Blacksmithing at D Acres in New Hampshire

D Acres is located in the White Mountains for NH, outside the town of Rumney.  It’s a family owned farm and they offer educational classes.  I was intrigued by their blacksmithing class and it just happened to be held on the weekend I was going to be in NH.  I signed up and I also signed up my brother-in-law, Russ.  We took the older 4 girls who participated in a papier mache class.

Saturday morning was wet and cold.  We left in the pouring down rain and headed to the mountains.  I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to get some photographs of the White Mountains in all their fall splendor.  Oh well…

We passed Rumney and the campgrounds where I had been a camper and counselor for many summers.  Kind of like when you go back to see your elementary school – it looked so much bigger then!

We drove up and up and back on a single lane road and finally we saw the sign for D Acres.  Interesting…

One of the barns had peace signs all over it.  They had a huge satelite dish and other non-conventional items around the place.  The big barn was beautiful with incredible woodwork in the face of the barn.  We entered inside and finally found Josh, the Executive Director.  There were interesting slogans all over the wall – this was exactly what I was expecting for this place.  To sum it up, my brother-in-law sometimes does work for the government.  He commented to me, “I sure hope I don’t lose my security clearance after being here!”

This farm typified the NH slogan – “live free or die.”

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This is the blacksmithing shop.  Joe, our instructor, built all of this with scrap pieces.

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He even made the bellows.  It’s a double chamber which helps to keep the air flowing into the forge.  The bellows are about 4 feet long.

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I never knew there were so many different kinds of tongs.  These are used to hold the metal after it’s hot.

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And of course, the anvil and the hammer are key to blacksmithing.  An anvil of this size new is about $1600.

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We learned all about the coal which is used to heat the fire.  The piece on the left is called a klinker and the one on the right is coke.

Klinkers aren’t good in the fire.  They are the stage before ash.  Coke, however, is the best stage for the coal.

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And this is Joe, our instructor.  He was wonderful and so patient while teaching us.  All the questions I asked never irritated him!

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He lit the fire.  There are 4 levels to the fire and the place that’s most efficient for heating the metal is in the second level from the top.

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The metal needs to be heated to an orange and then hammered to shape.

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Joe taught us how to make metal hooks.

 

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The end had to be hammered into a point before it could be bent into a curly que.

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You have to be careful not to allow the metal to fold over on itself or it flakes and breaks off – I know, I did it.  The curling happens by bending the metal over the edge of the anvil.

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Once the hook part is curled, Joe needed to cut the metal to make it shorter.  The wedge he put in the anvil is called a hardy tool and it’s placed in a hardy hole.

The metal is hit on two sides until there is a wedge in the metal and then it’s broken off by bending the rod.

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To cool the metal a little faster, it’s “quenched” in water.

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Here’s the hook.  It’s made out a piece of rebar.  Joe had to fix the top.

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Now the metal is too short to hold with the hand so he had to use tongs.

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These tongs were rounded out in the end so they could securely hold the metal rod.  See the hardy hole in the anvil?

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Joe made the top of the metal to look like a nail.  See how he bent it over the edge of the anvil?

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After the piece is finished, it’s brushed with a menacing metal brush to take off the small flakes of metal from the firing.

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Then the hook is rubbed down with beeswax to give it the finished look.

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It smells so good!

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This is the finished hook.  This can be pounded into a piece of wood – great for a barn or timber.

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This is another piece that Joe made – I thought it was really cool, especially since it’s made from a piece of rebar.

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Now it was our turn.  I let Russ have the first go 🙂

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This is my piece – notice how much thinner our first piece of metal is.  Joe didn’t want to frustrate the heck out of us for our first try.

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I began to understand the whole process of banging the hammer on the anvil.  The rebounded of the hammer lessens greatly the amount of effort it takes to keep picking up the hammer.  The hammer I had to use on the rebar piece was much heavier than this one.

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I made two of the thinner metal hooks and then asked Joe if I could make one to put a screw through to attach to the wall.  He sure but I would have to learn how to “punch” the metal.  It was an advanced technique and he only had one guy so far that had cried because he was frustrated.  Perfect!  I was definitely up for this challenge 🙂

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The “punch” isn’t putting a hole in the metal, it’s displacing the metal to the outside.  It took precise hitting with the hammer and a lot of patience – but I did it and I didn’t even cry!

This hook is about 6″ long.  Do you see the twist in the middle of the hook?  Well, it’s best to do the hook end first and then do the top.  I didn’t do that.  It made it more difficult to line up the top with the hook so it would hang straight on the wall.  So, it was a little off.  I heated it in the fire and then put it in a vice and twisted the hook until everything was lined up.  So now you know.  Those twists look like decorations but really they’re used to hide mistakes!

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Joe’s a big proponent of using scrap metal from junk yards.  He showed us that the way sparks dispersed determined the type of metal it is.

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Fin, another guy who was blacksmithing, showed us how a rasp could also be used to smooth edges on a piece of metal.

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Megan and her cousins were busy with their papier mache class while Russ and I were playing with metal and fire.

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They dried their creations before we left the farm.

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Since it was dinner time, we stopped for something to eat on the way home.

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What better way to end a great, soggy day than with a plate full of onion rings!

 

I loved the blacksmithing.  Dave won’t build me a forge – I asked.  So I guess I’ll just have to keep looking for more opportunities….Hmmm.  The John Campbell Folk School in NC has blacksmithing classes!!

 

 

 

 

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