The Lost Art Of
Lars Jansson and the control of metal
lars jansson, owner of Lazze Metal Dreams, is hellbent on teaching the world how to shape metal. It’s a passion that has chased him through life, from the hours he spent teaching himself his craft in his father’s basement garage as a child in rural Sweden to his relocation half a world away in Pleasanton, California. He has created a library of instructional videos, including free, basic examples on Youtube and in-depth DVDS. He hosts sold-out workshops in his studio, where he teaches eager students how to shape gorgeous, flowing fuel tanks and fenders from flat sheet steel.
Many of Jansoon’s pursuits orbit around the English wheel, that curious, old-school tool that allows the creation of compound curves without the burden of expensive dies.
“I saw an article in one of the American hot-rod magazines,” he says. “My English was not good at all, so I couldn’t read, but I saw the picture of an English wheel and thought, Oh, that’s a great machine that I can use to form metal in three dimensions.”
But there was a problem. At the time, there were no English wheels in Sweden. Jansson’s solution was to build his own.
“Later on, I figured out that they used a sandbag and a hammer, and then they went to the English wheel to smooth it out. I didn’t understand that from the pictures, so I started forming from the beginning with my English wheel. That’s why, in developing this, I rebuilt it six times.”
The most important part, Jansson says, is ensuring that the long top arm resists flexing in every direction; otherwise, any movement in the tool will translate directly to the sheet metal, resulting in unsightly waves. His are the words of experience, knowledge gained through trial and error. He built his first prototype in 1991 and reckons that he’s sold somewhere between 700 and 800 individual English wheels in the years since.
“I have machine shops doing parts for me, but I’m a one-man show,” he says. “I’m welding everything together in jigs, and then I send it for powdercoating.”
These days, he’s producing somewhere around 25 a year.
“You know, if I was younger, I’d probably let the business grow and take off, and hire more people, and get a bigger building and bigger headaches, and produce more, but money is not everything. More and more is not always better. I’m 59. I have other stuff that I would like to do in my life as well.”
Much of that drive goes into education, spreading the metal-shaping gospel, and keeping the art alive. Jansson is run through with it, glad to share the hard-won secrets he’s teased out of steel with the tools he built by hand.
counterclockwise from right Various metalworking dollies wait on a work bench. Jansson works a fender with a careful eye. His hand-built English wheels are beautifully utilitarian. Jansson shows off two intricate fuel tank panels.