Scythesmith's shop. The shop depicts a heavy blacksmithing and scythe makers' workshop from the late medieval or renaissance period. Double forge built of brick and stone. Shop located in the Technical Museum in Vienna, Austria. These pictures are from a visit to the museum in 1991.
Updated March 05, 2005. Improved size of pictures. Pictures are blurry because they were captured from old fashioned VHS video tape and will have to suffice until I can return to Europe to make still photos and digital video.
Enclosed double forge (two fires side by side for two blacksmiths to work at the same time). The style of construction of this forge takes up less space in a shop since both smith's fires can utilize the same chimney. Each fire was blown with a great bellows that is suspended overhead at the left and right sides of the forge. The forge is similar in appearance to some of the engravings found in Diderot's Pictorial Encyclopedia of Trades And Industry. Enclosed style forges were very common during this era. In this example the forge is enclosed entirely on three sides and open only in the front. The forge appears to be built of brick and stone although the pictures are too blurry to determine the exact construction. It is possible that the entire forge was built of brick and and covered in a plaster of mortar. I think the arched opening below the hearth may have been stone but I cannot see this clearly enough to know for sure.
The shop depicts a smithy that forged small blooms of wrought iron to make scythes. Three water-powered tilt hammers are located close to the forge in the front of the picture, one large hammer to the left side of the photo and two smaller hammers to the right. The smaller hammers are also of different weights with the heavier of the two on the left.. A lever hanging near the left side of the frame supporting the small hammers controls the sluice gate that operates the water wheel. The sluice gate and water wheel occupy the rear-right side wall of the shop. The wall is cut away to show the water duct. A table at near bottom of the picture shows a group of scythes in different stages of completion.
Comment: The enclosed double forges were common from the earlier period (medieval to the 18th century) during which space was at a premium. The utilization of a single chimney for two blacksmith's fires was a space saving feature, but at the same time it forced two smiths into the awkward situation of working very close together. There are trade-offs that are considered with every forge design. While the double forges are still common in Europe, the design forces at least one smith to work in the (the fire on the right side in the pictures above) left-handed forge. This is less productive than two smiths working with a right-handed forge shop layout. However when space is at a premium, the double forges save a lot of space.
Latest update March 05, 2005.
The author can be emailed at address in picture below:
Page begun May 20, 2003.