Welcome to the Kellogg & Sons Blacksmith Shop

Our traditional Blacksmith shop located in Northern New York. We do custom Blacksmithing work focused upon traditional 18th and 19th century hardware and tools.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

North Country Ice Storm of Dec. 2013

We seem to have severe ice storms around Christmas.  This one nocked out power for 2-3 days and did damage to trees that we will still be cleaning up in the Spring.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bradley Helve Hammers: Blacksmithing Hammers made in Syracuse, NY.

I don't own a Bradley Hammer, but someday I hope to have a shop big enough to hold one of these great big beasts!  Bradleys were built in Syracuse, which is to the South of me.  This one belongs to a member of the Adirondack chapter of the New York State Designer Blacksmiths.  James has a great collection of classic Blacksmith's mechanical tools.  The Bradley is just waiting for it's turn in the shop for restoration.

The Bradley company made hammers from the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries.  They were industrial Blacksmithing hammers, and often were used in factories for 3 shifts a day for years, decades, or in some cases most of a century!  They are one of my favorites.  Original manuals for several Bradley Hammers can be seen here! Follow the link and scroll half way down.

In the U.S few other companies used this kind of horizontal design.  The most popular mechanical hammers, like the Little Giant, built a vertical design that was taller than it was long.  The LG is a space saver for the small shop, but the Bradley was the King of Industry.  Trains, tractors, plows, and thousands of other machines were build using parts hammered out under a Bradley Helve Hammer.

Their earliest and largest hammers are the Wooden Helve Hammers.  They were made in a number of weights, but the more common seem to be 100, 200, and even 500lb hammer heads.  Michael Dillon is a great Artist Blacksmith with a lot of mechanical and steam hammers.  He has the big brother to the machine shown above. Watch the video of him using a 500lb hammer Bradley!  He is drawing down a piece of 4 inch square bar to become a part of a sculpture.  It is amazing how delicate you can work with a machine that weighs over 8 tons!

These were both innovative in using rubber springs and traditional using wooden helves (handles) to move the hammer head.  These are stout machines, and can easily weight 2 tons or more.  That weight mades them strong, long lived and efficient with their modest horsepower motors.

The hammer dies are large and removable.  I am not sure how many things these custom dies did, but they have surfaces to draw out a taper, size round bar, and make specific shapes.

Now for something completely different!

The Helve Hammers weren't their only product.  An updated helve hammer became a popular tool in small factories.  The Compact Guided Helve Hammers were an innovation that made the hammer faster striking, smaller in footprint, and well suited to factory work.  Here is a cute little 15lb. head Guided Helve Hammer.  I saw it for saw at the SOFA QuadState conference this fall.

The ram is suspended from the helve with a heavy leather strap.  The leather removes some of the strain and shock of the hammer from the helve.  The hammer head travels up and down in machined ways.  These tended to have a much lighter hammer head than the Helve machines.  I have heard of these in 15lb. and 30lb. head machines.  The lighter head machines could strike up to 300 blows per minute.

The surviving examples of these hammers tend to come out of factories that made  many small steel parts.  I have heard of them being bought as scrap from Cutlery and Typewriter factories.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Old Blacksmithing hammers: tools found at Quad State!

I like old tools.  The tailgate tools sales at the yearly Blacksmithing SOFA Quad-State Conference in Troy, Ohio are always interesting.  I picked up what looks like a flatter or top tool, hand hammer, and sledge hammer head.

 They are all made simply from wrought iron bar with a punched eye. I don't know why the flatter on the left had a rectangular eye.  The center one is the sledge hammer head.  It does not appear to have steeled faces.  It also may have been upset or mushroomed just by use.  The swelling or hourglass shape on the right is from both working ends being upset for more mass.  That one appears to have the remains of a steeled face.

If you have any clues to how their origin or construction please let me know!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blacksmithing in Cold Weather: Part II - Staying Warm

Up here in the North Country blacksmithing in cold winter weather isn't really optional.  The old-timers  say we have, "Only ten months of winter and two months of poor sledding".  Working in cold weather has some major drawbacks.  It helps to know some tips and tricks to make it easier.

5 foot wide sidewalk, 7 feet of snow!

            One is to create a safe working environment.  In bitter cold you have to bundle up.  But most modern cold weather gear is Nylon, Polar Fleece, and other synthetics.  They are a major danger around hot metal.  Sparks go through them like water through tissue paper.  If they get too hot and burn they not only melt but also shrink.  That coats your skin with 300 degree molten plastic.  Not good.  The solution to this is two fold.  First, create a warming spot in the shop.  If you are using a drafty, uninsulated building like I am heating the whole shop isn’t practical.  But you need a spot that is warmish.  I’ve seen wood stoves and propane heaters used to good effect. 

