The Blacksmith’s Library — Artifacts

This is the first of two posts giving a quick overview of the types of reference material blacksmiths accumulate over the years. Reference books are important to serious blacksmiths and that will be the topic of the second post. This post is about the original objects blacksmiths acquire for study.

Our own “library” has objects ranging from those used domestically to hardware and tools. Amongst the domestic objects we have are the pie crimper and sugar nipper shown here, both nineteenth century. The pie crimper has a walnut handle, brass ferule and wheel, and a forged and turned shaft to hold the wheel. Sugar nippers were used to break pieces off the large chunks of sugar that were standard in those days before granulated sugar. This pair was made in England.

Early wagons were mostly of oak with a iron fittings. The t-hook at the top is interesting because of the forge-welded eye. The rams’ horn nut on the bolt is typical and well done.

We don’t have nearly enough examples of early hardware for close study. This is a spring latch with a night latch made in the early nineteenth century. The latch was operated by a brass stirrup-shaped drop handle or a round knob.

This is a German-style lever latch, with a night latch, still graced with paint. This again is from the early nineteenth century. These are found in dwellings in areas settled by Germans in areas of Europe where artisans were influenced by German-style hardware. Pressing on the knob or handle releases the lever by raising it from the catch (not shown).

Here is one of a pair of strap hinges with pintles we found in Western Ohio years ago.  The hinge is 13 3/8 inches long. Below the hinge is a pintle which passed through a post and was held by a large nut. This probably was used in a barn for a door.

Precision metalworking tools were made in the Lancashire area in England in the late eighteenth and into the nineteenth century. These tools have a high degree of polish and a distinctive styling, even though a number of makers might have used the same pattern. This is a nineteenth century hacksaw frame with a rosewood handle.

This is a small Lancashire pattern vise meant to be screwed onto a table or workbench. There’s a small anvil on the vise chop flange, and if one looks closely they’ll see depressions on the ends of the jaws. These are for holding one end of a bow drill bit, where the bit rides in the depression, a wheel on the bit is driven by a bow, and the work is held against the bit as it is turned.

This and other objects in the collection help remind us of a time when everything was literally made by hand. We have the greatest respect for those who, with simple tools and well-developed skill, produced items of such usefulness and beauty. It’s humbling.

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