Blacksmiths were the hardware store of Colonial times. Need a pair of hinges for a horse corral gate? See the blacksmith. If you required nails, an ax head, kitchen cutlery, rims for the wagon, shoes for the horses, locks for the chest or any repair involving metal, the blacksmith was the person to see. Learning which tools these important citizens used is a key to developing a deeper understanding of the blacksmithing process.
The first tool of the Colonial blacksmith was the forge. A forge, also called a hearth, is used to heat metals to the point where they can be easily shaped. Coal-fed Colonial forges were usually built off the ground using bricks and were fueled by coal. A bellows, a device or mechanism for creating a continued flow of air, as well as a hood for smoke were standard attachments.
An anvil was a necessary tool for every blacksmith. Usually made from steel, these large, heavy tools serve as a hammering surface for objects being shaped. An anvil consists of a rectangular base, a narrow neck that supports the rectangular face where the majority of work takes place, a hardy hole, a step slightly lower than the face for cutting and a pointed horn largely used to bend material.
Metal tongs allowed blacksmiths to safely grasp and remove materials from the forge. From there, tongs were held in one hand while the grasped metal was positioned on the face of the anvil. Here the glowingly hot metal was struck by a hammer to begin forming it into the desired position. Multiple sizes of tongs were available to handle different sizes of metal.
Sledgehammers were the primary hand tool used to shape material. Varying hammer weights were used, with some hammers as heavy as 12 lbs.
A hardy was used to cut edges as needed. This tool had a sharp end and square-based opposite end, which mas manufactured to fit precisely into the hardy hole of the anvil face. Cuts in materials were made by holding the object with tongs over the exposed sharp end of the hardy and then striking the material with a sledgehammer.
Vises were used to grip cumbersome objects and hold them firmly in position when tongs were not enough. Once locked in position, a blacksmith could twist, hammer or chisel the material into a specific position.
A slack tub was a barrel of water, or sometimes oil, in which recently shaped materials were immersed to cool them down. After striking the object with a hammer into shape, the blacksmith would use the tongs to place the object into the tub.