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Today was the fated first day of my blacksmithing apprenticeship at the Daniel Boone Homestead! And I would just like to take a moment...to yell from the rooftops about how much fun it was!! 

I expected to work my butt off today and I was not disappointed! My master/teacher (honestly not sure about the propper terms these days) said that for the first day of me tending a forge or hammering anything on an anvil I did a really good job. (And according to one of our other smiths at the Homestead, if he says you're doing good you're really doing good!) 

As for burns, nicks, and other injuries, thankfully just a few extremely minor burns and a bit of soot in my nose afterwards. If I counted correctly I burned myself at least 6 times. Once was when a piece of scale flew off my piece and landed right on my hand! Thankfully, I didn't drop what I was holding in my tongs. And the other one that left a mark was when I got my hand too close to the hood over the fire and sizzled myself a bit. 

Today I learned how to make simple wall hooks with a small scroll and a twist. I managed to get two of them done over the course of 6 hours, which I'm really proud of. 

Our forge is charcoal, 18th century style, and has an old historic and busted double chambered bellow. (There's literally duct tape all over it they need to really get it replaced and put the original in a museum.) So it took a bit longer/more work to get the fire going as much as I needed it too.

Here come the pictures!

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Here's what our forge looks like! I really love the bricked forge so when I finally can build something like this it's going to happen. 

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Our working anvil, in the 18th century they wouldn't have had an anvil in this style, but it works for what we need.

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Getting the fire going, alas it's commercial charcoal so it pops and sparks a lot but hey it works so I can't complain too much. I just don't appreciate the fact that my fire is trying to be the 4th of July in the end of September. 

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And the two hooks I made today! First one on the left, second on the right. The second one is shorter because the scroll broke twice... Ugh. Thankfully Frank (my teacher) was able to help me fix it. 

Techniques in the project for anyone curious are: Temperature gaging/fire managing, Drawing out a taper, gently creating a scroll, dulling down sharp edges, creating a hook on the bick, 1/4" half faced blow, drawing out shoulders, upsetting, punching a hole, and finally twisting. (and obviously removing scale) 

These bad boys were finally warmed and sprayed with cooking spray to help keep them rust free and make them look a little nicer. 

I'm extremely happy with how these turned out, and my significant other has already stolen one... Guess I'll have to make more! 

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I did all of the work with only a hammer. Frank helped me correct a few things with needlenose pliars where necessary but besides that, it was hammer and eventually, twisting wrench. 

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Congratulations for a productive first day. Nice job on the hooks. Keeping the twists even and ending on the flat takes practice. Try aligning the twisting wrench with the vise jaws so your twists end with the flats matching. Make sense? 

Are you living on site, one meal provided, putting in a day's work THEN spending time in the forge? Or are you tossing out the term apprenticeship for taking a class? 

I'm just wondering, I thought there weren't any proper apprenticeships being offered for blacksmithing in the US anymore.  I've been wrong most of my life and would like to know when.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks Frosty! And yup makes perfect sense! 

Lol I had forgotten about the old time way of doing it! I'm using the term and we use it at the Homestead, since it's a historic site I can't live there (unfortunately) and my teacher is one of the main blacksmiths (if not the main) for Landis Valley. It's definitely not a formal class if that helps? (We technically have never had any offered at the Homestead). I just asked if I could apprentice to the blacksmith and they said sure and to show up for the event to get to work! 

I honestly wouldn't know about proper old fashioned apprenticeships, I'd like to think there are some out there somewhere here but I'm honestly not sure. My apologies if it's a bit confusing, I didn't exactly think about how loosely we use that term at the Homestead. 

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Ah of course! A historic site needs to use historically accurate language and terminology to maintain character.  I've even joined a couple demos at historic sites while on vacation.  I was wrong, good thing I'm so used to it.

No apologies! A little confusion is good for folks, it keeps them mentally flexible. Instilling a little confusion can be a rewarding experience, especially if someone is taking themselves too seriously. ;)

Frosty The Lucky. 

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I keep forgetting about the fact that it's to keep up character, I've been there volunteering for so long it's pretty much everyday talk for me at this rate! 

Well thank goodness the confusion wasn't too much this time! 

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What part of the 18th century, 1701 - 1800 spans quite a bit here in the USA, (we went from horse draw wagons and steam trains to spacecraft in 1901-2000 for instance!)

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So I'm not entirely 100% sure exactly where the forge itself fits into the timeline. However, I know that the Boones built the Homestead around 1730, so I'm assuming we're starting there and working our way up till at least right before Revolutionary times. (Probably somewhere around 1750 ish?? Maybe later? I'm not sure). 

(We do have a lot of presentations on the French and Indian war and also the Revolutionary War) But usually when it comes to the craftsman side of things it's usually a broader range that we cover.

Honestly, today Frank was yaking more about where we got our iron back then and about how it's a charcoal forge instead of coal, since they only had charcoal in our area.