            Second, wear traditional fiber clothing.  Cotton canvas jackets are stiff, but are also predictable around fire.  They scorch before they burn, and if you catch it on fire it is easily put out.  Isn’t that the hallmark of a Blacksmith?  That being a little on fire isn’t that big a deal?  I like two layers of wool shirts.  Very warm, easy to move in, and very spark resistant. 

But what about your tools?  Can they get too cold and break?  There has been a great deal of discussion among Blacksmiths about how cold is too cold to use an anvil without breaking it.  I don’t know the answer.   I do know it is hard to do good and timely work on an anvil that is below 20 degrees F.  It sucks the heat right out of the hot iron on contact.  Notice the ice in the bucket and the frost on the anvil?

Frosty Kohlswa anvil.

I usually preheat a slab of steel and put it on the anvil face to warm.  A five pound bar won’t warm the anvil much but it will take the chill off.  Once the anvil face is near or above freezing it works better and is probably less likely to suffer damage.  Another solution is a Magnetic Block Heater.  This is a magnetic hot plate designed to warm vehicle engines to around 50 degrees.  Stick it to the side of your anvil and it will keep it warmer.  Others use a foam box and a light bulb.  Whatever works!

Frosty windows!

Extreme cold.  Since we have pretty serious winters up here in the North Country I’ve done work in the shop with inside temperatures well below 0 F.  At those temperatures you have to work carefully.  You are more encumbered with heavy clothes and can be more clumsy.  Light leather gloves are a good idea since 0 F. steel tools will stick to your skin.  Once you are warmed up you may be able to shed layers.

These are just some tips I have found helpful working in cold weather.  Do what works, have fun, and stop when you can't feel your feet!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Blacksmith's Book Review: d'Allemagne's Decorative Antique Ironwork, published by Dover Books.

Where can a modern Blacksmith or Artist find inspiration?  As a historic Blacksmith I find great inspiration in not just the ordinary work of the past but also from the exceptional.  Everyone knows Blacksmiths made nails and horseshoes.  But some smiths made tools and hardware that are exceptional works of art as well.

Most have forgotten that they made incredible masterworks in the form of amazing sculptural armour, intricate locking coffers, astounding and complex weapons, and items that were purely artistic.  But unless you go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, National Ornamental Metals Museum in Memphis, or the spectacular museum in Rouen, France you may never see examples of this work.  I can't afford to travel Europe looking at artifacts.

Dover Books does all smiths a service with their reprint of Decorative Antique Ironwork.

The book was written by scholar and collector of ironwork Henry Rene d'Allemagne. It is a catalog of his spectacular collection at Le Secq des Tournelles Museum at  Rouen.   Featured is Ironwork in the Decorative Arts.

The collection was amassed in the late 19th and early 20th century.  It features European work from before 1,000am to the late 1800's as well as items from England to Istanbul.  Henry traveled widely to study and collect.  Architectural iron is shown, but also every kind of lock, key, chest, coffer, corkscrew, and hinge.

Many of the items pictured were from the homes and castles of nobility, or were made for the upper class.  Much of the decorative work is chiseled, carved, or whitesmithed.  These examples are of interest because they do not represent the everyday 90% of ironwork.  These are the rare, beautiful, or unusual.

Published in 1924 the Dover reprint dates from 1968.  The book is black and white photographs with captions telling any dates and history of the pieces shown.  The reprinted photos are a little dark, but the work shown still inspires.

An example on plate 59 would be an ornate chest lock made in the 18th century by a Parisian locksmith know as Merlin.  What appears to be a decorative metal moulding on the lock is actually part of a hidden trap called a "Thief Catcher".  Anyone guilty of trying to pick the lock may set off the trap.  Like a twin jawed animal trap it will snap outward to grab the thief by the hand or arm!

Decorative Antique Ironwork is not a how-to book, or a modern guide to art.  It is a pictorial record of the collection of what may still be the best collection of European Ironwork in the world.  I'd love to see the book reprinted with better copies of the photos, but it is still a great book for inspiration and ideas.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Atkins 55 two man Crosscut Saw restoration

Why would anyone want to use an old two man crosscut saw when chainsaws work so well?  Why not?  When set up and sharp they cut well, are good exercise, and don't make annoying noise.  They don't use gasoline, don't smell bad, and are a good tool to use to teach teenagers about wood cutting safety.  And as Blacksmiths because we have or can make the tools to sharpen and maintain a saw.

As a Blacksmith I have bought old tools at auctions, and sometimes end up with more tools than I want.  I have some old crosscut saws that I have been cleaning up to use around the yard to cut up unwanted Box Elder trees that are blocking the view of the water.

When I started looking through my tool stash I thought I'd find two or three saws.  Turns out I have around 9!  Don't remember buying them all, so I must have gotten most of them as things thrown in when buying old stuff at farm auctions.

