I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to purchase from a friend a 50lb Bradley Upright Strap forging hammer. This tool was manufactured in Syracuse, NY is the early 1900’s. After 100 years of use it has found its way into my humble shop where I look forward to getting to know it and working with it to create forged ironwork on a larger scale.
The start of 2020 marks an exciting change. The Round House Blacksmith shop has made the journey to a new location in Greenfield, MA. I’m exciting to see what changes and opportunities this new location holds for the future. The space lies in one of the town’s old industrial factory buildings along the Green River.
I made the voyage across the big lake again this past August, to the humble and welcoming village of Woodford, Ireland Co. Galway. This place, it’s people, the landscape, the pub, is growing on me. Sometimes it feels like a place from the past, sometimes like a place far in the future. Usually like a place plucked from this earth and placed down on another.
I spent a week here after traveling via vehicle and boat with a good friend from London, England. This was not before, however, some adventures worth noting: sleeping on the coast of Wales, going undercover as an “artist assistant” in order to sleep on the grounds of the National Museum in Dublin, and gold panning in the hills of County Wicklow.
The week in Woodford was more informative and energizing than I could have hoped for. I’m still unraveling everything I saw there. I used the week to focus on building and smelting in a bowl furnace. Similar to a standard shaft furnace with the primary difference being only 12″ tall from top to bottom. The design was based on the experiments of Lee Sauder. I also spent the week working alongside Jens Olesen of Denmark with the intention of learning as much as possible through observation and questions. I learned from him about the self-tapping blow plate shaft furnace: as elegant as it sounds. I also learned about various methods of charcoal making including in an old bathtub. Evenings were usually spent in the pub… as one might expect.
Amidst the mist and smoke, sulfur seeps out from the cracks formed by the water boiling out. Iron oxide is stripped of some oxygen. One step closer.
I was sad the furnace festival was over, but another opportunity arose and I attended a week long event in County Kerry: Umha Aois, and experimental bronze-casting symposium. I learned how to make bronze-age dung molds and explored a copper mine from the bronze age.
Next stop was the Sliabh Aughty Furnace Project in Woodford co. Galway, a week long bloomery smelting festival (since re-named the Woodford Furnace Festival). The goal of the project was to bring together experts and enthusiasts from all over the world, harvest local bog ore, and see if it could be smelted in a variety of different style furnaces. I worked under the guidance of Jake Keen from England. Our team built three furnaces of similar design using clay, straw, and sand. We built our furnaces rather small to further investigate Jake’s work to understand the minimum feasible size for a vertical shaft furnace. What I learned from Jake during that week I hold to invaluable in my own process of learning to smelt iron. I am still (a year and a half later) realizing just how much I was taught.
Along my journey through Ireland I visited the Dublin National Museum of Archaeology. Along with a fantastic exhibit on Irish Gold, there was a phenomenal showing of Viking Iron. I’ve since return to the exhibit 4 times. Here are a few of my favorites:
A year and a bit ago I traveled to Ireland to attend the Sliabh Aughty Furnace Festival (since renamed the Woodford Furnace Festival). Along my journey I visited the Dublin National Museum of Archaeology which was showing an exhibit on viking ironwork. I then traveled by bus to County Wicklow to visit and work with blacksmith Finin Liam Christie. While there we made tongs and hammers. I then traveled west to County Galway where blacksmith Stephen Quinn let me hang around for a few days. He showed me a simple and elegant way to calculate a punch size for any desired hole, among other little tricks. Finally I arrived in Woodford, County Galway for the iron smelting festival….