Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Birch Bark: amazing natural tinder

Every day in Field's Blacksmith shop starts with making a fire. Today most people use newspaper to start their kindling. I like to use birch bark. When we have birch firewood I break off the bark and save it.

It can also be found in the woods when a birch has fallen and rotten on the forest floor. Even when the wood has decayed the bark is still intact and useable. Don’t peel bark from live trees as it can kill them. There is plenty available from dead trees.

Birch bark is touch and contains natural oils and resins to protect the tree. Those same oils and resins make it an excellent fire starter. A small piece will make a big flame and burn for a minute or more. I use it to start my kindling wood.
Once the kindling is burning well I add coke and get the fire burning bright.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fall at Lippitt Farm

The weather has been mild for the first two weeks of November. Frosty nights and sunny days have been the rule. We are bustling around to finish the fall projects. The farmers’ crops are all in the barn. It is time to get ready for the long winter.

The fall crops have been harvested and plowed under. Planning for next year’s crops has begun. The winter rye has been planted, and is sprouting well. It will be the first grain harvested next spring.
At the blacksmith shop we are finally finishing repairs to the 1830’s plow. It has new nuts, bolts, brackets, and will be getting a coulter knife. The oxen will get to use it in the spring.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Industrial Blacksmithing at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has the world’s largest collection of primary documents, including videos and films, to tell us about the past. Here is a link to a video filmed in 1904 at the Westinghouse factory.

They were creating a massive turbine and generator. I wonder if it was for the power house at Niagara Falls, N.Y.?

The men are doing an amazing job. They are in the process of turning an iron bar into a round ring with a circumference of 16 to 20 feet. The bar they are forging into a ring appears to be about 3 inches thick and about 12 inches deep. It must weigh several tons. In the first 2 minutes of the film they are hammering together a scarph where the two ends of the hot bar overlap. The 4 men with sledgehammers are making the initial weld using only muscle power. At the bottom right corner of the picture frame there should be a clock counting elapsed time. Watch at the 1:30 point when 3 men are striking with sledge hammers and a fourth man jumps in to hammer in time on the work.

At the 2:20 point a man, possibly the head blacksmith, jumps inside the hot ring to operate the chainfalls! The ring still has a section several feet long that is over 1600 degrees Fahrenheit. He guides the effort to push the ring back into the fire and then starts lowering the chainfalls. Watch again at the 2:55 point when he is hoisting the multi-ton ring out of the fire with the chainfalls. Watch his arms. He has a blacksmith’s build, with forearms bulging as large as his biceps. Then the men push and pull it on the chain falls to the next working station.

Then the ring goes to the steam hammer! At 3:15 it is being struck by the steam hammer. That machine uses a steam piston much like the one in a locomotive to raise and slam a 500lb. hammer head into the ring once each second. The steam hammer is being used to finish the weld and forge the ring down to an even thickness. That causes a bulge in the width of the ring. A man places a cutting tool called a hack under the hammer at 3:52 to cut off the excess metal and return the ring to the needed dimension.

What details are hidden in the larger film? There is a special type of anvil called a bridge anvil in the shot at 1:17. It probably weighs more than 300lbs. and is used for large industrial work like this. Finally the ring goes back to the anvil at 4:25 for finishing by hand held hammers and tools. At 4:46 they throw a thin plate of steel onto the weld and then hammer it into place. At 5:52 they are using sledges to strike a tool called a Flatter to smooth the outside edge of the ring.
What an amazing job. Surviving films like these provide a window onto daily life in another time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seasons Change at The Farmers' Museum

Fall is upon us at the Farmers’ Museum. There are a number of images that appear in my minds’ eye when reflecting on the season. Children playing in piles of leaves. Frost on the grass. Harvesting the last pumpkins. The first snow on wet leaves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Traditional Hardware: Ram's Horn Wingnut

What do you call a fastener for a threaded bolt that can be tightened and loosened without tools? A wingnut, of course! Here are the steps to make a ram’s horn wingnut.

Select your starting bar of a width that allows the desired final hole to be drilled and tapped. I am using ¼ x 1 for a nut that will fit a ½ inch bolt. But I will slit and drift my hole and therefore need less width than if the hole is drilled.
Forge out a taper to make one of the wings. I forged mine to 4 inches, about the width of my anvil. It is often useful to use the anvil as a measuring device. Then start the other end, leaving enough material for the nut between the two scrolled ends. I left about 1 1/2 of material.
Drill the hole. Tap it after all the forging is done.
Make the ram’s horns by rolling the end like a cinnamon roll. I do it by forging it tightly over the edge of the anvil. Scroll it like the first.
Here are the parts from start to finish.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Your Turn! Readers Respond

The Farmers' Museum started blogging in early 2009. As I write this in the fall of 2009 we are approaching 1000 readers per month. The only change I’d like to see is to have more response from you, the reader!

Did you visit the Fields Blacksmith Shop at the Farmer’s Museum this year? What were we working on when you visited? It has been a long and busy summer. The shop has made thousands of nails, many sets of hinges, door latches, nuts and bolts, ox cart parts, and has shod the horse 4 times! We have also made hundreds of coat hooks and other items for sale in Todd’s General store. What were we making when you visited?

We also have hundreds of readers that have not visited the Museum, and many that are not even in the United States!
Our online visitors come from nearly every state. New York, California, Michigan, and Nebraska! Go Cornhuskers! Please feel welcome to post and say hello! What is your home State, Province, or Country? We have regular viewers in the U.K., Canada, Poland, South Africa, and a large contingent in Australia! We also have a growing readership in Sweden, India, Korea, and Japan! Hello and welcome all. What questions do you have about The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, or New York State? Do you have any farm museums near where you live?

So, drop me a line. I’m looking forward to your feedback, posts, and pictures! You may respond to this post or through our Facebook page at: Feel free to write on our wall or post a picture of your visit!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin