Archive for the ‘Collecting Stuff’ Category


Sunday, May 4th, 2014

This may or may not already exist.  To be perfectly honest, I haven’t done a whole lot of research into it:

~ The Society for the Protection of Old Tools ~

So here’s how it happened. I’m spring cleaning my workshop (my late father-in-law’s garage, aka Aladdin’s Cave). And as mentioned before, this building is crammed full of ‘stuff’. You name it, he had it.  Strange, obscure tools and things that I still don’t know what they are or where they came from.

In any case, a few of the items I found were old, rusty and just very neglected.  I very nearly threw some of these old tools away. And then I had a bit of an epiphany. I’m a blacksmith. Blacksmith’s are tool makers.  If I can make a tool from scratch, surely I can fix most tools that cross my path. And so that’s what I set out to do.

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The pliers pictured above, were completely encased in a crusty, rusty casing and fused solid. I thought they were beyond hope; but I was determined.  It *must* be easier to fix these, than to make new ones.  And so with the application of some heat, oil, and some good old ‘brute force and ignorance’ – I got the jaws to move.  And after about 30 minutes of working on them, I had a perfectly serviceable tool. Perhaps not the prettiest tool – as it’s showing some deep battle scars. But the jaws work perfectly, the teeth on the jaws were restored with a file, and even the wire cutters are sharp and working (with one nick just a little too deep to file out).

I was thrilled by the results – and inspired to continue…

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Next came a carpenters square. Followed by another pair of pliers, tin snips and another square. All started rusty and virtually useless, and are now some of the nicest tools in my shop.


The more I think about this, the more it makes sense to me.  I strongly believe that this little side project is very relevant to blacksmithing. We are the tool makers. Who better to care for old tools, and restore them to working condition?

It also occurred to me that, as a tool maker, I don’t make things with the intention of them becoming ‘wall hangers’. No tool is made to be a decoration. I cringe when I walk into a restaurant and see a beautiful old tool – with extra holes drilled through it – hanging on a wall as decoration. Tools are meant to do work.

The tools I restore, are not meant to be collected as ‘antiques’ or interesting decorations. I’m bringing these objects back into full working order, so that they can continue to do the jobs they are designed and built for.

Of course, really old or rare tools do deserve some extra respect. Nothing wrong with semi-retirement for them, so long as they’re kept in working order and are used on occasion. They don’t have to be your ‘daily driver’.

Yes, I’m now a man on a mission. I want to find more old, abused tools; rescue them; and return them to service as useful, working objects.  Semi-retired tools – just like you’d find in any grandpa’s garage or workshop.

… So is it yard sale season yet?

So long, little forge

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Blacksmithing tools and equipment really do have a life of their own.  They are so robust, that they’ll usually serve several generations of smith.  We don’t so much own them, as look after them for a time.

My little rivet forge was a great starter forge. I enjoyed working on it, but its time with me has come to an end.  My friends and fellow Willowbank student Aaron is keen to set up his own blacksmith shop, and I think this will get him going nicely.



So long little forge!  It was a pleasure working with you.

Hello Mr. Wright

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

The newest addition to my collection: a 250 Lb. Peter Wright!

Happy doesn’t even begin to describe it… I’ve been searching for an anvil like this since the beginning.

The guy I bought it from also had a small portable forge available.  It’s a fair bit larger than my first little rivet forge, and much smaller (and lighter) than my large forge.  It’s complete with a small hand-crank blower that’s in good running order too.  The other things I picked up were two nice post vices, both in good working order, complete with their springs and mounting brackets (which my first one was missing).

All in all, well worth the drive to Guelph and back.

Gas Forge

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

I’ve just completed building a new gas forge!

This past weekend I went back, yet again, to see David Robertson at the Hammer & Tongs in Cargill, Ontario for his one-day forge building workshop (he’s probably getting sick of me by now…).  It was another terrific course.  A lot of valuable knowledge, including a mini crash-course in welding.

The best part, of course, is that I came home with a new, fully functioning, gas forge!


Don’t get me wrong, I like using solid-fuel forges too.  But there is a real convenience factor from the quick start-up and mess-free shut down at the end of the day when using gas.  Suddenly, it’s realistic for me to do an hour of forging in the evening after school / work.

New toys

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I’ve been shopping for some new toys for the shop…

I just picked up a new (small) cone mandrel, stake plate and swage block from Newman Forge & Pattern in Hamilton, Ontario.  These all high-quality tools, and were very reasonably priced.

I’m thrilled to have add these to my collection!

Found a new coke dealer

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I just bought 150 Kg of coke from a new supplier!

