Furnace Town Joint Meeting and Workshop, March 24-25, 2001

Report by Bruce Freeman
Five NJBA members (at least) attended. On Saturday Lou Mueller presented information on the construction and use of punching and shearing dies and bending jigs, mostly as described in (the late) Donald Streeter's book, "Professional Blacksmithing" (now available in paperback). Among the dies he showed were two used for cutting a fleur-de-lis in the top of a Suffolk latch plate, a punch for cutting the cheater plates (more or less half-round with a tab on one side), an H-shaped punch for the thumb latch and cheater plates of this latch, and round and square shearing dies used for general purposes. He also showed some bending jigs including one used for H and butterfly hinges, as well as tooling for a simple eye. Lou was having a little trouble because he was attempting to demonstrate the use of these tools on 16-guage steel, when 18-guage would have been more appropriate. He mentioned that for demos (and presumably for practice) it is useful to use aluminum instead of steel.

Tim Suter and Hector Giumetti ("Armstrong Forge"), between them, filled about three picnic tables with their contributions to the IITH. The rest of the NJ contingent made more modest contributions, but bought enough IITH tickets that we went away heavily loaded with our booty. Marshall bought two items at the auction, including a miniature tongs made by Anton from cut nails.

On Sunday, Marshall Bienstock, Anton Holstrom and I attended the workshop. This was an incredably ambitious project, consisting of the construction of three bending jigs for each of twenty-two members. The tools were a hinge-eye roller, a candle-stand leg-bender (which produces a double bend), and a general purpose miniature bender. We arrived a few minutes late and may have missed some announcements. About half the folks were hard at work, and we looked around for things to do. Marshall soon got into the drilling operation. I mostly just helped here and there. Anton did a little grinding, but mostly spent the day taking pictures. Eventually I started helping out a welder, but with only one jig to work with, there was little I could actually do for him.

The down side was that we didn't finish the construction of all these jigs, though I believe that all the drilling and most of the critical welding was completed. Some of the attendees made a push to complete their three jigs. Anton and I will be getting together with Marshall some Monday evening to finish our tools.

Lou noted that this was the first he'd run such a workshop and that he'd learned a lot from it. He noted that in the future he'd have more jigs, more instructions as to what work could be done when, etc. All of this pointed up just how WELL Marshall has always prepared for the workshops we've sponsored, such as the Smithing Magician, the Forge Hood and the Gas Forge Workshops. However, Lou and the Furnace Town Blacksmith Guild are to be complemented on this ambitious effort. FTBG managed to keep the materials fee to a mere $15, which was very impressive.