PABA Blacksmith Day

by Bob Scott

Published in the September 2001 Issue of Anvil Magazine

Blacksmiths and farriers took center stage June 9th at the first Blacksmith Day held by Pennsylvania Artist Blacksmith Association (PABA) at the Rough and Tumble Museum on the eastern outskirts of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The R & T Museum is a working relic of steam power in all its glory, so the setting was more than appropriate for PABA.

More than 250 men, women, and children watched the free, day-long demonstrations at both indoor and canopied outdoor sites at the museum. The very surroundings created an atmosphere that hearkened back to the days when every crossroads had a blacksmith shop and steam-powered tractors, threshing machines and harvesters worked the fields.

Two farriers made horseshoes from bar stock. Gary Reichard of Lancaster worked inside the Titus Brubaker building while Richard W. Schroeder, Jr., of Minersville worked outside. Schroeder had the accompaniment of three banjo players. Each farrier worked from a gas-powered forge mounted on the back of his capped pickup truck. Most working areas had bleacher seats for spectators.

In an ongoing exchange with some male senior citizens before he started his work, Reichard was asked about horseshoe nails that people find along rural asphalt paved roads in Lancaster County. "Horseshoe nails are the number one nail pulled out of automobile tires in Lancaster County today," Reichard said. "When asphalt heats up in the summer, it exerts a tremendous pull. And when horses start forward from a stop, they can actually walk right out of their shoes," he explained. Reichard showed how he creates a horseshoe from a straight piece of bar stock. His anvil, he said, is set up to have two marks at six- inch intervals from the base of the anvil horn. This permits quick and accurate measuring for plotting shoe dimensions.

Responding to a question from the audience, Reichard said it cost $200 to have a blacksmith make shoes for a horse. Ready-made shoes can be bought for about $12. But all horses are individual, so factory-made shoes may not work on a particular horse and the farrier must make adjustments on that, depending on the horse he is shoeing.

In his outdoor work space, Paul Huf of Narvon, PA, gave his audience a quick lesson on proper working heat when using gas-powered forges. Said Paul, "Even before starting to make metal leaves, I regulate the temperature myself. I can tell by the color of the heat. You don't want to have any flames coming out. Your ideal temperature is a lot of heat, not much air. You can tell by the sound. If there is too much roar, you've got too much air. If there are any flames coming out, then you've got too much gas." In the manufacturing process, he pointed out that "You do two pieces of metal at a time. While the one is getting hot in the forge, you're working on the other one." He then went through a step-by-step production of leaves on the anvil. In his operation, he silently emphasized cooling off the non-working end of the rod he had just pulled out of the forge by immediately immersing, each time he removed it, into a bucket of water.

In a space behind Huf, Matthew Holliday demonstrated the new Richard Sheppard treadle hammer. PABA is selling 200 tickets at $20 each to purchase the hammer. The hammer will be raffled off and the money raised will be put into the PABA Building Fund. Holliday, editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, also edits, prints and distributes PABA's monthly Striker newsletter.

In another class, Bill Purcel of Harrisburg did a step-by-step sand casting of a small anvil. Win Harrison of Intercourse, PA, did tinsmithing and fabrication of candle holders (sconces). Tim Bradford from Pleasant Gap fashioned kitchen utensils. In addition to the classes, visitors could buy blacksmith products such as door knockers, hooks and the like.

The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Blacksmith Day was coordinated by PABA's Al Spangler, who operates his forge in the nearby town of Paradise.

Will there be a repeat Blacksmith Day at the Rough & Tumble next June? "Possibly," replies Spangler. Time will tell. PABA will be making its new headquarters in the near future in Boyertown. They will be housed in the old Boyertown Carriage Works, now being renovated to accommodate the group. But Spangler doesn't see Boyertown as necessarily replacing the R & T exhibit. "Maybe both will happen," he says.

Images not available:

Farrier/artist/blacksmith, Richard W. Schroeder, Jr., ofMinersville, PA, making horseshoes. Other items he makes are displayed on the table.

A trio of banjo pluckers showed up for the Blacksmith Day.

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