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History of Crank blowers


Ten Hammers

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OK, here goes. It IS possible that I have asked this in the past but a search has not shown me anything. Just off the phone with Jeremy K and wish I could make his hammer in. Unfortunately cannot. I know Stan made the trip. I proposed this question to Jeremy for idle chat after they are done with the days smithing.

When were crank blowers first produced and ( if available) in what capacity and availability to the public ?

I do a fair amount to demo work ( rondys, Civil War shoots, fairs, Steam Tractor shows ). I use a Canedy Otto crank blower on a floor stand. The camp is fairly accurate but certainly not completely. I very much enjoy ( non politically correct ) history and facts. Discussions about equipment and or uses and techniques are a big part of the day some days. Firearms ( and cannon ) are really pretty easy to document. Anvils, Mr Postman has an excellent book full of facts. I guess the thread question could actually include cast forge bodies and firepots as well. Jeremy has told me of searches on Buffalo and Champion but I have not done them yet ( in memory, perhaps have years ago but cannot recall ). If you have some facts, please post. Thanks in advance. Junior, thank you so much for posting the old catalogs.

Edited by Ten Hammers
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I have a "Tiger" blower with a patent date of 1880 but it is so well engineered that I do not think it is first generation and from what I have read, Champion Forge and Blower was founded in 1875 with Buffalo Forge a few years earlier. Somewhere in my collection, I also have a woodcut sketch of large pulley blowers in the Civil War period. Those are the ones that have a centrifugal fan but are belt driven by pulley size multiplication - not gears.

The industrial revolution was well under way by the Civil War and many mechanical devices existed (like engine lathes). The earliest reliable steam engines dated to James Watt in 1775 so a lot of time had elapsed to allow the rail road system to become robust and heavy industry needed efficient methods to produce enough blast for big melts so blowers must have been available for that purpose. 1875 is probably a safe date to note that hand crank blowers were at least available in some form but bellows were common well into the 1900's.

I do a demo every spring that is supposed to date to 1900 and have regular arguments with spectators who claim we should be using bellows. Fortunately, we can all be right as both mechanical and bellows are correct for that period and I usually point that out as gently as possible. However, a hand crank at an 1830's rendevous or a similar time would be out of place from a historical perspective.

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Very interesting stuff, no doubt. Don't we all want to know when the tools we have were made? Most of it all is antique and so it is all intriguing.
I know I posted in the past the patent numbers on my Champion 400 blowers on a thread where someone was interested in them. There are associated drawings in the U.S.Patent Office. Also, on the top of each blower is a flat spot in the casting of the upper gear housing where is hand stamped an individual serial number. Could be a clue to a date of manufacture???;)Dan.

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Thanks for the input. Of course the easiest thing to do is build a set of bellows ( to satisfy historical issues). Suspect they wouldn't hold up to rain and wind like a Canedy Otto though. I have one steam show that the shop is period 1900-1910. I acetelyne weld there. There is electricity in the shop. I knew that crank blowers were available circa1880-1890 but knew no further. Thanks for the info so far and hope more comes ( documentable info ). I am doing a patent search currently but only so much time. Thanks again for the input fellas. As a post script, the thread question was regarding blowers available to smiths ( on a floor stand to replace bellows or perhaps as a table mount on the forge ). Not really clear on this and sorry for any mis-interpretation.

Edited by Ten Hammers
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If you make a bellows. Use a marine varnish as it will seal the wood from rain and other adverse weather. Also, use canvas instead of leather and paint it with the black plastic Dip-IT paint. It will stay flexible and should weatherproof it. Using the canvas will also make it easily replaceable.

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  • 10 years later...
  • 5 months later...

"...and the gentleman threw in a Bufco blower ($25)" -- man -- :huh: -- some cats get ALL the canaries. I've been looking for a good hand-crank blower for ages and can't find anything under $300 anywhere near me (southern Maine), though I'm SURE there are plenty around -- they're just never for sale online. I need to get to know more local smiths... 90% of the ones on ebay are "Local pickup only" on the other side of the country and the nicer ones are at least $500. Stoopid supply and demand... Smithin' gear is STEEP these days. Don't even get me going about anvils! One begins to understand why so many guys get nifty with the repurposed boiler fans and whatnot. 

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Your area is pretty rich with both history and old blacksmithing gear..  There are deals to be had and you are in New England Blacksmiths range..  They have meets spring and fall and have all sorts of blacksmithing stuff both to use and to buy at the meets at the Tailgate section. .  I bought a blower there last year for 35.00 Buffalo silent 200 14". There must have been 20 hand crank blowers at the fall meet which was in Brentwood NH.. 

Welcome to the ifi group but also check out the NEB group facebook and here on IFI.    If you want I am a state rep for MA so hit me up on PM. 

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Online is generally one of the most expensive ways to get blacksmithing tools..  Folks posting smithing stuff for sale online most likely are resellers and dealers trying to get the most they can for it.  They also, demonstratively,  have access to find out what the highest ASKING prices for stuff is lately and want that and may have no clue that their 100# beat up Vulcan is not worth the same amount per pound as  a mint 200# HB!

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