One that I have cleaned up is a Atkins 55, Silver Steel, Segment Ground, made in Indianapolis Indiana.

It is a Perforated Lance Tooth pattern.  That means it has four cutting teeth for each raker.  The raker end looks like a M and cleans out the cut chips.  This pattern tended to be used more for softwood than hardwood, but can be used for anything.  This area has a lot of farmland between Lake Ontario and the Adirondacks.  Farmers and loggers cut hardwood for firewood, timber for Railroad Ties, softwood pulpwood for the paper mills, and timber for building on their farms.

I am not an expert at all, but I have cleaned it up and used it to cut some Box Elder.  It needs more sharpening and the Rakers need swaging to better peel chips.  But it works!  That is a 6 inch branch.  It is a lot slower than a chainsaw.  But it is also a lot faster than an ax!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Moving Heavy Things by Jan Adkin; a book review for Blacksmiths.

Moving Heavy Things.  Sound like the story of my life.  Almost everything in the Blacksmith Shop is heavy, rusty, hot, and possibly sharp.

Jan Adkin's book is filled with great tips on how things have traditionally be moved using muscle, simple tools, and planning.  "Never lift what you can drag, never drag what you can roll, never roll what you can leave."(Adkins, P. 8)

It is being republished by Woodenboat Publications, publishers of Woodenboat Magazine and many fine books relating to wooden boat restoration, building, and use.

The illustrations have all the charm and clarity of those by Antiquarian and Author Eric Sloan.  The book combines a story about two guys in the boat yard trying to move heavy things with tips from the past on how to get things done!  The book is short and not an instruction manual.

It is clever, fun, and full of traditional wit and wisdom.  "What goes up comes down heavier!"(Adkins, P. 11)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hand Cranked Drills for the Blacksmith Shop

I have worked in several Blacksmith shops that for historic or hobby reasons had limited power.  Modern drill presses are great, and can cut through steel like it is cheese!  But without electricity how do you make precise holes?

Hot and cold punching is one answer.  I do that, but sometimes you need to drill a hole.  What then?

I have been fortunate to find a number of classic old tools to solve that problem.  An "eggbeater" style drill works for small holes on thin steel.  But for bigger work they can't supply enough down pressure to cut steel cleanly.  The answer is a hand cranked Heavy Duty Drill.

Historically these were called "Breast Drills" due to the fact that you hold them with both hands and press your weight down on them with your chest.  Above is a heavy duty single speed drill.  It takes up to a 1/2" bit for wood or 3/8 in steel.

Below is a Medium Duty hand cranked drill with two speeds.  You remove the crank axle and replace it in a different bearing to use low speed.  It is in high speed right now.

They can be use for horizontal and vertical drilling.  I often clamp the work to a bench or heavy low stump and lean down on the drill to get enough pressure for the bit to cut cleanly.  Steel required a lot of pressure to cut a low speeds.

For precise or heavy work I use the Hand Cranked Post Drills.  These are both Champion No. 96 from Lancaster, PA.

Both have restoration needs, but they both work.  It only took 20 years of looking to find two matching drill presses that work!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SOFA Quad State Conference 2013: Part III Tailgate sales and old tools!

New York is a good state to live in as a Blacksmith  It is a state rich with colonial, agricultural, and industrial history.  Between Agriculture and Industry there are a lot of old tools in New York.  It is possible to find used Blacksmithing tools at reasonable prices.  But showing up at Quad-State on Friday is still like Christmas morning!  Hundreds of pick-up trucks are loaded with tools on the tailgates.   Junk and tool sellers have rows of tables of old tools!

Here we are looking at tools before the sun has come up!

Each year the opportunities are different.  The economy has an impact as well.  Ten years ago when I started going to the event there were half a dozen or more old power hammers for sale.  There were also 3 vendors of new air hammers.  In 2013 there were lots of vendors and things for sale, but fewer power hammers and items in the multi-thousand dollar range.  There was also only Big Blu selling new power hammers.  I thing that reflects nationwide trends in the economy.  Blacksmiths were still looking for tools and things they needed and are spending money.  But they are buying more small items instead of one big item.

Our band of Outlaw Blacksmiths may be representative.  Out of five of us we bought one new tool.  My son bought a nice 800g German pattern cross-pein.  Here are a 600g, his 800g, and my 1000g German pattern Cross Pein hammers.  Ironically they were all made in France!

