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I Forge Iron

125 year old Alldays and Onions bellows restoration


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I picked up a lovely set of Alldays and Onions bellows on ebay and have restored them, and put them to use. Maybe 125 years old I reckon. Triple chamber, works smoothly.  Leather is original, just treated with “neatsfoot” oil.  A little woodworm, now treated. The top board  is warped, but doesn’t  affect the function and adds to its charm. At first I think one of the leather flap valves was sticking, I think, and the top chamber wasn't expanding, and I was dreading having to unpin the leather bellows but as I used it, it began working and now is working just fine. I have hooked it up to my modern side blower forge by cutting a hole in the back so I can run electric, manual either or.  One of the cast iron weights was missing, but have replaced with a mild steel ball, almost as good. I read somewhere they may have been painted red, so gave em a lick and then the transfer pipe on the side that passes the air between chambers looked like it needed brightening up, so that got the same treatment. The lever is original ash, just BLO and it looks fine. 

At some stage I’ll need to flip the frame so it blows the same side as the lever - a more awkward task then I expected. I spent an hour or two on the assumption I could just unbolt the frame , rotate the bellows 180 and bolt it back together, but over the decades of use in the past the cross rods have slightly deformed and wouldn't quite fit, when I switched it, so I need to plan ahead and get a couple of sons with muscles to help. A lovely object, and great to use with my similarly aged anvil and vices. It clicks and heaves and whispers as I use it, in a very relaxing peaceful repetitive sound - harder work but quieter than the noisy electric fan

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I think it worked for its keep for a few years but for the last 30 years it was at first a decorative feature in this guy’s hallway after he came across it in a junk store. He had done some restoration then including ouling the leather. His wife told him to move it out 20 years ago and since then he had it under a blanket in a garage. The leather soaks up any neatsfoot oil I put on it. I guess i’ll Keep reapplying .

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  • 1 month later...

I love it more every day. It sighs and whispers to me as I work it, sometimes with a happy grunt as it clears its throat. Wooshhhhh. Click click clack whoooshhhhh click click clack. The forge gently exhales in synch.  Harrrrr. Harrrrr.  Who needs music?  Mind you, my very amateur hammering of steel on the anvil is like a kid playing a piano for the first time. That’s not musical yet...

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