Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Traveling Blacksmith Forge

Last month I finally finished my traveling forge. I wanted something that I could completely take apart for easy transport, so after looking at a lot of photos on the internet, this is what I came up with. I’ve used it for at a couple of living history events and it has met all of my expectations. The only real negative I found is that the bellows is HEAVY. But what the hell, it puts out a good flow of air with little effort.

The hardest part of the whole project was making the bellows. I used 1-inch thick pine for the body and followed the directions in the attached pamphlet. For the covering, I choose heavy waterproofed canvas over leather to save money. Not really thinking it through, I purchased a very reasonably priced canvas tarp that was made in India. As it turned out, the material makes a great fire starter which is not really a desirable trait for something that will spend its life around fire. As long as I am careful, it should be fine.   

I purchased the fire box from Fiery Furnace Forge on eBay, and I have been very happy with it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Log Replacement for Circa 1930 Cabin

This week I’ve been repairing a log cabin for the Antelope County Museum in Neligh, Nebraska. I was told that the cabin was built as a playhouse for a prominent man’s daughter in the 1930’s.

The cabin was made out of cedar logs. This might seem a bit strange, but trees were sparse in these parts with the exception of cedar and cottonwood. I’ve also been told that the trees might have come on a train from the Black Hills, while that would have been possible, I’ve not researched it so it's hard to say.

I sourced a suitable cedar log from the local area and had it sawed down the center. I knew I would have to do a lot of shaping to get it to fit so I went with an oversized log and whittled it down with a chainsaw and a power planner to get it to 6 inches wide at the bottom. It took about 5 hours of cutting and finessing to get it to fit.

Thanks to the cabin being constructed out of a light wood raising it up with wedges to get the log in was easy. Once the weather warms up I will start replacing the missing chinking.      

If you’re in the area this museum is a great place to visit and has a lot of interesting artifacts on display. A few years ago I discovered a Caesar Chelor molding plane there that was relegated to a pile of mass-produced planes from the late ninetieth century. After explaining the significance and value of the plane to the members of the museum it has since been displayed in a more appropriate manner.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Home for Misfit Tool (or) Rebirth of a Tinsmith Burring Machine

Recently I’ve gained an interested in the tinsmithing trade. This opened up a whole new area in tool collecting for me so I have been diligently searching tools sites and eBay for finds. During my searches, I’ve come to realize that tinsmithing tools are expensive and relatively hard to find. When one does happen upon a find there’s generally a lot of competition for the tool driving up its cost. This has caused me to aim for the low hanging fruit like the rusted nugget of a burring machine pictured here.

Roughly speaking (I am no expert) a burring machine forms a small 90-degree lip on the edge of a piece of tin. This tool is especially useful when forming a lip on a circle such as on the bottom of a cup. (See picture of tin bottom)

This machine was horribly rusted and I suspect it spent a lot of time in water. After soaking in rust remover I wired brushed the metal and painted the areas black that were once coated in black japanning. The original wooden handle was shot so I turned a new one on the lathe shined up the brass and put it back together. The forming heads are pitted from rust so they tend to transfer the roughness to the tin but other than that it seems to work. Pretty good for a tool around a 150 years old.

From all I’ve read and watched on videos, this is not an easy tool to use. I will need a lot of practice. But overall I am happy with the finished results.        

Friday, October 7, 2016

Norwegian Open-Hearth Farm House

Last night I came across this excellent film on YouTube from the Norwegian Folk Museum. The film documents the reconstruction of an open-hearth farmhouse in Norway from circa 1650.

Period correct tools are used throughout the construction and the craftsmanship is incredible! What I found particularly interesting was the manner in which the builders moved and placed the heavy logs. This video is definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Forge Cart Made With Pipe Fittings

I recently purchased a gas forge and needed a cart to place it on. I couldn’t find anything locally or online that I liked so I decided to build the cart myself. Since I didn’t want to place the forge on a wooden stand I needed to come up with a way of making a stand out of metal that didn’t require welding. The easiest although not necessarily economical method was to build the cart out of ¾ inch pipe fittings.

The build was pretty straightforward and with the exception of drilling the holes through the 1/8th inch top was easy and only took about an hour. The nice thing about using pipe fittings is that it’s easy to level the cart legs by simply screwing the pipe with the wheels on it in or out.

Some people will probably wonder why I purchased a gas forge since I already have a coal forge. I will continue to use both. I got into to blacksmithing to make hardware for the tools and furniture I make. I have found that if I only need a few items like a bolt or nails the coal forge can be a pain because it takes a while to build up a good fire and short projects tend to waste coal (the nearest place I have to buy coal is about 2 hours away). With a gas forge, all I have to do is turn a valve and I have fire. The gas forge also uses propane which I can buy in my town.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

Farmhouse Table

I haven’t posted anything in a long time so I thought I would show a picture of a country farmhouse table I made for a benefit for my kids' school.

The table is 72” x 48” with 3.5” tapered legs. The table and benches are built from construction grade lumber. Since the wood found at my local box store is complete trash I only used wood purchased from there to build the aprons and legs of the table and benches. I laminated the legs to make them more stable and sturdy.  After giving up trying to find usable lumber at my local box store, I happened upon a small contractor supply business in my town that had great quality pine lumber. Lumber from there cost a bit more but I was able to get nice straight boards with no wane to construct the top of the table and benches.  

This was a fun project and I hope to make more tables to sell.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wooden Grindstone Frame

Finally finished my grindstone setup for my blacksmithing demonstrations. I loosely copied the design from the one built by the Dominy’s (see attached picture).

The frame is white oak with drawbore mortice and tenon joinery. The frame is really solid and I’m surprised how easily the wheel rotates on the wooden bearings. The weight of the stone creates quite a bit of centrifugal force so once the stone is turning very little effort is needed to keep it going.

The handle is detachable and like the Dominy’s it is held on with a wooden thumb screw. The only part left to make is the water trough. I had a lot of overly complicated ideas for this, but I think I will keep it simple and just hollow out a log.