at the New England School of Metalwork (NESM) in Auburn, Maine. Thanks also to Nick Rossi JS who was assisting Brion and taught me as well.

Both Brion’s and Nick’s websites are in my Links of Interest.

I will add some slow motion videos in the near future.

(Brion … I hope I caught your good side as you requested.)


New knives finished.

Just finished these three knives. 


They are currently for sale at Gilger Gold Smithing on Main St downtown Ames, Iowa.  

They are hand forged out of 1084 high carbon steel. Hardened and tempered with the back drawn for toughness while leaving the edge hard to keep a good sharp edge. These will shave hair. 

They are meant to be used as every day carry or utility.  

I will be demonstrating and teaching a workshop on low tech bladesmithing using these blades as a model in mid October at the Mathew Edel historic blacksmith shop, Haverhill, IA.

Thanks to the Iowa Arts Council for a grant supporting my work and this workshop. 

The Current State of Color in Environmental/Landscape Photography

I have for some time been traipsing around the web, in galleries, museums and art fairs looking at various photographs and am now convinced that lately many images have little to do with the actual scene. Or “actual” photography for that matter, except for the use of the camera to collect raw materials for photomontage.

After teaching and exhibiting photography (digital, analogue and hybrid) for over 35 years it seems that the past ten years the current state of color nature photography is not only oriented towards Madison-Avenue-advertising-way-ovestatement, but goes beyond  a very over saturated dye transfer print. Nature photography has become fantasy photography.

So, here's my question at this juncture;

At what point does a photographer cease being a photographer and becomes an illustrator or montage artist? Just because a camera was used to initially capture the raw material for an image does not mean that the final image with the amount of colour embellishment, composited backgrounds, etc. is still a photograph, certainly not in the traditional sense of representing the original scene within reason. This is especially so with the increasing number of images made by compositing foregrounds and backgrounds from different images into a single believable scene. At that point I posit that they are no longer photographs, digital or analogue makes no difference. They are a fantasy illustration.

I am not suggesting that the surreal images photomontages by artists such as Jerry Uelsmann are not amazing poetry and innovative statements of art. Photography? Sure.  But they are not trying to pass themselves off as reality. They are dreams and sureality.

I freely acknowledge that Fujichrome, Kodachrome, Ektachrome et. al. change the relationships between the colors reflected and the colors as interpreted by their respective responses. In fact whose to say that I see red or any colour the same as anyone else.

I strongly suggest that such oversexed fantasy “landscapes” might do more harm than good in sensitizing the public to the beauty of the natural world AS IT IS. The greens in the Hoh rainforest are not always glowing, iridescent, emerald green. They are striking nonetheless. They need no "sweetening". Such hypercolour imagery dulls the viewers' ability to appreciate the true subtle and simultaneously grand appearance of nature without hyperbole and Madison Avenue overstatement.

This of treatment only feeds in to the lack of any nuance left in our collective lives.

It is over spiced, over sexed and unreal leaving the viewers unable to appreciate the subtlety of non silicone enhanced nature. Essentially environmental porn. The Victoria’s Secret of Nature imagery.


Shaking My Head - lol ;-0

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about something that happened about 2 years ago in one of my classes. 

I teach industrial design to 19-23 year old students and also graduate student who are usually mid 20’s to 30’s and older.  

While helping an undergrad with some computer prototyping, I  resaved her file by adding my three initials to the beginning of her file name in order for her to more easily differentiate between her original and my suggestions.

“Why did you say that?” She asked. 

“Say what?” I countered. I literally had not made a sound.

”Shaking my head.” She explained.

“I didn’t say anything”. 

She pointed to the screen explaining “Right here on the file name. You added smh ‘Shaking My Head’ to the beginning.”

I looked at her and with an appropriate pause replied “Those are my initials,  Steven Michael Herrnstadt.”

”oh.”  “Really?” 


All I could think of was that it really explained a lot about my life. 

Later I decided that given my family’s sense of humor, it is entirely possible that my parents accidentally discovered time travel, emerged 60 years into the future, discovered emojis and  associated acronyms then came back to 1953 chuckling to themselves.  And later, during my naming, snickered in low voices to each other “this is great, in a few decades it’ll be hilarious.” 