But the rest of our purchases fell in two catagories.  Used tools to rehabilitate and restore to use.  We brought home a broken Champion Post Drill, two leg vises without mounts or screws, and a rusty bench vice.   I found a Champion No. 96 for $20!  It has a flywheel with broken spokes.  But unbroken was the downfeed cam mechanism that is broken on the identical drill I already own.  I ended up mounting both of them in the shop side by side!  I'll forge a new down-feed cam using the one I have as a guide, and get both drills in top shape.  The more worn one will be used for bigger bits and the tighter one with a Jacobs chuck for smaller bits.  I thought I was getting parts, but instead I am using it for patterns to make parts!  That way I have two drill presses!

I also bought an assortment of sledge hammer heads, new files, and used files.

Raw material to use to make new tools or ironwork.  Our first purchase Thursday night was used Nascar axles.  We bought a bunch to use to make anvil tooling.  They are good steel.  The best deal we found on materials was real Wrought Iron!  Several people were selling iron from 19th century bridges.

We collectively bought more than a hundred pounds of 3/4 round, square, welded eyes, and massive wrought iron bolts!  We are already making the list of tools we will buy or sell at the conference next year!  Looking forward to the 4th Saturday in 2014!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SOFA Quad State 2013 Part II: Demonstrators!

Tools and Demonstrators are why I keep going back to the SOFA Quad-State conference year after year.  Each is great, and is different every year!

The opening ceremony involved the forging of a T-stake anvil by Steve Parker on a big steam hammer!  Making anvils with steam powered tools - always awesome!

The source of steam was a Traction Engine parked outside the building.  The owner said his uncle had built it to the current form.  It looked like a small 3 horsepower stationary steam engine had been converted to a self propelled using antique truck and tractor parts.  Ingenious!  It was parked and piping steam to the hammer inside the main demonstration barn.

It was dark out, so these pictures aren't great.  The crew is manning the boiler as the Hammer Man and Hammer Driver work on the anvil in the barn.  It was nice to be reminded that working big iron in the past took a whole team to run the boiler, hammer, and anvil.  Only in the present does technology let a Blacksmith work alone.  Historically it was labor intensive and the hub of the village or factory.

Saturday afternoon the engine crew drove it around the grounds!

On Saturday there were demos in artistic smithing and moving metal by Brian Brazeal,  Roycroft style Copper work and repousee by Robert Trout, Power hammer work by Steve Parker and Bladesmithing by Tim Potier.

Brian's morning demo included forging steel jewelry.  This ring was forged to a very low heat, which reduced scale and produced the silver finish.  His forging style of using a very heavy hammer, slow blows, and working at a low heat is the opposite of the traditional smithing that I do with historic wrought iron.  But it sure makes a pretty finish and moves metal.  The ring show had just been forged and wire brushed.  Shiny!

Robert Trout's demo was in a big, airy new pole barn.  His tireless work and lively discussion of tools, copper work, design, and methods kept the bleachers full.  I've know Bob for 15 years and his demonstrations just keep getting better.  Even my 14 year old son was entertained and stayed in the bleachers.

He did a great job of explaining how to forge, shape, planish, and patina copper work.  Here he is shaping with a soft face cross pein on the anvil to take out excess curve.  Note the industrial carpet scrap on the horn.  That is placed on the anvil but under the work when shaping to prevent damage to the hammer patina.

Trumpet vase and picture frame.

SOFA Quad State 2013 Blacksmithing Conference- Part I

The largest and often the best yearly Blacksmithing conference is held by the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil.  The event is called the SOFA Quad-State Roundup.  Even though it is over 600 miles from my house I try to go each year.  I am lucky to have a bunch of Blacksmith friends willing to make this crazy road trip out to the conference every year!  Thanks guys!

It is unbelievably flat in south central Ohio compared to my home in the Adirondack region of Northern New York.

Farmers were getting in the grain as we drove across the state.  Corn and Soybeans seemed to be most common.  We saw John Deere, Case IH, and Gleaner combines.

When we stopped for gas there were 5 boys in line buying cold soda.  They had clearly just come from the fields.  They still had chaff on their jeans and boots as they filled their pickup-trucks with gas.

This year was much drier and an easier drive.  It rained the whole trip in 2012.  At least we got to see the rainbow!
2012 Ohio drive home.
2013 Ohio drive home.

Our crew tented on grounds.  It is fairly cheap and easy to camp right at the event on the Miami County Fairgrounds.  This year was warm and dry.

What a nice change from the pouring rain, lightning, cold, and 86mph winds of last year!  Our tents didn't leak or blow down.  Success!  I am getting too old and cranky to sleep in the car.

Two attractions to Quad State are the tools and the professional demonstrations.  The tailgate shopping for new and old tools draws a lot of people.

Several acres of fairgrounds are covered by pickups, tents, and tables of rusty iron.

Bradley 15LB Upright guided helve hammer.
 Four demonstrators present throughout the weekend as well.  It is always a good time.  Part II of this report is about the demonstrators.  Part III will discuss buying tools!  More to follow.