Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blacksmithing Circa 1904

I did some some backyard smithing when I was right out of high school. I even spent a year working full time in a traditional 19th century Blacksmith shop at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

It was hot and heavy work, but kindled a feeling of craftsmanship in me like few things could.

I found this video ( and a few others) a while back and am just getting around to posting them.

"Welding the Big Ring" is a video from the archives of the Library of Congress.

Some fun facts:
  • Filmed in 1904
    • I'm often amazed by how good the lighting is for these early film shoots. I'd love to see their setups
  • This took place at Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing.
  • Most likely a piece for a generator or a piece of equipment used in the factory.
  • This is Forge Welding on an industrial scale
Cool things to look for:
  • Blacksmiths (duh)
  • Gang of 8+ men working in an early industrial setting
  • A very LARGE power hammer (probably electric)
  •  A chain hoist that must be a 50 to 1 advantage (given how much the chain moves per movement of the piece)
  • 4 men forging a lap weld
  • More craftsmen comfortable with their tools. Those are probably 12 - 18 lb sledge hammers by the looks. That's a real days work.
Forge welding is fundamentally different than modern electric or gas welding. The two pieces of metal (in this case the ends of the bar forming the ring) are heated till plastic  (capable of being deformed continuously and permanently in any direction without rupture (per merriam-webster) (think modeling clay)) and driven or pressed together with a strong force.  Think about taking two pieces of clay and mushing them together. As a matter of fact, raid your kids play-dough and give it a try. Use two different colors to really see the effect. The two pieces are one. Even two colors form one piece. It's hard to distinguish the end of one piece and the beginning of the other.  Cool stuff, huh?

Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see more of this here.

Oh, BTW, I challenge you to find the "lead" smith or foreman and the Section or "Line Boss."  Good luck. I'll post my thoughts later.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Finnish Log Building (some internet awesomeness)

Every so often I find something while being led down the rabbit hole that is YouTube, that just speaks to me.  In this case I can't make out what it's saying (as it's in Finnish with no subtitles) but it captured my attention none the less.

I've always enjoyed watching craftspeople at one with their tools.  Highlights for me were:

  • Use of moss as chinking throughout the building. Even around windows.
  • The axe work in general and how many tasks they were put to.
  • Use of a two man plane (around 9:30)
  • The  broad axe with the ambidextrous head (@ 13:00) Yep, he flipped it around so he could hew into an opposite corner. I'd heard that before and discounted it as Eric Sloan type imaginations
  • Dinner! (@16:16)  :)
  • Using Birch Bark as a moisture barrier under the floor sleepers (@16:40)
  • Awesome fence (@ 24:50)
The were a couple things I didn't understand:

  • Why was sand/earth used to infill around the floor sleepers? This is protection from drafts/insulation? Seems like a prescription for rot.
  • What about the sawdust between joists? That seems like insulation for sure.
  •  Was this video shot as demonstration of skills in the past? I saw NO power tools, but this is clearly depicting modern era men. My biggest clue being the amount of electrical tape on tool handles and as a depth mark on an auger. :)
If anyone knows the answers to these quandaries, please leave them in the comments below.