Archive for July, 2015

Out of the blue

Monday, July 27th, 2015

I received an unexpected email and phone call last Friday…. Was I available to do a blacksmithing demonstration at an event the following day?

Um, okay. Why not!

Apparently the blacksmith that usually demonstrates at the Happening at the Forty event in Grimsby, ON had something come up at the last minute (I’m not sure exactly what, but is sounded like an injury).  One of the big parts of the event was an encampment of War of 1812 Reenactors, and they were quite disappointed that they may not have a blacksmith in their camp.

Despite the short notice, and a bit of a scramble to gather together tools, etc, it made for a very enjoyable day out for me.  I’m surprised (being from the Niagara region) that I’d not heard of this event before – it was fantastic!  Will definitely have to attend with the family next year.


photo courtesy of Tom Elgersma, Encore! Photography,

This was my first time being amongst period reenactors, and I found them to be a very friendly and welcoming group.  It amazes me how much time and effort they put into it. Researching the historical accuracy of the wide array of ‘stuff’ they have (uniforms and civilian clothing, tents, camp gear, etc).  I was particularly interested in the Surgeon’s tent.  He had a table full of replica surgical tools, many having to do with amputations.  Every one of the tools was something I’d enjoy trying my hand at making.  Time to stock up on some wrought iron and get researching.

I’d love to do more of this sort of reenacting thing myself – at some point in time.  Although I’m not quite sure how to go about putting together a period-specific traveling forge set-up…. Again, time for some more research.

My friend Mike ended up coming out for a portion of the day, to help talk to people and also to be a striker for me.  Despite the fact that we haven’t worked together in a while, we quickly found our rhythm as a smith & striker, and pounded out a nice cooking utensil for one of the reenactors.

Anyways, I wanted to pass along my thanks to the event organizers.  I had a wonderful time.  I’d also like to wish my fellow smith, Rob, (who I filled in for) a speedy recovery from whatever injury it was that kept him from working the past weekend.

Lastly, I’d like to thank professional photographer Tom Elgersma for giving his kind permission to use the above photo of me.  As usual, I was so busy working all day that I forgot to take any photos myself!

Shanty town

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

Over the course of this summer I had the opportunity to lend a hand to some of my former Willowbank classmates, in working on the restoration of a small but important heritage building from the early 1890’s.

Lock Tender's Shanty

This unassuming building, looking very much like an oversized garden shed, is the last remaining Lock Tender’s Shanty from the Third Welland Canal (1887 – 1932).  This shanty is located next to Lock 1 of the 3rd canal, and would have provided shelter to the canal employees who operated the lock, collected fees, and kept records of the ship traffic as they entered and exited the Lake Ontario side of the canal at Port Dalhousie.

I was surprised by how much original material was left of the building, after it had undergone some past restorations in 1989 (done by high school students), and again in 1999.  The biggest issue the building had, as is common with many buildings, is water.

The site is very poorly graded for drainage, with water running directly into the side of the building.  Over the years the level of the ground has raised putting the bottom of the walls in direct contact with the ground.  Grounds maintenance people have not always been careful when operating string trimmers (‘weed whackers’), causing additional damage to the wood near the bottom of the walls; and lastly carpenter bees had drilled many, many perfect holes in the wood too.

The restoration work involved cutting the bottom of all of the walls and installing a skirting board. Replacing a few rotted or missing boards and battens, and repairing others.  Ensuring the building was properly weatherproofed (flashings, caulking, fresh paint).  A few missing architectural details were also reintroduced based on historic photographs.

My role was quite small, a little wood working, some caulking and painting.  But it was nice to be able to get hands-on with a heritage building again.  I’d missed that sort of thing after leaving Willowbank.

It was wonderful to see my good friend (and recent Willowbank graduate) Mike Barneveld of Square Peg Restorations working in his new element, as the lead-hand and acting project manager on the restoration.  He did the vast majority of the work, and did an amazing job.  Well done Mike!

Here we go again

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Hello folks,

For my mystery readers of this blog (I see you in the web traffic statistics, but still have no idea who any of you are…), I’m back!  I apologize for not being very active as of late.  Between the full time stay-at-home dad thing, and also working a bit here and there for a contractor friend of mine, my free time has been very limited.

I do have a half dozen posts which I started over the winter & spring and never got around to publishing, so will be finishing those off and getting them posted soon.

It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for me as far as the blacksmithing goes. I have a couple of public demonstrations booked, and a backlog of projects which should be interesting.

Stay tuned!