I have been very busy with the Guild Library Survey this week. (19 fantastic questions covering 5 topics!) I hope that I will have the first draft of the data done in the next few days so I can get back to felting. (Not that I am not having excessive fun with data analysis!!) Who knew this could be such a blast!! (Bernadette, you should have told me how fun this is! you have one of the best jobs ever!!). So while I am wrapped up in thoughts of trends and preferences and comparing sub-groups, I wanted to tell you about the Blue tarp you saw last week in the background of this shot. So now it is later and I should get to explaining about it!
1 from last week
In 2020, most people don’t get to see a blacksmith or smell that distinctive aroma of a forge starting up. It is a smell that clings to clothing, hair and especially damp wool. Like the sudden mysterious appearance of Fairy rings of mushrooms in your lawn, you too may wake up one morning go out to check your…. Well, attempting to dry fleece and find you have an infestation of a blacksmith on your patio! But take heart!! It’s not all bad. They are often photogenic, their pounding tends to remove chipmunks from the area at least for a short time and they can be persuaded to make useful things for spinners, basket makers or for my felting friends; self-nailing hooks!!
Quick note: it is important to keep your fleece-drying upwind from the forge if possible.
A few fleece piles of washing back Glenn removed one of the two blue tarps. Underneath was the smaller forge that one of the chipmunks had thought was a good overwinter nest last spring. I had been requesting a few more hooks for the fleece straining buckets and he had another project he wanted to work on too.
2-4 The Infestation (not necessarily a bad thing)
So he dug around in the garage, pulling out tools and the ¼ inch stock for the hooks. He also pulled out a railroad tie for his other project. He actually has 2 forges on the back patio. This one is the Sears light-duty farm forge. (check out the Sears Robuck catalogues for the end of the 1800s/ beginning of the 1900s.) if only we had bought it then, it would have been $18.00 and came with an anvil and a foot vice. let’s just refer to it as the over-enthusiastic barbeque but it would be better not to cook steaks on it since it can melt metal and that is coal, not charcoal he is using. His other forge is bigger and maybe a homemade arrangement with wheels. It is under the black covers on the other side of the blue bins full of coal (when we could have put them to better used holding fleeces!)
Now I may have already confused you, why would we want to have this odd self-nailing hooks? And what would a hook self-nail? This is something you may have seen at a homestead museum or an old barn.
5 hooks and guillotine
These are self-nailing hooks, beside them is a Guillotine tool. you can change the parts inside it to make different effects on the stock. The hooks are freshly out of the forge and have yet to be lacquered so they won’t rust.
The trellis along the side yard is made of 4×4 lumber which is perfect for putting hooks into.
6 These are over 2 years old and I need to use a wire brush and a bit of spray lacquer. After a couple of winters, they have picked up a bit of rust. I use them to hang and drain the strainer baskets between the washing and rinsing soaks of the fleeces.
7 blacksmiths are also handy for lifting strainer baskets out of the soaking buckets.
8 At his point I have a backlog of fleeces sorted and waiting to be washed.
9-10 My present 2 hooks and the sorting table.
11 I hang the baskets on an angle so the water drains from one corner removes more of the water than when it hangs straight.
12 He has also made me a couple of hooks designed to hang over 2×4’s both horizontal and vertical orientation. I have been using this for the 3rd strainer basket but it drips right in the carrots and I don’t like to think of the soap and other material the carrots are getting from the drippings.
I was checking the unwashed side of the covered side yard and found another fleece! It is a small Romney lamb (1lb 1oz.) that said it was washed but didn’t look like it. So into a couple of bins for washing it goes.
13 Oops, found one more this was hiding!
Now back to that little blacksmith infestation on the patio…
14 Once the fire is made and the coal had burnt off the green smoke (don’t breathe that part!) it’s time to start heating up the bar stock to make hooks.
15-17 Blacksmith at work, don’t startle him.
He is putting a twist in the hook. This is similar to spinners putting twist in yarn. For spinners a successful twist is produced with even drafting, allowing the same amount of twist into the same amount of drafted fibre each time. Since twist is lazy it will leap to any thin sections and build up more twist there. For blacksmiths, if the heat is not even across the section you want to twist it will not spread the twist evenly, going instead to the hotter spots producing an uneven twist. Think of the bar stock as just very stiff spinning roving or maybe since the fibres are so well aligned we should consider it top rather than roving.
Here is a little taste of blacksmithing but without that distinctive aroma.
18 (the loud sounds that are not blacksmithing is the medivac orange helicopter heading north up the Ottawa Valley) please note his forge squeaks worse than any of my wheels, even the Hatbox on her grumpiest day before she got her new tension band.
19 This is his bigger anvil hidden partly amongst this year’s very good growth of catnip. The tool in the hardy is for cutting metal.
20 These are the hooks he made while I was wrangling dirty fleeces.
If you awake one morning with an odd smell coming from your yard and find your back patio has had a sudden infestation of blacksmith do not fret. Find some bar stock and whatever you think will appease the blacksmith (chocolate, coke zero and raspberries works for mine). Luckily some will work for treats, so they are sort of like brownies which you appease with milk (but not as clean). If you are very lucky and don’t scare them away, you too may get self-nailing hooks, drop spindles, manual double-ended ball winders, and other fibres related delights!