Wednesday, June 29, 2011

July 2011 Colonial Market Fair

Please join my family and myself at the next Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm on July 16 and 17.

This is a great event for adults and kids alike because there are many experienced (and often juried as well) Colonial craftspeople of all types, marvelous entertainers and period vendors as well, all in Colonial costumes.  Every one of them has a heart for education and it is an outstanding opportunity to immerse yourself in some good wholesome historical entertainment and to learn a few things at the same time!

I will be demonstrating at this event and will have a colleague there with me named Kelly Smyth who is a renowned expert in maritime blacksmithing.  Together we will be educating people on the many interesting aspects of Colonial blacksmithing.  More details and a 50% off coupon can be found on the Claude Moore Colonial Farm website.

If you happen to miss us at this Market Fair, please join us at the next one October 15th and 16th or come visit me at the Blacksmith Shop at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens (times vary from week to week).

Look forward to seeing you at one of these events soon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scroll Candlesticks In Use

I made some scroll candlesticks for a friend from Claude Moore recently and he sent me a shot of them on his dining room table next to a trencher they got from the Mount Vernon Craft Fair, so I was pleased to see them in use in such nice company!

Jeff Joins Mount Vernon's Blacksmithing Team

I recently got an unexpected phone call from Mount Vernon to discuss "blacksmithing".

Anyone who knows me know that I am always more than ready to chat about smithing, so I returned the call lickety split.  Lo and behold, Mount Vernon's blacksmithing shop needed some extra help and wondered if I  would be willing to work as needed, on a part-time basis.

How cool is THAT?!?!

Please look for me in the shop the next time you are there!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Manassas Civil War Demonstration

It was an exhausting, but good, demonstration this weekend in Manassas.

30,000 people were expected and although we don't know the final numbers, we definitely talked to thousands of people over the 3 days of the event.  We educated people about blacksmithing and the value of doing something, anything, with your hands, whatever it is that you feel called to do.  This notion seems to resonate well with people at events like this, which is always great to see.

This was our first Civil War event and it was great to dig into the blacksmithing history of that time period and to compare it to the Colonial period we are more familiar with.  Although blacksmithing did not change all that much in the 100 or so years between these wars, the country itself changed immensely and that had a huge impact on the blacksmiths of the time.

During the Colonial period, most finished metal goods and much of the iron both came from England in ships. After the Stamp Act in 1763, however, Americans became much more reluctant to buy British goods and so the blacksmiths of the time slowly began moving from a repair-based workload to one of many more things made from scratch from iron made here in this country.  At the same time, people were moving westward and blacksmiths were among them.  Some smiths that apprenticed in the cities of the Eastern seaboard no doubt would move westward after they became Journeymen and would serve the local community they were in around their homestead.  Amidst all this change, the apprenticeship model remained firmly in place right up to the Civil War and beyond.

Shortly after the Civil War, things changed dramatically for smiths, with the advent of the railroads only 20 years after the end of the War and then mass production roughly 30 years after that.  So, despite their being not much change to the basic aspects of the blacksmithing trade for the almost 250 years before the Civil War, there was massive change in the 50 years after, leading shortly to the almost virtual extinction of them in the mid 20th century.  Thankfully, however, smithing is seeing a great revival in the last 50 years and I am glad to be a part of it!

We had a great time at the event and look forward to sharing blacksmithing history and practice in future events as well.  Hope to see you there the next time!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Gearing Up for Manassas

I usually demonstrate with a wonderful, but borrowed, set-up at the Claude Moore Market Fairs.  I took quite a bit of time early on to help build that forge, vise, and other equipment.  Unfortunately, I can't be carting those things all over for other events, so lately I have had to build, buy, or otherwise make a new set of gear for the event that starts on Friday.   At times, it's felt like we were a bit in over our head, but I remain optimistic even though it seems like there is so much yet to do!

We all have our new Civil War outfits, although the clothing has been the easiest part of the equation to pull together.  Honestly, the equipment has been the challenge.  We're getting there, though, with a day before the event.

I bought a new smaller leg vise and built a stand for it.

And, after more searching than you can imagine, I finally located a stump of the right height and width; a friend chain-sawed it into a workable form.   It only needs its "supports" for the anvil (so the anvil doesn't bounce around once I start hammering on it) and it should be ready to go.

After testing it out a couple weeks ago at Claude Moore, I am confident the new anvil will work well.  The forge is freshly painted and the coal was delivered today.  I think the blower is working and will attach to the forge, although that hasn't been really tested yet.   All the pieces are falling into place, with the sole exception of a way to get all this gear out to Manassas.  We're still working on that.  Somewhere, there's a trailer or a truck just waiting to be connected to our effort.  Certainly, everyone in our circle knows we are looking for one!

The only other glitch is that the boys have school on the first day of demonstrating, and they don't want to miss a minute of class time.  While that complicates the schedule a bit, none of us can be upset about that development.   My family might just have to show up a day late....and actually I might just need that period of quiet to put the final touches on all the new equipment and iron out the new wrinkles that have developed. 

It's never dull around here, that's for sure!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lots of Hooks

I was greeted a Market Fair this year by a few familiar faces, who came with photos and measurements for items they wanted me to make for them.  I love that sort of thing and was happy to make their custom items.  I made a bunch of things during the Fair and have since made a custom hook for a tent for another demonstrator, a series of S-hooks, and drapery hooks (to hold back drapes)...

Here are some shots of these hooks: