Council of Nova Scotia Archives

Centre Acadien, Université Sainte-Anne

Blacksmith shop specializing in the fabrication of horse buggy wheels

Blacksmiths and their tools – The blacksmith shop was very important to the success of communities. The tools of the blacksmith were as varied and complex as the tasks that he performed. Key instruments of the trade included the forge, coal bin, anvil, hammer, tongs, water tub, tool table, and workbench.

The forge had three characteristics. First, it had to safely hold burning coal in a way that could be accessed by the blacksmith. Second, it provided a stream of air (e.g., bellows) that flowed through the pile of coal. Third, it provided a way to deal with the burnt up coal ash. The forge typically used hard coal (anthracite) brought in by ships.

The anvil was the blacksmith’s workbench, where the metal to be forged was placed. Anvils ranged in weight from a few pounds to over five hundred pounds. One end of the common smith's anvil had a projecting conical bick (beak or horn) used for hammering curved work pieces. The other end was typically called the heel. Many anvil designs were available for the work of the general smith, as well as the specialized work of the saw tuner, coach maker, cooper, and farrier. The farrier, who shoes horses, is still in demand today. Those called shipsmiths specialized in making all the iron fittings for vessels, even forging smaller anchors (very large anchors would have been cast in foundries).

Hammers were often modified for specialized jobs and ranged in shape and weight from a half-ounce to nearly 30 pounds depending on the type of work being done. Tongs were also made in many sizes and weights to accommodate the various materials being forged.

The blacksmith was one of the few craftsmen to also craft his own tools. Modern blacksmiths use new tools, new materials, and new processes to create beautiful metal ornamentation for residential use.

The photo featured in this exhibit shows a typical blacksmith shop that specialized in the manufacture and repair of cart wheels; here we see the wheels of a ‘horse and buggy’ but wheels for farm implements would also have been important.

Topic: Commercial Enterprises and other livelihoods

Date: [ca. 1900]

Reference: Harold Robichaud Collection Centre Acadien Series B, photo 14

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