Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Local Blacksmith

Remember the good ole days when every town in America had a blacksmith shop. Yea, I don't either and why is that? I guess with modernization and faster ways of doing things we just don't slow down and make something with our hands from raw material like we use to. Enter Anthony Martin, owner of Red Tail Forge. This is why I love my job because it takes me places in search of high quality tools. The ones you don't find in fancy warehouses. The simple shop of a blacksmith. You know I like simple but there is a lot to know when working metal and it's cool to watch a master at work.

 Anthony, like most blacksmiths, makes a lot of his own tools. You can see the wonderful array of holding devices below that become an extension of his hands to hold the work while shaping and bending. Unlike woodworking Anthony can't feel the metal in his hands while working but if a mistake is made he can simply heat the material back up and start again. It's much harder than he makes it look and I was very jealous of his abilities.
 The heart of every good blacksmith shop is the anvil. This is a 19th century version from England which has the original owner's signature from the 1800's.
 Anthony was very gracious to spend his Saturday making me some hold fast for my new chair makers bench. He started with 11/16th round stock 18'' long and heated up the end.
 Stock this big is then pounded using the antique power hammer. A very impressive machine that shows no mercy. He squares the ends which also stretches them a little lengthwise.
 He follows with hand hammering the point to begin the start of the leaf pattern. Then he hammers out the leaf and veins, bends the upper section to the correct geometry all while constantly re-heating the metal. Anthony moves with a purpose and operates like a well oiled machine. I guess you can say he had many irons in the fire, literally.
 After final shaping he hangs them to air cool. You don't quench these since they have to be pounded during use and must flex to hold the work.
 Several hours later we had six hold fasts ready to work. All tested great and each had there own personality. Just like I wanted. Anthony far exceeded my expectations and I can't wait to show you the new chair makers bench with these new hold fasts. The bench is almost complete so stay tuned for the results.


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