Open: July & August
The Blacksmith Shop is typical of a smithy of about 1860. Though not a copy of any one smithy it is built as an old one would have been; — hewn framing, corner posts, braces and plates which came from an old barn in Penobscot; — rafters from the ell of the Perkins House; — boards, up-and-down sawed, from the sub-floors of the Perkins House, the widest of these boards, which can be seen in the roof, is two feet wide; — window frames are hand made and the glass is old or is a reproduction of glass; — early 19th century hand split and shaved shingles from an old home near Castine cover the area near the doorway. The purlines of spruce have been hand hewn — the foundation is of local cut granite from old quarries.
The nucleus of the smith’s tools came from Ginn’s Blacksmith Shop in Orland which was operated into the 1960s. Additions have been made to these tools. The electric blower in use in Orland had been replaced with an antique double action hand-operated bellows (the electric blower is available for use but is not seen). Two “eagle” anvils were found and are shown - the eagle was the trademark of Fisher and Norris. In 1843 in Kenduskeag, then part of Levant, Maine, Mark Fisher made the first anvils produced in America. By chance he learned to cast iron anvils with a welded steel face, these were superior to those imported. The Fisher and Norris iron foundry was active in New York until about 1960.
Iron has been worked for thousands of years and during this time smiths have contributed to all facets of life — their work was so important that many farmers had their own forges and made repairs and simple items in their workshop. A thriving community, however, needed professional smiths and by 1786 Castine had three, Samuel Bartlett, Samuel Rogers and John Conner. In 1805 John Henion was, among other things, making oarlocks, spikes, bolts and rings for the schooner Minerva, and in 1809 Noah Mead was advertising in the weekly newspaper — “axes made and warrented.” Early axes had no poll — about 1700 Americans added the square poll and by 1780 steel began to be used for the cutting edge which was then widened and shortened, curves were given to the helve and this axe was then known as the American axe. In 1810 N. and B. Mead advertised that they had “purchased the exclusive right of manufacturing and vending ‘William Hale’s Patented Improved Augers’.” Benjamin Mead was also silversmith, jeweler and clock maker. By 1860 most of the ironwork was made for the large ships built and repaired in Castine - Hatch and Mead, S. K. Devereux and John Bridges were shipsmiths. Twenty years later Rafnel’s shop, at the foot of Main Street was the only smithy on the peninsula.
Until 1790 nails were forged from nail rods or from scrap metal left from other work. Almost all metal work from household equipment to anchor chains was produced by the smith who frequently found he needed special tools and had to forge these before proceeding with the job. The many tongs hanging at the forge here are each needed for a specific type of work.
The Vise at the bench was made (about 1880) by a smith for his own use in the Mt. Waldo stone quarry, perhaps to hold tools while they were being sharpened and when toe calks were being fitted on ox shoes (oxen worked in the quarry). The ox frame, sling or brake in the corner was made in the early 20th century by Winn Grindle, North Penobscot, for use in shoeing oxen who cannot stand long on three feet — it would also have been used when shoeing fractious horses. The patent ox yokes hanging from the purlines were used when working in the woods or quarries as they allowed the ox some freedom of movement around obstructions such as stumps.
Vises were important — the calking vise shown stood near the forge so that calk could be shaped and fastened to the shoes — the small swage block helped in shaping the calk. A large swage block with its many different forms and sizes is on the floor, it was used to shape the hot iron.
Early farriers made shoes for oxen and horses from bar iron — later, blank shoes in various sizes were available. Ox shoes can be seen on a center beam — they are made in two parts to fit the cloven hooves. Horse shoes to fit various horses or to correct certain foot or gait problems are shown in the doorway and two farrier’s boxes complete with tools and a small shoeing stand are near. A pair of wooden shoes for use in bogs hangs on the wall near a single leather shoe (all that remains of a set) from Penobscot. This shoe is the type worn to keep lawns from being cut by iron shoes but tradition indicates it was used in mud and snow. The snowball hammers hanging by the door were needed during winter to knock the caked ice and snow from the horse's hooves, they usually had snap-rings so that they could be hung on the harness. Such a hammer was often a small gift made to a good customer by the smith. The horse weight was carried in the wagon and was put out when the horse was left - the end of the leather being attached to the bit. The grindstone came from an old farm near Castine. Every farm had one so that scythes, knives, etc. could be sharpened — it was often the job of children to drip water on the stone as it turned and also to turn the stone — this however has been fitted with a treadle.
Wooden wagon wheel jacks are shown — when axles were of wood it was frequently necessary to grease between spindles and wheel hubs to prevent excessive wear. Travelers (hanging above the work bench) measure the circumference of the wooden wheels and the length of iron to be fitted to them to form the iron tire. The tire shrinkers or upsetters are to compress the tire to make it slightly smaller as needed to fit the wooden wheel. The iron strip was earlier hammered when hot to give the proper curve — after 1820 tires were bent when cold by a machine such as the one here.
The cones or mandrels were used in making rings of iron, etc. — the bench cone, which is unusual, as a groove so that in making a chain the link can be accommodated.
A post drill is on the back wall, near it hang cradle scythes, saws and peavey hooks. The peavey was invented by Joseph Peavey, Oakland, Maine, in 1870 for use in rolling and yarding logs — it was a great improvement on the cant dog which it supplanted.
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