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Conn. Craftsman Wants to Build Metal-Frame Homes

Tue May 18, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Robert Miller - The News-Times of Danbury



DANBURY, Conn. (AP) Steven Timur Lang can fashion wrought iron into roses, and hammer dense rectangles of layered stainless steel into beautiful Damacus knives, the kind his Hungarian ancestors could have carried on a wild boar hunt.

But his dream now is to build houses — specifically, metal-frame houses, anywhere in the world.

“I will go to Afghanistan to build structures for the American Army and the people of Afghanistan,” he said, noting that his namesake Timur Lang, known in the western world as Tamerlane, once ruled there.

“I would like to ride in my ancestor’s path,” he said.

Lang’s idea isn’t pie in the sky. He spent four years designing metal-frame homes in his head, and another six years working on a patent for the design, manufacturing and construction of such homes, a patent the U.S. government granted him this year.

His blacksmith shop on Deerfield Avenue is a metal-frame construction he adapted for his own use. He’s also built a model in northern Connecticut.

“In four and a half days, we built a 10,000-square-foot, three-story A-frame,” he said.

The principles of the construction are such that he could mass produce and build much simpler structures quickly — for homes in Haiti or in Louisiana.

“They are termite-proof, fireproof, hurricane-proof,” he said. Anchored with shock absorbers, they can be earthquake-proof as well, he said.

“We have a prototype,” he said. “We could provide housing and jobs. Now I’m looking for politicians to give us support and investors.”

Lang comes by his love of metal almost by blood. His father was a blacksmith in Budapest, and Lang grew up in his shop there — working hot iron, fashioning shoes for draught horses.

And while he went to a top-notch technology school in Budapest, learning design, metallurgy and welding, he said his love of the forge goes deep — to his ancestors, sitting around a fire in Hungary.

“When I work by myself making Damascus knives, with no telephone, no one to talk to, the fire mesmerizes me,” he said of the charcoal fire he still uses in his shop.

But the Hungary he grew up in was under Communist rule.

“My family didn’t like the Communists for a tiny reason. Freedom,” he said.

In 1970, he escaped his homeland, crossing the border into Vienna. He took what he learned in military training with him and served in an airborne division of the U.S. Army, parachuting into spots in Europe and Central America.

When he built the A-frame in northern Connecticut, he used his fellow paratroopers as his construction crew.

“When you’re putting a 4-inch I-beam in place three stories up, you can’t have someone off the streets,” he said. “You need people who trust you and can work with you.”

His two sons, Steve and Joey, are now following him in the trade — the third generation of Lang blacksmiths.

“They are the best thing that has happened to me,” he said.

The blacksmith shop now does welding and makes beautiful wrought-iron work, along with Damacus knives and swords. Lang has developed a way of working a layer of gold into those knives, to make them even more striking.

But Lang sees his metal-framed homes — which are made in pre-fabricated sections — as a revolutionary new way of building strong, light dwellings that can be assembled with great speed.

“In Haiti there are people living in tents,” he said. “We could build villages overnight.”