Sunday, September 17, 2017

Another Forgotten Old Skill ~ Blacksmithing

Well Folks, 
I am just not quite sure where to begin this tale.
It's a young but quick journey and far from over.
If I hop around a bit, please forgive me.
When serendipity is at play,
things seem to appear out of thin air.
If you've been around for a while, you might recall that 
Mr. LB is a metal fabricator by trade.  
If you are new to the blog or just happened by, now you know.
He regularly uses the Fibonacci sequence and the Pythagorean Theorem 
when building railings, staircases, ramps, etc. - for those teenagers who ask when they will ever use it.
He loves what he does so there is already an interest in "playing" with metal.
Back in June, we attended Flora Pioneer School Day.
That was actually my idea.
I thought it would be interesting and I liked the cause.  I'm all for preservation of old buildings - especially in rural communities.
As stated in the post, he spent the majority of the day with the blacksmith and ended up making a steak turner.
He was hooked!
As it turned out, my mom had a forge in her yard holding a pot of petunias.
She offered to move her posies so he could have the forge.
The blower was seized, but he was able to take it apart and clean and oil it
so now it works.
He was using an old piece of railroad track that was in the shop as his anvil.
I found an anvil (a few at one place) about four hours away.
Mr. LB and his boss made a special trip only to find out it was a scam.
My heart sank for him so I did a quick Craigslist search for that area and found another source.  They went and looked at it, but it was shot.
The guy selling it knew nothing about anvils/metal so was at least honest in his communication.  When Mr. LB thanked him but said he'd pass, the guy said,
"You don't want a vice do you?"
He also had a post leg vice in good condition and was asking a reasonable-fair price so it was a sale.  At least after that much travel he didn't come home empty handed.  
An evening or so later, we were chatting with a neighbor and sharing the story.
He said, "Well, I've got an anvil that was given to me if you want it."
It's about 75 lbs. so is small, but got him started. 
The very next week, again on Craigslist, 
I found an ad for misc. blacksmithing tools.
There was a picture of a table with various tongs and tools on it, but it was a bit difficult to make out.
I called, and it was an elderly man who thought he might want to get into blacksmithing one day but never had.
I asked him how much for the whole table.
He chuckled and said he hadn't really thought about it all together.
He thought for a moment then stated a price that was extremely reasonable.
I had Mr. LB call and make arrangements.
He made the drive (about 2.5 hrs. away) after work as 
they were to be in a yard sale the following day if not sold.
Included was an amazing drill press.
With the basic tools, he was off and running.
He has been working on making some of his own tools.
He began with his fire tools - each has a different handle so he can tell by feel when he's grabbing for them.
He then moved on to a pair of tongs.
Then came a fun day.
Recognize that fella? Yep, that's the blacksmith from Flora (Nathan from Rusty Hammer Forge - Facebook.)  He and his family have actually become friends.
He and Mr.LB joke that they each have an ulterior motive to the friendship - metallurgy and functions of one and blacksmithing and design of the other.
For the visit shown, I had found a big hunk of metal while sorting in the shop.
It was enough for 2 hammers.

It began in a cylindrical shape and ended up as a straight peen hammer.  He loves it!
Oops ~ well we had to eat!
It seems very natural and "right" for him to take on blacksmithing.
He fishes and rides motorcycles (dirt-bike) and skis, but this is something that he can do at home and even if he only has an hour or two.
He happened into it, but I guess it has become popular due to a TV show.
(We don't even own a TV.)
From what we hear, it focuses on knife-making.
Mr. LB might make a knife at some point, but what he wants to make is a bucket.  Yes, you read that right.  Kinda like this.
Remember this load of wood?  That's the project in mind.
Again, he likes the math and science of it to go along with the skill.
You would be surprised at what goes into making those rings fit snugly at angles and a comfortable handle.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago now, he was informed of some larger, nice anvils for sale.  He looked, but financially, it's been "a little tight" due to several factors - large expensive factors.
It was several nights later when we were sitting in the evening.  I looked over at him and said "Whatchya thinkin' 'bout?"
His response was, "A 300 pound hunk of metal."
It took me a few days and some working things around, but long story short,
he got his anvil.  It's a KingFisher built in 1918 and weighs 364? pounds.
That's one heck of a paperweight.
He is out there pounding on metal as I type this, and he's in seventh heaven.
In looking at various antiques, it's amazing how many have hand forged components.  We both appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of old items that have lasted a century.  I have a feeling there are many projects yet to come from this skill.

