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.

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!