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Accordeon bellows


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Hi  guys,

I bought recently antique bellows on an auction near Brisbane. Because this was apparently passed trough for the 3rd time when i went to that auction.  This amazing piece was calling me contstantly and therefore i couldn't resist to make an offer.  I will find a nice place in my house for it.  But there is a but.  The tag that was with it,  said that those bellows was used in one of the movies of The pirates of the Caribbean.   Cool that was a plus.  So i am watching the movies now :-)  

Could someone give me more information about this amazing very heavy and very large piece or artwork?  Mayby time period, origin, and name of the parts.  I know it measures 230cm long and 96cm wide.  The nossle is 53cm long. 

Looking forward for some more information






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That basic style goes back over 500 years in Europe with surprisingly little change;  location tended modify shapes and construction more that time.

In use it's mounted with that rod tieing into a frame leaving the top board---the solid one and the bottom board---the one with the vents, free to move up and down.

The bottom board sags down under it's weight pulling air in through the vents;  the pumping handle  is generally mounted to the top of the frame with a cord or chain to a projection on the bottom board. The smith pulls down on the handle,  the other end goes up pulling  the chain and the bottom board up pushing the air in the lower chamber into the upper chamber through vents in the middle board. (hidden) The upper chamber is the one connected to the nozzle and the weight of the top board pushes the air out of the chamber through the nozzle.  If you need more air you can add a weight to the top board above the cleat on it.  (a hammer is quite typical) The neat thing about this is you can get a continuous air flow from the nozzle as it's still pushing air out even as you are filling the top chamber   The upper chamber acts like a reservoir for air so as long as there is any in it, it can flow out through the nozzle

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Thank you thomas for this information.  Its amazing that they thought about this continuous flow of air already in those days.  Can i found out from which area in Europe this could be?  Is that size common?  Because the auctioneer said this is the largest bellows he has ever seen in his 50 years of auctioneer.  What kind of wood and leather is normally used.  The leather is almost drenched in oil of some kind.  Is that for protecting/greasing the leather.

Sorry for all the questions



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It very well may have been made locally by a smith who back then may have very well been an immigrant.  They are simple to build and would have been expensive to ship to Australia and so I would expect it to have been made on site.

 I would have the wood checked by a local expert to see if it's a native wood.  What kind of wood depended on location.  Northern Europe may be a conifer; in fact Agricola describes building a bellows in De Re Metallica (1550's Germany, single chamber for a millwheel pumped furnace) and says the boards were made from 2 pieces of pine glued together with a linden edging applied and that the bows were made from linden as well. He states that the leather was ox hide or horse hide with ox preferable.

Size is middling, My set was based on one in a museum that was a commercially made one in late 19th century America and was larger than that one and I have seen a few smaller. The 1908 Sears Roebuck catalog sold blacksmith's bellows from 24" wide to 40" wide from US$4.05 to $12.29 for the widest and extra long one.  They made theirs from basswood, pine and whitewood with cowhide leathers.  I do not think yous was a commercially made one and probably dates in the 19th century. (Note that US$4 in 1908 is about $100 in 2016 US dollars.

Greasing the leather to make it more pliable and therefore to last longer was common, neatsfoot oil was one preparation used.  Someone may also have treated that to keep the leather from falling apart in recent times.

Pretty much everything in a blacksmith's shop is a consumable---meaning that they would wear out and be repaired or replaced.  The anvil is probably the longest lasting item in the smithy!  I would expect a bellows to have the leathers replaced several times over it's life. Trying to get a constant air flow goes back over 1000 years with people using multiple single chamber bellows so you can be inhaling on one while you exhale on another.  Much more trouble! (I have a set of those too for when I do Y1K demos.)

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  • 2 months later...

(See my other post on restoring bellows)  I am partial to forging with a bellows. I have worked forges with hand cranked blowers, electric blowers and traditional bellows. I prefer a good bellows over them all. 

I feel like the rythmic sound of the soft clack of the valves is sort of soothing. I like the smooth even blast and the lack of the blower noise. Seems more natural to me. It is also harder for me to burn up my steel with a bellows. Can't wait to get mine up and running. I also think pulling on the bellows lever is less taxing ergonomically than turning a crank. 

Like Thomas said, the capacity is adjustable by adding wait on the top paddle. A couple hammers or a few horse shoes laid up there if we are pulling welding heats.

Yours looks to be in fairly good condition. Mine measures about 86 cm x 193 cm

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