Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Portable Rivet Forge with Side Extensions

Recently I noticed I was having a very difficult time keeping my fire lit during demos and I came to the conclusion that my coal was not deep enough to sustain a nice fire.  One time I was using some coal with smaller pieces and it seemed to require cranking all the time to keep the fire going, so I needed to find some kind of solution.

The type of portable rivet forge is typically use for public demos does not have a deep fire pot like some forges do.  Instead, it has a simple flat grate (think floor shower drain) across the tuyere opening, so the depth of the fire is limited to the 3 inches or so of the coal basin itself, which is not sufficient to keep a good fire going.

To address this, I made some modifications to my forge to bring the sides up a bit.  On the forge I leave at Claude Moore, my friend and collaborator extraordinaire Erin and I bent a hoop and we welded some 3/8" pins on the inside to keep it from moving around.  It is not permanently fixed to the fire pot, but we bent the pins so it rests rather firmly in place and does not move sideways much at all.  

In fact, as you can see in the photos, it is sturdy enough to hang my tools from so I am quite pleased with how it worked out.  It has amazed me how much better my fire burns now and how much easier it is to start now that the forge has been modified.  You can see in the photos that I have quite a nice fire going even while I am at the anvil and only a few cranks are required when I return to the fire to get it back to maximum heat.  

On the forge I use at other venues (pictured below), which is very similar to the one above, but with a different blower configuration, I took an even more simple route.  For that one, I used two pieces of sheet steel about 6 inches high and 24 inches long and bent them to the rough curve of the inside lip of the forge.

This approach has an added advantage for my traveling setup in that I can easily disassemble the two pieces and pack them away nicely in the coal buckets I use.  Had I used the ring method, I would have had to stow the hoop somewhere, which would have been a bit more cumbersome in our already crowded demo truck.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Stratford Hall Scouting Trip

This past weekend, we combined a fun trip for the kids with a visit to Stratford Hall, the home of the Lee family and the birthplace of Robert E. Lee.  Granted, our sons hadn't quite asked for the road trip to a historic home.  Instead they only wanted was a beach without any jellyfish, but we found something for everyone at Stratford Hall.  In addition to the home and a beautiful Visitor's Center and Museum, Stratford Hall has a small beach on the Potomac River that is a good place to find shark's teeth fossils and, most importantly, it didn't have any jellyfish.

Caitlin and I wanted to see Stratford Hall for its history, and also scout it out since it is the proposed site for a blacksmithing event we are planning in May.  We only do blacksmithing events that are very family-friendly, so it helps to check out events ahead of time and make sure they'll work for all of us.  This one should be great because it is an incredible location and the grounds are amazing.  We had a great time meeting the folks at Stratford Hall and we have targeted a spot to setup our demo under the trees on the front lawn, which will be great to be in the shade to teach people about the importance of blacksmithing to colonial society.  The view from our setup will be just about the same as what you see above.

Not only did we meet the people for the blacksmithing event, but it turned out that Jeff's boss at Mount Vernon was also at Stratford that morning to operate their water mill and interpret for a group of educators.   The world of colonial trades is rather small!  Caitlin and the boys got to meet him, and to learn about how the mill works, and even take home some cornmeal.  We are all looking forward to tasting the creations that emerge from that!

We have some exciting plans for the event in May, so please keep checking back here for more information as the planning evolves.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Demo at Claude Moore's July Market Fair

Jeff arrived home around midnight from the ABANA conference on Friday and we were up bright and early Saturday morning for the July Market Fair at Claude Moore Colonial Farm.  It's a regular event that we demo at three times a year, and it's always a pleasure....even when we headed off down the road and realized that it was raining and that we'd been so busy we hadn't had time to even unpack the tent that had arrived earlier in the week. 

So, Market Fair weekend started off wet and chilly and rather on the quiet side.  However, we did have a fire -- that's one of the perks of being a blacksmith.  And, hot coffee to start off the day! And, since it was a bit slow at times during the fair, we were able to let the children forge a little, which made them super happy.   There's always a bright side, isn't there? 