And of course when I was put on the spot to talk to people I was mainly just talking through what I was doing. How blacksmiths back then mostly did tools instead of blades (axes exceptions of course. I literally had like 4 kids thinking I was making a sword or a dagger out of a 6 inch piece of metal that wasn't even an inch thick...), and of course how the bellows work and why I'm working extra hard due to the fact that our bellows are semi busted. 

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OK so you may want to ILL Moxon's "Mechanicks Exercises"---the complete version with Blacksmithing as the first section. Published in 1703; but a lot of it written in the last half of the 17th century and so perhaps appropriate for a frontier area.

A bit late and of a different flavour would be Diderot's Encyclopedia; a great work of the Enlightenment and so much later and with a French focus.

Charcoal has been a blacksmiths fuel about twice as long as coal has and is still the primary fuel where coal is not readily available. (That forge looks like it was designed for coal though; a bit of tweaking would have it run better and on less fuel.)

If you are allowed 3rd person interpretation you can always ask folks if today they would be taking their Maserati to a local shade tree mechanic if it had problems or take it to a Specialist.

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Ooo those are some nice resources thank you! I'll be sure to check them out. It might take me a while as I have a bit of trouble finishing books, but I'll do my best with these. 

I'm hoping that I found the right one for Moxon's, hopefully this one?  Also when looking up Diderot's Encyclopedia I'm coming up with several different volumes, is there one in particular, or do they all contain useful smithing information? 

I'm not entirely sure whether or not this particular forge was originally built for charcoal or coal. What I do know is that it's not the original blacksmith's shop/forge at all. They had it moved/reconstructed from another historic site nearby I think? I'm a little hazy on the details when my master was talking about it to some folks, I was busy tending to my iron. But, I do know that when they excavated the site to check and see what was where, they found the footprint of the actual blacksmith shop and built this one directly on top of it to the best of the builder's abilities. (I just wish I could take a broom to the darn floor in there at some point because holy hand grenade of Antioch is it dusty and needs swept up. Which I know sounds silly since it's a forge but at the same time it could be a little neater... gah I'm too much like my father).  

That's actually a really great metaphor, I might need to steal that. Yeah, unfortunately our hands are pretty much tied when it comes to trying to get anything restored, fixed, or replaced at the homestead due to the fact that our lovely state doesn't want to pay for anything. A few years back they cut all funding to all historic sites, so there's only 2 state employees working there (the director and the groundskeeper) and everything else is volunteer run. To get anything done with any historic piece you have to have an expert write up an official report saying what needs doing and what all from last I checked. (Of course that was dealing with the old Barn Loom that finally got moved to the Landis Valley museum because it's in desperate need of better care and needs to be kept in a museum instead of in a barn). If we make enough fuss we might be able to get some headway with it... maybe? For now I'm just glad it's working, I just don't want it to have any more blow outs because it's literally being patched up with duct tape. 

 Speaking of the bellows, just in case (god forbid) I ever get a blow back from the fire while I'm working, how do I handle that? I know most people don't work with bellows these days so I figure I'll ask now while I can. Frank said it's not like a grenade blowing up so I'm assuming there's not much/no shrapnel, but I'd rather be prepared than have it happen and panic. 

 

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i strongly suggest you try to ILL them from your local public library FIRST. (Mine here in rural New Mexico costs a US$1 per search and can get me copies of stuff I have not found after 5 years of an open Amazon book search.)  I have the facsimile edition published in 1989 by the Astragal Press and enjoy reading it with the original fonts,   Others might do better with a modern font.

For Diderot's encyclopedia; it's an encyclopedia, you need to go to a big library, perhaps a University library and look through it hunting for articles and engravings about stuff applicable to your interests.

In my own bookcases I have one of the subsets dealing with "Métiers Disparus"  Vanished Trades . With things like the nail maker's set up and a nice postvise shown in the page on the scale maker.  Lots of tools and info on how they did things.  Definitely a research book unless you read the French of that era.  You may do better finding it on the web searching for example: anchor forging Diderot's Encyclopedia  or try: Blacksmithing Diderot's encyclopedia images and tracks down the ones that are useful for you.

Welcome to the real world of digging for information, vetting it, comparing and contrasting it, etc...  You don't need to know this stuff to smith; but it's good to know if you will be portraying smithing in a historical setting and expected to get it right!

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...I feel a little stupid now, I haven't used my public library in so long I forgot I had a library card to begin with! I'll see what I can find through there, knowing my luck it'll probably have to be a state loan. Although my college library might have something since they have a nice focus on history and anthropology (hence why I go there). 

Oof yeah French is a big no go for me, I'm still learning German and Spanish right now for the most part. Reading in another language is a little easier for me to wrap my head around, but French still makes no sense to me. I'll have to definitely do some digging when I can, see if maybe there's any articles on the research databases or things like that. 