Okay, now that Echelon has flagged these suspicious keywords, and I have the attention of the fine folks at the CSE (howdy folks – thanks for the great work you do!); it’s not what you think. I’m talking about roasted coal, not drugs.

So far, I’ve been burning hardwood charcoal. It’s not bad. It gets nice and hot, has very little smoke, and lights quickly and easily. But you burn through a lot of it! It’s also bad for sparks. I actually have a bag of coal too, but being in an urban setting, I can’t risk offending the neighbours with the smoke.

A number of other smiths have recommended burning coke. The problem, is that it’s not easy to come by (at least not around here). OABA does a ‘group run’ to an industrial supplier a couple of times a year, but I missed the last one, and the next isn’t for a while. Besides that, I’m pretty sure most of the guys who go, buy in bulk. I don’t want to commit to buying too much until I’ve tried working with it first.

I recently found out about a gentlemen, not too far from me, who sells it by the 50 Kg bag. I just grabbed 3 bags from him so I can try it. I’m very curious how it compares to charcoal.

A larger forge

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

I’ve got to stop looking on Kijiji. This forge came up, and I just couldn’t let it go.

The blower turns smoothly in both directions, and moves a lot of air. The forge itself is a bit rusted, but not too bad. It’ll probably need new legs. The firepot isn’t in great shape, but does have some life left in it.

I plan to use this as my main forge, likely with the electric blower hooked up to it. The hand-cranked blower is in great shape, and wouldn’t take too much to restore it. Could hold onto it for future use, or sell it. Once this is up & running, I want to do a complete restoration on the small forge… see if I can perhaps get rid of that wobble.

My new post vise

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

The gentleman I bought my anvil and electric blower from, also had a couple of vises. The bigger one was already spoken for, but he had another that needed some work.

The jaws move, but are stiff. The screw is good. It’s missing the spring and mounting bracket. But for $75, it’s worth fixing (note: I understand these are fairly easy to get in some places, but where I live is not one of them. They’re rare here, and always sell for a high price).

This is a temporary stand I whacked together out of left over 6″x material. I just wanted to get the vise off the ground so that a) I can work on fixing it, and b) so I’d stop tripping on it.

The guy I bought the vise from threw in an automotive leaf spring, which is what he’d planned on making a new spring from.

Hmm, I’m thinking that the new heavy stump is about the right height for this…


Monday, April 2nd, 2012

No sooner had I built my ‘stump’ out of 6″x6″ posts, than my wife says to me “You know, now that you have an anvil stand, you’re going to see free tree stumps all over the place“.

She was right.

This is about 300 lbs of hard maple. I was doing some renovations over at my sister-in-law’s house, and the neighbour was having a tree removed. I took a walk over to talk to the guys when they appeared to be on a break (I hate interrupting people while they’re working) and 10 minutes later, I had this.

The photo doesn’t do this stump justice – it’s massive. I could barely push it up the slight grade of the driveway, and it bent the axle on my dolly.

It’s actually a bit too big for my little anvil, but I’m sure I can put it to good use.

A “proper” anvil!

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Hooray! I’ve got a real anvil!

Not that there was anything wrong with my crane rail; in fact I’ll be holding onto it too. But I’ve been looking for so long with no luck, that I wasn’t going to pass this up. The opportunity to buy this anvil came up quite unexpectedly, and so I jumped on it.

It’s only a little guy, weighing in at 100 lbs. The gentleman I bought it from thought that it was about 80 years old, and that it was made by Record tools in Sheffield, England. There are very few markings on it, and I’ve not found much information on Record anvils. However, it still has traces of blue paint on it, that is in the ‘classic’ Record shade (which on older tools, was the fairly dark RAF Roundel Blue).

I happen to have a commemorative miniature anvil that I know was made by Record, produced for their 100th anniversary … My anvil, and the miniature look virtually identical (other than size). Not that that means anything, but it does offer some support that this may have been made by them too.

Looks like I made that stump just in time!


Well, I sure was new to the world of anvils when this superb little piece of kit came into my life.  It has become my ‘daily driver’ and I absolutely adore it. However, that rumoured identification was *way* off.  I’ve found no information on Record tools ever having produced anvils. And very early on into my education about English anvils makers, this guy’s identification became very obvious … It’s a John Brooks.

Most of the Brooks anvils I see are marked with the word “BROOKS”, where as mine is marked with “JB”. I have no idea why. Perhaps that indicates which foundry it came from, or was intended for a specific market (i.e. domestic vs export). But it really doesn’t matter much. The thick heel, shape of the horn and shape of the feet just scream Brooks – who also used blue paint.