Sunday's weather was much improved and the fair was busier.   Jeff focused on colonial nails as his demo piece this past weekend because it's a good way to tell colonial history & show folks a finished piece within a few minutes.  He also made a child-sized backscratcher for our youngest son, which was rather cute (and entertaining as various kids enjoyed trying it out). 


We saw some old friends and made new ones -- we love to get out and show the art of blacksmithing, teach some history, and most importantly, connect with a lot of wonderful people.  Thanks for another great event!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Fitting Close to a Great Conference

The last day of this year's ABANA Conference was full of the conflicting emotions being together with old friends, and getting ready to leave those same friends, will bring to the surface.  Some sadness, much more happiness as the past four days are reviewed.
Following a great dinner which included buffalo and a spread of desserts aimed directly at the waist (few cared as they filled their plates) and just before the auction a passing thunderstorm left a glowing rainbow arching across the fairgrounds.  It was a fitting end to the gathering and a promise of more good things to come.

Rob Fertner signed his winning poster entry, which later was a highlight of early auction action.

The Patient Order of Meticulous Metalsmiths finished their Skandanavian door.

Jim Garrison picked the first winning ticket in the Iron-In-The-Hat drawing.  All three winners not being in attendance, President Peyton Anderson called them in Texas, Pennsylvania and Rapid City respectively.  
Arrangements for delivery were quickly made.

Four full days of massive collective effort produced the beautiful sculpture which Claudio Bottero designed and directed.  It was the center of attention in the dinning hall.

Look for more details on this incredible conference in the upcoming issues of the ABANA Magazine, the Anvil's Ring.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Fun Continues in Rapid City

Lee Gunderson, from Buffalo, Wyoming, summed up the value of the teaching tent when he said, "You can watch all you want, it's getting hands-on experience that teaches best."  He was taking a class from Mark Aspery in chisel making .  

Earlier in the day Gerald Boggs had his class turning out workable wizard head bottle openers.

Another bloom was cooking Friday at the iron smelting demonstration.  Lee Sauder had made a sculpture from the first bloom.

Claudio Bottero's team is in the final stages of forging his giant sculpture.  Ribs were being fitted this afternoon.

Rod Lange pointed out the titanium nail on the nail tree while he helped pound in son Scott's large and fancy nail.  The tree is near the fine arts center, which houses this convention's gallery.

It was another great day in Rapid City!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Forges, iron and conference all heat up today and the ABANA Conference

There were lines at the registration desk most of today as a majority of the expected 800 attendees arrived through the day.  Demonstrators set out their equipment and tools.  Many began forging and instructing soon after the opening ceremonies were over.

Highlighting the opening ceremonies were the presentations of the Alex Bealer Award, two were given, and the Joe Humble award.  Daryl Nelson and Toby Hickman were honored by the ABANA membership for their years of contribution to blacksmithing.  Each a Bealer Award recipient.   Chris Holt was the Joe Humble winner.

A stunning table of beautifully crafted copper and silver vessels greats you in the Northwest corner of the grounds where the Abdon Punzo family is demonstrating their mastry of metal work.

At the exact opposite corner of the fairgrounds the furnace for making an iron bloom was in its first firing stages, being readied to make it's first smelt Thursday about mid-day.

Nearby Jill Turman has begun an art project which looks very much like a large wall decoration, though we didn't ask her about specifics.  You can see for yourself if you visit her demo area between one and four Thursday.
And finally, Claudio Bottero and his large team have embarked on a huge piece which they will be forging all of the day Thursday. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Preparations are Underway at the ABANA Conference in Rapid City

The 2012 ABANA Conference is well underway for the setup crew and the demonstrators are working feverishly to finalize their preparation for the big event.

It was the day before the conference started, but Nathan "I am not an artist" Robertson had a dozen blacksmiths ringing anvils in his hammer making class.  Just so nice, as you walk onto the grounds, to see forges aglow, hear hammers pounding.
Nathan is on the right in the photo above
Take some time before you leave to head over to the Apex Gallery at the school of mining.  Ellen Durkan's exhibit looks at the hard side of women's fashion with larger-than-life wire and iron sculptures of dresses and shoes that look like they could have come out of an ancient torture chamber or off the pages of a new-age comic book.  If you need another inducement the gallery is air conditioned.
I ran into Eric Green, he of the well-tended mustache, who noted that he'd been to every conference since Albany.  We figured that went back about twenty years.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Making a Colonial Petticoat

Our "to-do" list is rather interesting right now, as we are getting ready for Jeff to head off to the ABANA conference in South Dakota tomorrow, work the conference since he is on the board of ABANA, and rush home on Friday in time to demonstrate at the Claude Moore Market Fair on Saturday and Sunday.  One of the things we'd love to get done today is to make me a new petticoat that will be lighter (and hopefully cooler!) for next weekend.

