Interesting work done without great outlay of physical strength. Expert knowledge of qualities of iron and its behavior gained from blacksmiths.
Material easily obtained in rods of any desired size.
Requisities, - forge fire, anvil and hammer.
Making of pokers and of boot scrapers described.
Illustrations of fireplace tools and of a foot scraper.
At first thought it seems absurd to suppose than an invalid might use with advantage so strenuous an occupation as blacksmithing. The term blacksmith covers a very wide range of work and does not necessarily mean horseshoeing or making the heavy iron work for carriages. The reader will perhaps be surprised to learn that a great deal of very interesting and practical light iron work may be made with comparatively little expenditure of energy. In almost every village there is a blacksmith shop and a blacksmith skilled, to be sure, in heavy work but also thoroughly acquainted with the qualities of iron and its behavior in the fire and on the anvil. Such a man will probably have no conception of the artistic possibilities of light iron work, but his expert knowledge of the material may be utilized if we know how to go about it.
Iron comes from the mills in various shapes and it is always possible to obtain round rods of almost any thickness. A rod of soft iron three-eighths of an inch thick and four feet long may be made into a most interesting and practical poker for the fireplace with a little practice by any one with ordinary mechanical ability. The blacksmith's forge fire, an ordinary anvil and a light weight hammer are the requisites. Six or eight inches of the end of the rod are heated white and pounded into a ring or an oval handhold over the horn of the anvil. When this end of the poker is cooled, the other end of the rod is heated and turned , over at a right angle. The end of the rod can then be hammered flat and pointed, all with the same hammer and with little difficulty. Such a poker is strong, large, and interesting from its very quality of being hand-made. It is, of course, quite possible to elaborate the design. But a fireplace implement made this way is desirable from its very simplicity. Those of us who have poked the fire with the short, skimpy pokers of commerce, know how to appreciate a long heavy poker which does not bring the face too close to the fire and which is strong enough to use freely without bending.
Fireplace Tools. Made by an amateur after a few weeks' practice
In a similar way a long fire fork may be made and is a most useful adjunct to the group of fireplace tools. The shaft of such a fork should be at least four feet long with a looped handle at the top. The prongs are made by splitting the heated end of the rod with a cold chisel, and then rounding the prongs with a light hammer. A third or central prong may be welded in with a little experience.
An excellent fireplace shovel may be made by turning up three sides of a square of sheet iron, riveting or welding on a long round handle.
There is no end to the useful objects which can be made of wrought iron. Fire dogs or andirons of a most useful and attractive sort may be made with a little practice. Great hinges and hasps for the doors of country houses, iron bars for fastening doors, and the staples to go with them, wrought iron nails with specially hammered heads, foot scrapers for doorways: these are some of the interesting and effective possibilities.
No attempt is made here to describe the actual technique of such work; the instruction which any good blacksmith can give will be worth more than the most elaborate description. The degree of heat to be used, the force of the blows, the knack of turning the iron - all of these must be learned by experience. The writer knows of no more fascinating work. There is something about the flying sparks and the unexpected softness and pliability of the hot iron that lend to such work a charm hard to describe. The accompanying photographs represent articles made after a few weeks' practice by an amateur blacksmith who had never before tried his hand at working in iron.
Often enough the village blacksmith forge and anvil are too much occupied to admit of teaching and experimenting. It is quite possible nowadays to buy of the manual training houses a portable forge which can be easily connected with the flue of the blacksmith's chimney. An extra anvil costs little and the necessary tools are not expensive. With practice the pupil should be able to turn out a line of fireplace iron which will command a good price. In the country village where there are summer visitors, these special local products are sure to excite interest and a market. It is, of course, not so easy in the city to arrange for iron work, as the hammering is somewhat noisy and as the city blacksmith shops are usually too busy to bother with pupils.
Made after a few weeks' experience at the anvil.