Just as a note~ In making the first hammer, they used a type of charcoal that wasn't the best quality which made it difficult to get the mass of metal up to the proper temperature.  The very top photo was when they were working on the second hammer.  The charcoal they were using was a much better quality. The metal heated quicker and seemed to hold the heat better as they were working it.  The better quality charcoal also produced less ash in the forge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"New" Pantry Shelves ~ DIY

"We need to just throw that stack of boards on the on the burn pile."
Those were the words of Mr. LB in reference to my stack of miscellaneous boards that I've had for - err, uh-hem, well, not sure how long.
They are stacked behind the shop, under the lean-to taking up valuable covered  (dry in the winter) space. 
My response: Internally = Gassssp! Cough! Sputter!
Out loud= I'll get on that ASAP.
So as part of the "Make the Stack of Scrap Disappear" effort,
I made a set of small shelves for the pantry.
I've been having to rearrange with every season 
keeping empty jars and longer-term canned goods out in the shop.
The first step was to pull out boards to see what I had enough of
then think about how I could put them together to make them work.
For the shelf parts, I used 2X10s that had a coat of grey enamel on them.
I got the paint stripper out and started on those.
Once I got the thick part of the enamel off, I took a sander to them.
Then for the sides and back, I used old 1X4s that are old enough that they are actually 4 inches wide.
They had been dark green at one time then white at another time
though it was difficult to tell for sure since most the paint had chipped away.
I did measure my existing pantry shelves 
since I wanted the space between the shelves to be about 1/2" more 
so I could stack two small-mouth pint jars if need be.
I decided it was going to have a rustic or primitive look to it 
no matter what I did so just ran with it.
Once I got it assembled, I took the sander to it one more time 
just to knock off any extra loose chipping paint.
Then I wiped it all down and put a coat of polyurethane on it.
I know I was going for rustic, 
but A: it will be in the house and B: it will be holding food type items
so I wanted it to be sealed and washable.
Surprisingly, it went together pretty easily.
I was concerned about getting it square since that can be a challenge at times,
but I must have done something right this time.
It's now in the house and I am working on rearranging the pantry yet again.
With any luck, we will be doing tomatoes soon so will be adding those
as well as spaghetti sauce and chili during the same time.
Never mind that this is where the unsightly internet router is and that there is still no trim on the window.
Evidently, utility room window trim is pretty low on the priority list.
I was going to do it before taking these pictures, 
but we are out of the correct stain so will have to get more 
in order to finish that project.
In the mean time,
my stack of scrap lumber is dwindling which I'm sure Mr. LB appreciates.
By the way,
he likes the shelves and how they turned out.
That kinda surprised me since he doesn't usually care for such a look.
In the end (or for now at least,) I decided to put my herbs and such
on this shelf and have the food items on the big shelves.
As the season progresses, we'll see if it remains functional.
One thing is sure nice, I like having more room
 in the house and up off the floor.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hidden Treasures

Just a few posts back, I shared about our decluttering of not just the house, 
but the shop and yard as well. 
I've since been working in the shop to try to make it 
a bit more manageable and functional. 
In doing so, I have discovered more to eliminate - good grief!
But it really is good. 
I've taken 3 car loads to donation and have one more trip to go. 
I've also made a pile to go to the dump - ugh!
The good news is that among the "stuff" I've been sorting and cleaning,
I found them. 
Not that they were really lost, just forgotten. 
These two cast iron pans have been out in the shop since we moved here. 
I took a wire wheel to them, then some hot soapy water,
then seasoned them well. 
One is 6 1/2" and is marked with the number 3 on the handle. 
The other is about 8 1/8" and is a number 5. 
I don't know the maker, but both are stamped "Made in USA."
We love cast iron!
So why was it their fate to sit in the shop for 16+ years?
That's what clutter does. 
It gets in the way of life's simple joys. 
I guess that's part of why it feels better once decluttered. 
There are many other little simple joys that are being experienced,
not as cool as the cast iron ones of course, 
but joys nonetheless.  
We like so many others are finding our way out of the excess,
and it sure feels good. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gee Thanks Mom

The saying about my mom is that she could stick a pencil in the ground 
and it would grow.
Me on the other hand~
As I've said before, I plant and God laughs.
This is the carrot and beet patch.
Last year, Mom sent a couple big bags of "composty stuff."
We dumped it in this plot and turned it under thinking nothing more of it.
Fast forward to this spring.
Carrots and beets get planted - though a smidge later than usual.
Before long, there were red stalky clusters of stems all over!
Then, sprinkled here and there in their midst were plants with round leaves and purple flowers.
(Dwarf Hollyhocks)
And where one or the other of those wasn't hogging the ground, were those little white button sized daisy looking flowers that I was all too familiar with.
Mom brought up two pots of them a couple years ago, 
and they are now nearly to plague status.
So after a couple wheelbarrows full of pullings, 
there is at least a little room of an occasional carrot or beet 
to eke up through the earth.
I planted two types of carrots.  One did significantly better than the other.
I will be pulling the rest of the flowers, because I don't want them 
seeding here in the garden.
I know it might already be too late.
They really are pretty - just not in the garden plots.
I'll be sending this picture to Mom with a big ol' sarcastic Thanks!
It really is okay and not disrespectful.
We harass her about her jungle preservation skills on a semi regular basis.
Lesson learned, dump "compost" from Mom someplace I want flowers.