Neither Jeff nor I understand much about sewing, but we are muddling along, thanks in large part to some good instructions.  Hopefully, we'll get it done in time!

ABANA 2012 Conference Demonstrators (Rapid City, SD)

2012 Conference Demonstrators
International Demonstrators:
Claudio Bottero - Blacksmith – Italy
Claudio Bottero will be working by hand and power hammer with a team of blacksmiths to create a large sculpture.
Some examples of Claudio's Work
Claudio Booterro Boterro Gate  Boterro Gate Back  
Håvard Bergland - Blacksmith / Knifemaker – Norway
Håvard Bergland will make a true Viking Axe. Håvard's book, that has been translated into English, will be for sale.
Some examples of Håvard's Work
Claudio Booterro Boterro Gate
Becky Little - Nova Scotia, Canada      Website: Dragonfly Forge
Becky Little will create a coat rack with her whimsical style. I cannot wait to see what else she has prepared for us!

Becky Little Forging Becky Little Forging Becky Little Candle Holder Shoe hat rack

Punzo Family Copper Smiths:

6 members of the Punzo/Angel Family from Mexico : Abdon Sr, Carlos, Abdon Jr, Felipe, Marcos
Coppersmiths will take scrap copper and turn it into beautiful copper vessels. All work is done by hand with very few tools.

Knife Makers:

Ed Caffrey, ABS Master - MT      Website: "The Montana Bladesmith"
 Caffery Forging Caffrey Finishing

Ed Fowler, ABS Master - WY      Website: Ed Fowler High Performance Knives
Ed Fowler Knife Test Fowler Knife

Kirk Rexroat, ABS Master -WY      Website: Rexroat Knives
  RexRoat Knife 1 Rexroat Knife 2

Knife Makers will demo:
Making and patterning a damascus billet,
Making Mokume Gane ( Copper, Brass, Nickel Silver )
They will also be demonstrating other interesting and exciting variations of knives.

Artistic Smithing:

Jill Turman - CA      Website: Bella Ironworks
Jill Turman Jill Turman 2 TurmanGate

      Becky Little - Nova Scotia, CANADA      Website: Dragonfly Forge   See photps of Becky and some of her Ironwork above Under International Demonstrators
Traditional / Sculptural:

      Brian Brazeal - MS      Website: http://www.myspace.com/brazealbrothers
      Lyle Wynn (Brian's helper) - MS
Brian Brazeal and his assistant Lyle Wynn will do some hard hitting to make hammers and tooling.

Iron Smelt:

      Lee Sauder - VA
      Steve Mankowski - VA
      Shel Browder - VA
The Smelt Team will be building a furnace on site. The first smelt will be on Thursday along with a talk about theory on site. Friday will be the second smelt. The first bloom will be transformed in to sculptural piece; the second one will be made into steel and forged into an axe. Two smelts will give everyone a chance to see the process.
Patient Order of Meticulous Metalsmiths:

Tom Latane Pete Renzetti Mike MaCarty Tina Chisena Carl Close
         Tom Latane - WI               Pete Renzetti - DE           Michael McCarty - NY         Tina Chisena - MD                Carl Close Jr - MA
The Patient Order of Meticulous Metalsmiths will be making a Scandinavian style door with hardware. They will be available to answer questions as they work

Teaching Station
Mark Aspery - CA
Darryl Nelson - WA
Gerald Boggs - VA

They will have the teaching station well staffed. The guys will be instructing the National Curriculum along with other projects.

Hammer Making Class
Nathan Robertson -
Nathan Robertson will be hosting a hammer making class, each participant will take home a hammer. There is an additional fee for this class.