August Smithing Magician Workshop

Report by Marshall Bienstock

On Sunday, August 27 approximately 20 NJBA members gathered at the shop of Marshall Bienstock with the goal of completing twenty five blacksmith tools variously known as the "blacksmiths helper", "Smithing Magician", or perhaps most descriptively called a "guillotine tool". This tool consists of a fabricated steel frame that holds two steel 3/4" by 2" flat stock of suitable material, one directly over the other, the bottom one being stationary in use and the top one sliding in its railing upwards so that the workpiece can be inserted between the two dies. The top die, which projects above the rails, is then struck with a hammer, forging into the workpiece whatever useful shape has been imparted to the dies. This tool then allows the smith to do work alone that formerly required an assistant to do . Just about any kind of blacksmithing operation can be done with this tool: fullering, swageing, chiseling, veining, punching or whatever your imagination can come up with.

The day began a bit before 9 am when people started to arrive. The biggest challenge is always to make the most effective use of the available manpower, and after a bit of a "shakey" start most people were soon busy with there respective tasks. Holes needed to be drilled and deburred, pieces of flat steel had to be notched with a torch and then ground smooth, pieces needed to be set up in jigs for welding and then removed for the next steps. One sticking point [literally] was removing the jig that lined up the completed railing assembly. But our resourceful crew improvised methods [including a lot of sweat!] to remove them.

Smithing Magician
By the time we broke for lunch, we were well over the "hump" in completing the project. After feasting on five or six pizza pies [no one ever did find any with the "works" on them] we had a nice iron in the hat and went back to work to finish our projects. One of the last details was for each participant who purchased a "helper" to decide what size hardie stem to attach, or not put any hardie on at all, which many people chose. After "quality control" adjustments and a final tally of completed pieces was taken we managed to complete 23 "helpers", which gave one or two extra for future sales.

Special thanks to the following people: Dave Macauley cutting and deburring on Saturday, Greg Phillips for a great deburring job with that neat tool he brought, Doug Learn for mastering and directing the flow of materials from station to station and making sure the jigs were set up properly, Larry Brown, John Chobrda and Anton Holstrom for sweating over a lot of welding, and especially to Bruce Freeman for creative design brainstorming, prototyping and sawing pieces, and especially to Josh Kavett for doing the MIG welding [in full leather welding gear] and cutting hundreds of pieces prior to the workshop.