Historic Anvils Are Hiding In Plain Sight

William Foster Anvil 1833 - Brown County Forge

Two weeks ago, I had a father and son in the Beginners Class. After going through the equipment briefing, we got to talking about old anvils.

Matt, the dad, started describing an anvil they had at home. It had been in the family for quite a while.

He said it had some markings on the side that you could barely make out.

I asked him to text me some photos when he got the chance.

Old Historic Anvils and the English Hundredweight System

A couple days after the class, Matt texted some photos over.

He also told me that he dated the anvil back to 1833 and figured out the manufacturer: William Foster.

One of the photos he sent of the William Foster showed some faint markings:

William Foster - English Hundredweight System - Brown County Forge

It’s hard to read, but it says: “1  1  19”

It would be amazing if we could read those as the weight of this anvil. Sadly, it doesn’t weigh 1,119 pounds.

The 1  1  19  is part of a system developed long ago called the English Hundredweight System.

The first 1 is a single hundredweight or 112 lbs.

The second 1 is a quarter hundredweight or 28 lbs.

The 19 is simply the pounds left over.

To get the total weight, you add the numbers together:

112 + 28 + 19 = 159 lbs.

That’s a decent sized anvil.

Here’s a handy calculator at AnvilFire.com for calculating hundredweight.

William Foster 1833 Anvil - Brown County Forge

Old Anvils are Pieces of History

If you live a long time, you’re bound to show some signs of wear and tear. The same is true for anvils.

This anvil was made in 1833. That’s creeping up on 200 years!

In 1833:

A big Thank You to Matt and Luke for Coming out the Forge and sharing this piece of history!

Father and Son Blackmith Class - Brown County Forge

Jack Brubaker’s Blacksmith Hinges

Jack Brubaker Blacksmith Hinges 2 - Brown County Forge photos

If you take a walk around the older parts of Nashville, Indiana and you’re paying attention, you will see evidence of blacksmiths. Jack Brubaker, a southern Indiana blacksmith, is responsible for many of the ornate blacksmith hinges you can find on doors around town.

It’s hard to say whether I was influenced by his work as a kid. I spent a lot of time running around Nashville, going in and out of shops that featured his work on their door handles and hinges.

I can say for certain now that I blacksmith for a living, I have a great appreciation for his work.

40+ Years and Still Going Strong

Many of the hinges in Calvin Place were forged by Mr. Brubaker back in the 1970s. He collaborated with a local woodworker to create and hang the doors on these shops among others:

  • The Daily Grind
  • Schwab’s Fudge
  • Twisted Wick

It’s a testament to the durability of steel and the focus of Nashville residents on historic preservation. The hinges and handles are still there.

Jack Brubaker Blacksmith Hinges - Brown County Forge photos

How to Make Blacksmith Hinges

The key ingredient to forging blacksmith hinges is patience. It takes time to shape the decorative accents of the hinge. It can take even more time to hand-roll the barrel of the hinge where the hinge pin sits.

With patience in mind, you use some of the most basic blacksmithing skills:

  • Drawing out – making things longer and skinnier
  • Scrolling – creating delicate curves in the steel
  • Quenching – hardening certain areas to make it easier to manipulate other areas
  • Upsetting – controlling the shape of the steel by compressing it
  • Bending – using the anvil, hammer, and leverage to create your shapes

The results are pretty amazing.

Jack Brubaker Hinges 2 - Brown County Forge photos


Making Knives by Hand – May 20, 2018

Heavy Hammers, Hot Steel, and Making Knives by Hand

We had another great class at The Forge yesterday. A father and son team came by to try their hands at hand-hammering some knives out of railroad spikes.

They each started out with an old rusted spike (don’t worry they were purchased legally).

Through some focused hammerwork and some finishing, they came out with some great knives.

Here’s a “Before and After” shot of the two great-looking knives Chuck and Kyle made.

Knife Making Class Indiana - Brown County Forge

Hours of Work – Great Results

The guys hammered, hardened, shaped, tempered, polished, and sharpened for about three and a half hours.

It was a fairly warm day in the shop – 80+ degrees outside and quite a bit warmer next to the forge, but they persevered.

