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1750's Blacksmith Forge Restoration


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Hi all, I have acquired a derelict forge built in 1750 which is located in East Sussex, UK. I am doing some preliminary research to find out what this would have looked like and how it would have operated. 

The forge as it currently stands; 

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I know a limited amount about forges but from preliminary research and how the forge looks, I would imagine it has had a front section of masonry demolished. I would also at a guess assume the chimney is built in the centre of a small square room as the bellows would have been located behind. 

Does anyone have any photographs or information of similar set ups I could look at to get an idea of how I will rebuild this and put back to use. 

Many Thanks 

Richard 

 

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You might reach out to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg Virginia.  They just finished ( well, about 2 years ago) the rebuilding of the Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Armoury that included the large brick forges much like the one in photograph.  I know that scale drawings of the forges exist as I have seen them.  Their great bellows are located in the rear of the forge just as you described.

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Yep. It looks fairly similar to that one. Here's a picture of my small brick forge if it helps anything. It shows the relationship of the chimney and the firepot.

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I made mine with an opening in the bricks below the fire pot. The one in your picture should have it to, Just on the other side. That's what the ashes fall into when you open the ash dump.

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picture #1 is from the restoration of Sanborn Mill farm in New Hampshire,  Chimney replaced during restoration for safety and or insurance as it is open to the public at times.  there is a new blacksmith training shop on the property as well 5 forges if I remember right.

pictures #2-4 are from Brown's Forge in Connecticut ( also open to the public Sundays in Aug.)which was from about 1880?(operated into the 1950s)  or so built for 2 brothers and these forges are back to back but one chimney has been taken down for safety reasons.  Every blacksmith had their own ideas about chimney/forge designs I'm sure and it reflects in what we see in the old shops.  I like these as they are all native materials , field stone and brinks made locally. 

Have wanted to do a stone forge but  it takes more stone laying experience than I have, all I can do barely is make a pile of stone in  no useful design. 

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I feel the same way when I see Pictures from your side of the pond.  I'm trying to scrounge pictures from Historical societies,  museums where ever I can.  If I can find them I have some from Shelburne Mus. in Vermont of an original shop moved to the Museum's grounds yrs. ago in working condition.  Can't find them today but look up Shelburne Mus. Vermont USA should pop up. 

Good luck with restoration wish I was closer. 

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I have some really nice up close pic's of the shop I took 3 yrs ago.  I had to cut short my visit as there was a hurricane headed our way and I had to get back south to our CT farm for the storm.  It ended up destroying a great deal of Vermont but not the museum area. 

Seems to be a problem getting the "attach files section here" to talk with my entire collection of pictures.  I'm sure it's my malfunction and my set up here.  Always wanted to put out a book on old shops but getting more unlikely every day with the cost of publishing vs chances of selling enough to repay the expense.  Maybe I'll do one in draft to leave for the next generation to do deal with.  I have noted that a lot of the new generation have little to no interest in history.  They don't know what they are missing.  I'll keep looking. 

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Mr. R. T. Williams,

The following discussion may be of some help for promising leads to traditional United Kingdom blacksmith shops, (set-ups). In the last 40 years, interest in industrial archaeology has picked up in England especially, and now North America. There are some Universities and research groups that should have information as to smithy's and knowledge of existing shops in Great Britain. A google search should turn up some leads and contacts.

If that does not pan out, contact someone at the British Museum, for assistance. They have assisted me in the past. They were very accommodating and their assistance was very helpful.

Good luck in your endeavor.

Any person interested in industry of the past is a friend of mine.

Regards,

SLAG.

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The person at Colonial Williamsburg I spoke with is

 

Jeffrey E. Klee

Architectural Historian

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

 

i got his name from the Master of the Shop Ken Schwarz.  Hopefully they can help. Ken is the Blacksmith in the picture you posted.   

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This is going to sound like a bit of a dumb question---but what is your evidence that the chimney was for a previous forge?  That set-up looks an awful lot like the kind of kitchen fireplace one would see in the mid 1800s:  Those had really small (almost micro) cookstoves and ovens that would sit in pockets similar to that shown.  Even if originally a forge, had it been converted to rough living space in tougher times?  That was also quite common.

Most of us are used to seeing larger or free-standing stoves but tiny sheet metal boxes about 12" cube sitting in chimney niches were actually more of the norm in humble digs back then.  Too expensive for the poor to keep more than that in fuel and dinner was not much more than a simple one-pan affair. 

Just curious.

 

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May I commend to your attention Moxon's "Mechanick Exercises"  Published 1703 that has details on what a smithy from that time should look like.  Note that American bottom blast versions may not be what was used in the UK as they preferred the side blast version. (and take care to get the entire book Astragal Press did a reprint that's good; there are also subsets out there often the printing section and not the smithing section.)

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Kozy - there is a well documented history of the place being a forge (from 1450). The current forge was built 1750 and has been described as "smithy" or "Blacksmiths" since then. It was working forge as early as 10 years ago, although the original chimney was not used. 

Thanks for all the pics and info. 

The Moxon book is excellent. I actually have this book (the carpentry part) and was not aware it even had a smithing section. 

I will take up some of the four to see if I can see how far the front portion of the forge protruded and I think I am getting a better idea from these pics of the likely construction. 

I will of course keep you all posted !

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Last year, I corresponded with Ken Schwarz, the head smith at Williamsburg, Virginia, about Colonial side blast. He said that their researches showed that a large chunk of cast iron with a hole through it was used to convey the air. So apparently the conical tuyere nose of the bellows was inserted in one end of the casting and the other end would expel the air to the fire. Cast iron is heat resistant, so we assume it would have a long life next to the fire. I did not pursue this information further, but the question arises as to whether this was only at Williamburg, or did Colonial forges elsewhere have access to cast iron for this purpose. I suppose cast iron could have been available if an iron furnace was a reasonable distance from Williamsburg. The pig iron was tapped onto a sand casting bed as I understand it. Perhaps a special sand mold could have been made for the forge purpose.

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There were a number of iron furnaces in the general area (VA, MD, NJ) during those times.  I used to play on the ruins of one at Catoctin; it was in blast at 1776 using hematite ore,  New Jersey furnaces produced cannon balls from bog iron for the Revolution, aha a VA cite: "The first mining efforts in Virginia occurred as early as 1608. In 1619 Falling Creek Ironworks was established in Chesterfield County, Virginia. It was the location of the first blast furnace facility in North America"

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The iron plate is referred to in the Moxon book also; 

"in the back of the Forge against the Fire-placers fixed a thick Iron Plate, and a taper Pipe in it about five Inches long, called a Ttwd, or (as some call it) a Tewel-Iron marked *,which Pipe comes through the Back of the Forge, as at C. into this taper PipeorT^W is placed the Nose, or Pipe of the Bellows.  "

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