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One of the standard designs available for purchase.

Wrought Iron Work of Jeff Malm

Kulm, North Dakota

Contact information for designs and ordering an iron cross:

Jeff Malm
7071 70th St. SE
Kulm, ND 58456
Tel: 701-647-2729
E-mail: jucyleff@drtel.net

Brochure


Hyra, Jackie. Kulm man makes iron crosses. Jamestown Sun, 8 August 20

Jeff Malm of Kulm, ND Donates Iron Cross to NDSU Libraries

Jeff and Lucinda Schmitt Malm, rural Kulm, ND donating Iron Cross in September, 2005.
Jeff Malm explaining the rose design on the Iron Cross.

Jeff and his wife, Lucinda Malm, live north of Kulm on the farm where he grew up and worked until 1990 when he was injured in a farm accident. Although confined to a wheelchair, Jeff is still able to enjoy wood and metal work with his tools adapted to meet his needs. In 2003, through the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program of North Dakota Council on the Arts, he learned to build German-Russian Iron Crosses from Herman Kraft, an experienced artist at Timber Lake, South Dakota. Jeff is very thankful for the God given ability to design and build these beautiful symbols of the Christian faith.

Double Arm Cross, 2005
This is an original design. Traditionally these crosses were used to mark graves. Today their use is broader
Decorative Wall Cross, 2005
Based on traditional Swedish design.
Single Arm Cross, 2004
Decorative Wall Cross, 2005
Jeff Malm displays his work at the Lehr Tabernacle, Dakota Memories Heritage Tour, 16 September 2009, Lehr, ND.

North Dakota Council on the Arts Apprenticeship Program
Decorative Blacksmithing with Emphasis on German Russian Iron Crosses

Jeff Malm by iron cross made for child burial near Mott, North Dakota.

Jeff Malm began to learn the art of Iron Cross building in the summer of 2003 as the result of a program funded by a grant from the North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA). The Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program is designed to honor and encourage the preservation of North Dakota's diverse living traditions by providing grants that allow master traditional artists to pass their skills and knowledge to apprentices on a one to one basis over an extended period of time.

The grant was approved for Jeff to learn decorative blacksmithing, with an emphasis on iron cross grave markers, from a master artist named Herman Kraft, from Timber Lake, South Dakota. Mr. Kraft came to Kulm to work with Jeff in his workshop on three separate occasions that summer.

Mr. Kraft, a well known blacksmith whose specialty is Damascus steel knives, has built a number of crosses himself and has also traveled extensively throughout the region to study iron crosses. His knowledge is extensive in the history and building of Iron Crosses. He was one of the participants in the famous video, Prairie Crosses, Prairie Voices: Iron Crosses of the Great Plains, which has been aired on Prairie Public Television.

Herman Kraft, Timber Lake, South Dakota (left) works with Jeff Malm make a rose for iron cross.

It was decided that the goal for the summer would be to build three different crosses. The first phase of the project involved the creation of iron roses, which would be used as a decoration on all of the crosses. The building of the first and largest of the 3 crosses was next on the agenda. With help from Troyd Geist, the folklorist, North Dakota Council on the Arts, the design was created. He is familiar with the religious significance of the various art forms, such as angels, doves, flowers, etc. This cross is an acceptable size for use on the grave of an adult.

The second cross was designed by Jeff and is of a smaller size. This sized cross is commonly used to mark the grave of a child. This cross was used to mark the site of the graves of two siblings of Jeff's father in law, who are buried on a farm site near Mott, North Dakota. It was placed there in the summer of 2004.

The small cross was created to be used as a wall decoration. It was also designed by Jeff and was a replica of the second cross.

The process of building iron crosses is not exactly the same as it was in the past. Most of the iron is bent cold not heated in a forge like blacksmiths did. Electric welding has replaced many of the traditional methods joining the pieces of the crosses. Jeff has been working hard to get back to using those old methods by using shrink clamps to cover welds and also using rivets wherever possible. He also enjoys doing much of the detail work with a hacksaw, files, and other hand tools.

Herman Kraft and Jeff Malm working on iron cross at Jeff's workshop on the Mal farm north of Kulm, North Dakota.
Jeff Malm and Herman Kraft working on cutting out the angles for the iron cross.

The real challenge has always been, and always will be, the designing of the tools and jigs needed to make the various bends in the iron. Some of these tools can be purchased, but many are designed and built in the shop a result of much thinking and experimentation.

The learning process is ongoing with the continued search for information. Jeff always keeps his eyes open for history and photos to help develop new ideas. It also includes stops in cemeteries to look at the actual crosses. His own designs for crosses come mainly from the study of old crosses mixed in with his own creativity. Most of the cross builders in the past could be identified by the style in which they built their crosses. Jeff has been using roses, sunbursts, and twists as distinctive items in the building of his crosses.

As a result of his searching he has even discovered that there are old iron crosses in the cemetery in Northern Sweden where his ancestors lived. (see photos) The small cross on display is based on one of those crosses.

Jeff thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with Mr. Kraft, learning the techniques and history, and building the crosses. He is very thankful for the God given ability to build these beautiful symbols of our Christian faith.

Jeff Malm and Herman Kraft displaying finished crosses.
Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller
North Dakota State University Libraries
Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Libraries
NDSU Dept #2080
PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: 701-231-8416
Fax: 701-231-6128
Last Updated:
Director: Michael M. Miller
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