Iron & Fire


Sure, I love “Mechanic’s Companion” for the Carpentry, Woodworking and Turning sections. But Peter Nicholson also covers the early 1800s tools and trades of many of the other skills that go into making a building: Bricklaying, Masonry, Slating, Plastering and Smithing.

I’ll likely never build a forge – but I do love good, hand-forged ironwork (would that I could afford it for all my hardware needs!), and the plates in the Smithing section are lovely (one is shown above).

Below is the introduction, and description of the forge.

SMITHING is the art of uniting several lumps of iron into one mass, and of forming any lump or mass of iron into any intended [shape].
§1. Description of the Forge. PL. 33.
The forge consists of a brick hearth raised about two feet six inches, or sometimes two feet nine inches from the floor; heavier work requires a lower forge than lighter work: its breadth must also depend upon the nature of the work ; the brick work may be built hollow below for the purpose of putting things out of the way. The back of the forge is carried up to the top of the roof, and is enclosed over the fire in the form of a funnel to collect and dis­charge the smoke into the flue, the funnel is very wide at its commencement, but decreases rapidly to the flue, whence it is carried up of a proper size to take off the smoke. The wide part is called the hood or hovel, which in modern forges, particularly in London, is constructed of iron. The air drawn in by the bellows is communicated to the fire by means of a taper pipe, the small end of which passes through the back of the forge, and is fixed into a strong iron plate, called a tue.iron or patent back, in order to preserve the bellows and the back of the forge from the injuries of the fire. A trough for coals and another for water are placed on one side of the forge, generally extending the whole breadth. See the Plate.

The best position of the bellows is on a level with the fire-place, but they are frequently placed higher for the purpose of getting room below.

The tools follow.

“Mechanic’s Companion is available direct from my hallway (warehouse) and dining room (shipping department), and from a handful of select woodworking specialty stores, both domestic and international.


About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
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3 Responses to Iron & Fire

  1. Thomas Hoyt says:

    now… which would you, could you.. use more often – a nice petit forge or that extra room with the toaster and microwave?

  2. tsstahl says:

    “SMITHING is the art of uniting several lumps of iron into one mass, and of forming any lump or mass of iron into any intended [shape]”

    Sounds a lot like motherly advice on marriage…

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