Chuck shared some memories that inspired them to take the class: a great-grandather’s anvil (who was a blacksmith for Cummins) and hot-forging a cold chisel as a high schooler.

Seeing a few episodes of the History Channel show “Forged in Fire” didn’t hurt either.

Father and Son Knife Class - Brown County Forge

Learn the Fundamentals and Make Something Useful

“Make something useful.” That could be the unofficial motto at Brown County Forge.

Everything that comes out of the shop has a use. Whether it’s a knife, a hook, a fire poker, or a bottle opener, it’s an object that is handmade to be used.

It’s great to see what each person comes up with in class each Saturday and Sunday. Every piece is different. Each one is unique.

Knife Making Class Indiana - Brown County Forge

Interested in taking a class? Feel free to take a look at the Classes page to see the next available date.

January Forgings – Rebar Fire Tools, Railroad Spike Knives

Tempering Colors Railroad Spike Knives

We’ve been busy at the Forge this month making S hooks, J hooks, Rebar Fire Tools, and Railroad Spike Knives. The knives pictured above were hand-hammered from old rusty railroad spikes, ground into shape, polished with emory paper, hardened, tempered, and finally sharpened.

You can see photos from the process below.

Hand Forging a Railroad Spike Knife

First, we got the spike up to an even heat. By keeping the heat even throughout the piece of metal, we’re able to control where the metal goes a little better.

You can see videos of the process on Brown County Forge’s YouTube channel.

To hammer thick steel like this, we use a much heavier hammer than we normally would. In this case, we’re using a 4 lb. cross peen instead of the standard 2.5 lb.

Railroad Spike Knife Shaping - Brown County Forge

Once the basic shape of the knife (plus a twist in the handle) is done, there’s a fair amount of grinding work and polishing to give it the final shape. Aaron’s knife has a large sweeping belly and a drop tip.

Tempering Colors Railroad Spike Knives

After the knife is shaped, we bring it back up to a red-hot heat and quench it in oil. This hardens the knife and makes it fairly brittle. The knives are set aside to cool completely before we polish them a second time.

This second polish is done so the shiny metal shows through. This makes it easier to see the color change as we carefully heat it up to temper it. In the picture above you notice a slight wheat color in the blades. This is a good level of temper for a knife blade.

Finished Railroad Spike Knives

And finally we have the finished blades all polished, sharpened, and ready to go.

Next up:

Rebar Fire Tools and Forging with Family

Father and Son Class

Earlier in the month, we had Jerry and Chris out to the forge to learn some of the fundamentals. We made some S hooks that you can see below.

S Hooks Brown County Forge

We also made J hooks and rebar fire tools including a scrolled fire rake and poker. Working with rebar can be a challenge since it’s much denser than the mild steel we use for hooks. It takes a lot of high-heat hammering to get it to move the way you want. Jerry and Chris did a great job and got results.

Rebar Fire Tools Brown County Forge

That’s what we’ve been up to in January so far. If you’re interested in classes we just made more times available. Check out the Classes page.  

Friday Night Forging and New Class Offerings

Brown County Forge Lessons

This past Friday night, we had a Brown County native in the shop learning the fundamentals. Ethan had never swung a hammer at hot metal in his life, but by the end of the three-hour private class he showed a real knack for it.

In the top picture, he’s fine-tuning a scroll at the end of what will eventually be an S hook. The S hook is a great beginning project because it involves a variety of techniques.

BC Forge Hammering

To make a single S hook, you’ll have to taper or draw out the metal, scroll it multiple times, quench it multiple times, and make nice, fluid bends. Since the S hook has two ends, that’s double the practice. Repeating those motions pays off quickly, too. There was a huge improvement from one end of the S hook to the next.

Here’s what Ethan created at the shop:

BC Forge Getting Results

Great Job, Ethan!

Sunday Class Times Now Available

Your interest in the Saturday classes encouraged us to make Sundays available for lessons as well. You can now book the forge either day.

If you’re not ready to do a full class, that’s okay. Come stop by for 2 or 3 hours like Ethan did and create something.

Thanks for stopping by. Let’s get forging!