Old Sturbridge Village , Sturbridge Massachusetts, USA 1992.
The blacksmith shop at Old Sturbridge Village depicts life in a rural village in 1830s era Massachusetts.
The double forge is built of brick and mortar and makes use of limited space by sharing a single chimney. The forge is very large and appears to be very comfortable for two blacksmiths. The side draft style chimney, and location of the forge chimneys against the middle of the rear wall, allowing the shop to be well and cheerfully lighted by windows behind each side of the forge. In this set of photographs only one fire appears to be lit. But looking to the right side of the photo (photo upper right of page) a second anvil and tools are seen behind the large anvil cone. The forge is built entirely of brick and is a hoodless or 'side-draft' style. A small sheet metal shroud helps guide smoke into the entrance or smoke holes of the chimney. The hearth of the forge appears to have a slight dished shape or bowl shape throughout its surface which helps keep forge fuels in the hearth. The chimney appears to draw quite well as the shop didn't smell of smoke.
The top of the chimney can be seen in the photo at left, it terminates about 3 or 4 feet above the peak of the roof. This a good height above the roof and gives a good draw on smoke from the forge. The only disappointment would be the height of the entrance in the lower chimney, it seems a bit high above the fire and as evidenced by the large sheet metal hood, probably not an optimal height above the fire. Closer to the fire would be better. Still the forges are very well built and look comfortable and quiet.
The museum of Old Sturbridge Village attempts to recreate the life and atmosphere of a New England rural village during the 1830's. The museum is home to over 40 staffed exhibits on about 200 acres of ground. Hands-on craft exhibits and children's activities offer a link with the past. The land is farmed by and hand and using oxen.
Tool racks line the front of the forge hearth. Two sets of double-acting bellows supply the air to the forge-one each side, and each is mounted to the ceiling on either side of the forge overhead of the smiths. Unfortunately I didn't look at what type of firepot (if any) is in use or other construction details at that time I visited so I can't add more here. The forge hearth is quite large and limits the working area of the smiths to about 5 feet between hearth and workbenches. A large tong rack takes up the whole front of the forge. The tongs in the rack rest above the height of the hearth though this forge is large enough that this appears to be comfortable and doesn't interfere with the work done in this forge.
The shop is built of stone and timber. All of the tools in this shop are hand powered. The blacksmith serves this 19th century community shoeing oxen and making the necessary tools and implements and repairs for local villagers. This is a small cozy little shop to work in measuring roughly 25 feet by 30 feet. The building is located outside the main village area, near the mill pond between the water-powered sawmill and water-powered carding and grist mills. The blacksmith shop is visible at the left side of the thumbnail view at left. Work benches line the walls especially under the windows. The shop has a wooden floor. Large wooden doors with hand made iron hardware made by the shop, offer lots of entrance room and air during summer. Lots of windows for light. I shot the above photo of the outside of the shop while standing next to the shoeing stock.
The shoeing stock (photos at right), is used for shoeing the oxen that are used for farming at the museum. Shoeing stocks are absolutely necessary for shoeing oxen because oxen cannot stand on 3 feet as easily as horses for extended periods of time (several minutes). The stocks allows the smith to winch the oxen's foot up to a suitable work height and clamp it in place while at the same time a strap or sling supports the oxen's weight. The stocks were built on a set of skids like a sled and can be dragged or moved as needed. A roof on the stocks shaded the animal from direct sunlight for comfort. The oxen can be seen working in the fields at Old Sturbridge Village. To see larger views of the shoeing stocks, click on the pictures at left.
At left is a composite photo of the treadle hammer set up inside the front of the blacksmith shop. The treadle hammer is home made and allows the smiths to draw out long or large heavy bars similar to the way a Little Giant 25-pound power hammer is used. Made from simple materials available to a village smith of that era. Hand made chain links and assorted hardware was made by the blacksmiths. A board is used as a spring and the hammer is mounted on a large heavy block of timber available from the water powered sawmill nearby. The reason for the unusual look of this photo, was that it is made of several panoramic views along with a cloning function to make it more pleasant to view.
Old Sturbridge Village has a wonderful website located at: http://www.osv.org/ The museum's web site has a nice little music presentation which loads while viewing their home page. Lots of village crafts and trades are depicted at their web site demonstrating the village life of the early 19th century, and they even have sound files of some of their tradesmen at work. Medieval history buffs will be happy to find the Higgins Armory located about a 20 minute drive east of Old Sturbridge village in the city of Worcester MA. The Higgins Armory houses a large collection of medieval armour and weapons.
Latest update: August 21, 2005
Readers who have knowledge or documentation on this shop are invited to mail the author at the email address below.
Created April 20th, 2000