James and Amber Patrick (Fores) are the children of Russ and Darlene Patrick. James received his schooling at Colonel Crawford and then transferred to Pioneer Career and Technology Center, studying industrial diesel and a year in welding. From there, he worked at the landfill as a heavy equipment mechanic for a couple years but wanted to move on. He joined Transco in railcar repair but kept getting laid off.
James' friend suggested work in welding underwater. He read online the closest dive academy was in New Jersey. After a five-month course, he went to Louisiana and found a dive job. They offered a job in Trinidad, so he worked there six months, too. He was in that industry for seven years, but the oil fields started to slow down and he came back home.
James took a job at Timken as a steam engineer and, with plenty of time off, he started a blacksmithing shop at his in-law’s farm. He started doing welding and blacksmith projects for local farmers. One of the farmers who started his own blacksmithing shop had purchased a power hammer from the Bucyrus Cooper Kettle Works, and told him there was another one for sale.
At this point, James met with Steve Schifer at Cooper Kettle about a power hammer for sale, but there wasn’t any. Instead, Steve and James started talking about welding, firewood and woodworking.
When he first stepped into the Cooper Kettle he was in “awe” of the shop from the past. Of course, everyone from the area knows about the legacy of the Picking Family and this business. Helen passed away in 2015 at the age of 99; that’s when her son-in-law, Steve Schifer, took over.
Learning the coppersmith trade, and getting down to business
James Patrick started helping Steve with welding and blacksmithing and learning the coppersmith trade from him. He was there about seven months when COVID happened, and Steve shut down the shop for a couple months. When they came back to work, Steve was shaping a kettle when he said, “Hey, would you be interested in buying the business?”
James was very humbled and said "let’s think about it." Then he waited until Steve brought the subject back up in a week or so. They talked about it and James made an agreement to take over the business.
One of the first things James did was to get to know the long-time employee of 34 years, Rex Bitner, and learning from him. He confided with Rex in what he wanted to do for the next steps of the company. He really needed to know the logistics from someone with all these years of talent and experience.
When James is out developing the future plans for the company, he is relieved to know Rex and his wife, Jennie, are there taking care of everything.
Fearing a copper shortage, businesses focuses on kettle repair
James and Rex anticipated a copper shortage, so they started a Facebook page and focused on repairing kettles as a high priority. Facebook gave them the opportunity the Amish used for 80 years; they repaired kettles and sent them back. Also, companies that thought they were out of business from the time of Helen’s death began to contact them for repairs and new business.
They still have a shortage of copper but anticipate their regular supply back and continue their tradition soon. They have also repaired timpani shells from the 1700s for a company in France.
James has a vision to be financially self-sustained and continue the tradition of the past history and the copper kettle works. He hopes to build onto the back the way it was before it was torn down in the 1930s. The purpose is to teach others of blacksmithing, copper-smithing and welding. There also would be room for a gift shop following the tours and exit out the back door.
There is a lot of volunteering that goes with owning a shop
James also does volunteer blacksmithing services at blacksmithing events. The other thing about owning the business, as Steve explained, is it requires a lot of volunteer work such as the Bucyrus Preservation Society. Steve told him "it also takes a lot of faith to run the company" and James lives right up to that concept, especially in trying times we live in today.
James wants to credit his wife, Amanda, and how they’ve always supported each other to better one another. She works at Whirlpool in Clyde.
James is humbled to be the owner and pressured to do the right thing representing a company and setting a good example and taking on the responsibility to carry it on.
Go online for more of Mary Fox’s stories and photos on bucyrustelegraphforum.com. If you are interested in sharing a story, write Mary Fox, 931 Marion Road, Bucyrus, OH 44820 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum: It Happened in Crawford: Getting down to businesses at Copper Kettle