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I Forge Iron

Rev War 'Cart' forge???

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Here in Canada, we are in the middle of 3 years of our War of 1812, 200 year anniversary. There are calls for historic interpreter / blacksmiths to demonstrate at various living history museums, public and re-enactor's events.


Sad truth, most hobbyist smiths are using at best 1880's to 1870's era small dish portable forges. There are some documented plans available for British military 'portable' forges from the 1830 period, with similar designs used during the US Civil War. These are large heavy units based around modified gun carriages.


A number of years back I had seen a much smaller 'cart' forge in the hands of a re-enactor at Military Through the Ages in Jamestown. This was a unit with two light carriage wheels and extendable handles, maybe two by three feet. There was a drum bellows that fit below the forge table, which was set up to handle either side blast for charcoal or converted quickly to bottom blast for coal. I had a long conversation with the fellow, he assured me (??) it was a historically accurate design from the 1770's.


I can NOT find any of my photographs!


I have spent a fair time searching the internet in hopes of finding something. The drawing did not have any details, but appears to be an 'industrial' portable charcoal forge with a similar set up. My guess given the cast metal parts and framing that this would be again from the later 1800's.


The photo was taken of an antique unit someone had scored in England. (shown on a general blacksmithing group discussion).



SO - my question is :


Can anyone provide ANY kind references leading back to the American Revolutionary War?.

I am certain I can 'fake' out a historically suitable design and construction, at least good enough for 'from the rope line' observation at public events.


(Hey - my specialty is Viking Age...)




feel free to contact me directly info@warehamforge.ca


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From what I understand, mobile forges were non-standardised until the around the American Civil War. People used to do whatever was necessary so there was a lot of variation until the design was later refined and standardised. The book I've linked a book that has a lot of information on British 1840s mobile forges which were for modified gun carriages as you described. There are some great drawings in there and a lot of information on what equipment would have been carried. If you scroll through the plates on page 216, you'll find 3 detailed drawings of a British forge cart and lots of information about it on page 219. I'd imagine that you could take the basic design principles and de-evolve them to get quite close to what a Revolutionary mobile forge would look like. It's an interesting book, it'll tell you all about maintaining a siege and dealing with elephants!



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I'm no expert, but I have my doubts that the portable forge you saw at MTA was authentic to the 1770's.  About the only context you'd have found a portable forge being used at that time is in the military, and there is some documentary evidence for the design used by the British military.  You may find some info in Meuller's Treatise on artillery.  Jymm Hoffman does exceptional work with not only 18th century ironwork in general, but artillery work in particular and has built and uses a military portable forge that is authentic in design.  I'm sure if you contacted him he'd be happy to point you in the right direction.  Generally speaking, the RW era cart forges I have seen in person or pictures are two wheeled, with a frame to support typically bellows and a side blast configuration on the hearth



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  The time from the 7 year war to Napoleonic war (1756 - 1815) is a serious change in military science. Britain goes from hereditary officers to earned promotions. The earlier officers would go to military schools to learn how to be a soldier. The schools had their own curriculum early on and would have different focus. Around the 1790's, White Horse started to produce regulations to standardize the Army. This would force the officers to dress and equip the soldiers alike and not on the whim as they had before. The forge carts you have seen is a product of the standardization. I saw a similar forge cart at Fort York in Toronto. I haven't been there in a few years so I don't know if they still have it by the visitor center. Putting together a period correct forge is an admirable project good luck and if you get a chance, share some pictures.



Brian P

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Brian, I used to know which diagram is from which reference book, but I have not used that information for a while and it fell out of the other ear.  The French forges are interesting, it all depends on which army your equipment is to identify with.  


A colonial wheeled army forge looks to be a lot simpler to construct compaired to one from the American Civil War.  My plan is to have my U.S. mid-1800s Traveling Forge at the Civil War living history event taking place at the Carroll County Farm Musuem in Westminster Maryland on the weeked of May 4th. https://www.facebook.com/groups/140809319247/



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  • 3 weeks later...

Darrell, Old Fort Erie is just in the process of getting one (this is their big anniversary year, of the 1813 siege of the fort)... They had one build last year that they sent back because it wasn't the right one; Not sure if they've received the replacement yet, but it should be soon.  I have contact info for the guy at the fort who was coordinating it if you'd like to talk to them about it.


From that other linked thread - I'm haven't seen the one at Fort York.  Fort George doesn't have a portable, as they have an Articifer's Shop with a (masonry?) forge in it.




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