Blacksmith | Forge | Tools
Today we will find welders and cutting torches in these home based shops
Hardware and tools were difficult to come by as people built and maintained and developed their farms and ranches.
While professional blacksmith’s manned shops in towns, the farmer and rancher may have lived miles away from a full service blacksmith and machine shop.
Portable forges and blacksmith tools were sold for the average farm and ranch for such things as shoeing horses, making gate hinges, simple tools and repairing broken machinery.
Sears and Roebuck sold portable forges and blacksmith equipment in their 1908 mail order catalog.
For around $25 a farmer or rancher could purchase a complete portable forge, with hand bellows, an anvil with extension parts, blacksmith tongs, and a hand crank drill press.
Interesting that $25 today would be the equivalent to $625, which would still be a real bargain for all of this equipment.
With a shop equipped with these blacksmith tools metal could be heated and shaped into all sorts of items used around the homestead.
Many of the crud handmade tools and hardware from old homes and barns were probably made using one of these portable forges and a person with some of the basics in Blacksmithing.
Hard coal or coke was used as a fuel. The bellows would be hand cranked or operated with a lever.
As the bellows blew a concentrated of air into the bottom of the hot coals the temperature would heat to 1400° and even hotter to weld metals together.
The metal part that is needed to be formed was stuck in the middle of the fire ball to heat until red hot, and then quickly removed to hammer out on the anvil.
The metal would cool quickly and needed to be heated over and over until the desired shape was reached.
Blacksmithing required a skill to be able to know exactly how long to leave the metal into the forge to reach the ideal temperature for forming and welding without reaching the point that would weaken the metal.
The heat applied to the forming part would quickly radiate through the metal, and although it would not be red as a branding iron the metal would be hot enough to melt human flesh by just a quick touch.
Long handled blacksmith tongs and leather gloves kept the worker at a distance to the molten metal.
Blacksmith tongs were often homemade to be used for various shaping and holding the metal. It is not unusual to see up to 20 or more blacksmith tongs on the wall of a shop.
Today these tongs are highly sought after by tool collectors.
The blacksmith shop would also have several hammers to use. The larger hammer heads would be used to pound out large metal parts as a small hammer would be used to form small rods into such things as mantel hooks, and coat hooks.
Men who spent time on the end a blacksmith hammer would soon develop strong arms. The repetitive hammering using heavy hammers would quickly fatigue those who were not accustomed to such work.
A post mounted hand crank drill press was the only way to apply enough pressure for drilling into metals. The hand crank brace and bits used by carpenters were not capable to drill holes through thick metals.
A blacksmith vise was also an almost necessity in a blacksmith shop. These unique vises had a long metal rod that continued down to the ground. This rod allowed the vibration caused by hammering on metal to transfer directly down into the ground.
Today these are considered old relics found in antique stores and collected by tool collectors.
Some have maintained the equipment to demonstrate the old time Blacksmithing techniques. Farrier’s are those who shoe horses, and while most use modern day propane forges, they still use the old time anvils and blacksmith tongs.
Some still use these portable forges just as they did in 1908.
For those who are still interested in the Blacksmith Craft you can find many books on the trade as well as Blacksmith clubs who meet and help keep the tradition a live.
Cottage Craft Works .com is one online source for books on Blacksmithing and Farrier’s tool sets.