Some days I feel older than other days.... 

smh 2018

Humans, education, the new Envronmental Pillage Administration (formally EPA) and our common context

I recently came across a 2001 Iowa State Daily article about a former student of mine Rachel Hein who was an environmentalist and had taken part in a 220 person protest in front of Menards. The link is at the end of this post.

It applies even more given the new assault on our public lands and our planet as a whole.

"Steven Herrnstadt, associate professor of art and design who taught Hein in some classes, said he is pleased to have a student who is not learning to "fit the proper cubicle.""Everything we learn and teach here is not without the context of greater experience," Herrnstadt said. "Everything has an interconnection to … a ripple effect on everything else."Herrnstadt said universities need to have a social obligation to explain these concepts to students."The workings of our society and the world are not understood well enough by us to cast aside what the environmentalists and humanists have to say as merely 'tree hugging' nonsense," he said.

STEM and Business/entrepreneurship need to be taught in context of the humanities, ethics and the arts. Otherwise advancement and innovation becomes about short term profit an solutions only. It will lack the vision of historical events which should serve to illustrate benefits/detriments. Parsing our knowledge into the smaller departments/subjects that current education finds comfortable but not bringing them into the greater gestalt invariable means that pieces are left behind. The mere sum of the parts is rarely perhaps never equal to the whole. All subjects need to be emphasized in our educational systems, particularly at the levels of higher education. BUT more than that, universities must emphasize Collaboration. And it must be collaboration without ego's. 

smh 2017

Fracking and drilling in national parks and national forests

This is a letter I modified to the President. The first few paragraphs are mine. The rest are the NRDC


President Obama,

I have been going to and enjoying the visual, aural, and scent solitude of these lands for over 50 years. I shared that with my children. I want to share it with my grandchildren.  Fracking, drilling, etc. will destroy the last vestiges of my rights to enjoy the lands set aside for the public to enjoy. It does not belong to the energy companies to destroy the solitude and beauty that we need for the physical and emotional health of this country.

Not everyone loves living and spending time in the cities. Many of us cannot afford to take trips to exotic places that the CEOs can assuming they want to. These are the last places that the middle and lower classes can consider their refuge.

I have already seen mountaintops where I used to hike and camp disappear. I have gone back to remote areas that were once silent and pristine to find distant noise and reduced visibility and no trespassing notices. 

I’m writing to urge you not to allow oil and gas companies to frack in our national forests and near our national parks. 

These are America’s best and most unique places and they should be kept safe for future generations.

You can just imagine the impact on wildlife and rivers and streams if we allow the industry to bulldoze their way into publicly owned forests, inject tons of chemical-laden water into the land, fracture the rock deep beneath the surface, and truck out highly toxic wastewater, all while spewing diesel fumes and climate-changing methane into the air.

Please declare our nation’s parks and forests safe from fracking.

Steven Herrnstadt

"resident mammal"

University Professor

Professor, Industrial Design

Director of Graduate Education 

Iowa State University


A petition to save Walnut Canyon AZ from future development

This is is the text from an email I received from Photographer and Environmentalist Bruce Barnbaum. He also happens to be a friend of mine. 

" Walnut Canyon. One of the folks getting these blogs is a good friend and environmental activist in Flagstaff, AZ, currently fighting to protect Walnut Canyon, a deep, awesome canyon that is within the city limits. I’ve taken workshop groups into Walnut Canyon, and can tell you that this remarkable canyon is worthy of park status, yet is vulnerable to development. Not only is it eye-popping from the landscape point of view, but it also contains artifacts of ancient Anasazi occupation from hundreds—perhaps thousands of years ago. So it is not only a spectacular cleft in the landscape, but it is an archeological treasure, as well. Here is the link to a petition to support protection for Walnut Canyon:
 (NOTE: If the link doesn’t work directly, please copy and paste it into a web search. "

BTW.... Why "resident mammal"?

I get asked that a lot. It is a title I took in about 1985 while teaching at Iowa State University. It has been in my ISU signature for about as long and on my business cards.

The short answer is that it has to do with remembering our place within the interconnections and scheme of the world and is an excerpt from an essay I wrote about that time.

“Our species is the most arrogant on the planet....

Except, perhaps, for cats..... who simply don't care....”

smh  1985