For the moment I've just been spitting back out what I've heard from Frank as he talks about how they did things back then, but I'm always game to find out more. All this research sounds like just another crazy term paper! Except this time I'm not looking things up about dead people or primates. 

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3 hours ago, fangedknight said:

Except this time I'm not looking things up about dead people or primates. 

Certainly the people who built and used the smithy in the 17th-18th cent are probably dead and aren't people primates? :huh: What's the name of that university again? Thanks for the straight line, I need a little cheering up right now. 

Is the forge bottom or side blast? Side blast is probably charcoal, maybe coal and bottom blast almost certainly coal.

I forget about my library card too sometimes, it's a down side of the information age we live in. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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:lol: that's a good one Frosty! I'm an anthropology major specializing in Physical Anthropology so skeletons are my thing. I also go to Kutztown University (I'm just on a break now) 

The forge is side blast, and is definitely charcoal from all I've been told. 

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Hey Fangedknight,

You could not have been working with a better guy.

I have worked with Frank for about 13 years doing classes, events, work days and fun days.

He really knows his stuff and doesn't mind sharing with those that are interested.

Congrats and welcome to the fold,

Dave

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I work with a masonry forge almost identical with the one pictured, the only difference is that the rectangular opening on the front face is replaced by a nice masonry arch. Very picturesque, but a real pain in the neck. This design dates back to the time when stone/brick masonry was much, much cheaper than steel and/or cast iron. 

Before you waste time and money consider the following: 
1 the masonry near the heat will have to be constantly patched .
2 if not carefully laid out, it will be very hard to replace the firepot, clinker breaker, and the connection where the air blast enters the firepot. 
3 the masonry forge pictured requires you to work from the front, where you will be treated to great blasts of heat. You are much better off using a forge that can be worked from the side.
4 the masonry forge takes up a lot of floor space

The forge pictured looks great in a museum but you can do much better with a more modern all steel structure supporting a cast iron firepot. Check out Iforgeiron for designs. 

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Fangedknight, If you get a chance, try and connect with some of the smiths at Rough and Tumble, They rebuild an old bellows several years ago that wasn't even functional when they started. If the bellows at DB is working with duct tape patches, all you need to do is put a new leather skin on it. I've even worked on one that had a canvas skin on it and worked fine. Good luck. Al

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I'm one of the guys at Rough and Tumble and can tell you that those bellows are still working GREAT (I believe Al had something to do with it).

I have used several different crank blowers and can honestly say that I like the bellows much better.

You can get a little air or a lot of air in an instant. With less effort than cranking.

BUT, I do know that since the Boone Homestead is a state historic site you can't just fix whatever you want.

It takes the proper paperwork to be filed, the required number of quotes to be obtained, the approval given, the money approved, the funds given, and the work done.... even if you have someone that will do it for free! (gooberment efficiency)

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16 hours ago, fangedknight said:

Speaking of the bellows, just in case I ever get a blow back from the fire while I'm working, how do I handle that?

The blow back is the collection and ignition of combustible gasses. A lot depends on the configuration of the bellows, piping of air, and other factors. 

If you go get a collection and ignition of gasses, it can be a soft whomp to a startling bang. It is not limited to a bellows, as I have has a hand cranked blower produce a blow back. 

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Perhaps you could reach out to Dan Boone the 7th.  His shop is here in Virginia and he is an amazing smith.  Nice man, too. Have watched a number of demos he’s done.  Got one of his dragon headed letter openers at the ABANA Auction this year.

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2 hours ago, dave in pa. said:

BUT, I do know that since the Boone Homestead is a state historic site you can't just fix whatever you want.

YUP! That's why Frank was saying later that day that if it's going to be so much of a pain to fix it then to put it in a museum and get a reproduction to use for the forge. 

Honestly when I build my forge I really want to have bellows if I can fit them in because I'm loving how they work. (Just still recovering from working them extra hard!) 

I also definitely want to go to Rough and Tumble sometime, I heard Frank talking about it all day! We even had a couple guys from Rough and Tumble show up. =

Glenn, thanks for letting me know about the crank blowers too, I didn't realize it could happen with them. 

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Hand crank blowers "pop"; bellows can WHOMP!   (More gas to ignite.)  Putting the bellows higher than the forge helps.  Making sure the check valves are free swinging helps. Not using a lot of water on the fire helps. (Victorians made "producer gas" for gaslights by passing steam over hot coke...).

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Tangential question:  is the blowback as much of a concern with commercial charcoal?  I thought that was more of a concern with coal since the coking process produces a lot of volatiles.

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Frank actually was talking about that when he was telling me about the blowback. He said it's not as much as a concern with charcoal, since it happens a lot more with coal, but I'd rather be safe than sorry and be prepared just in case. Because I know our bellows have been blown out before and we only use charcoal on them due to historical demonstrations.

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