Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blacksmithing Shed Grant

This is The Curran Homestead's submission for a grant that will fund the creation of a smithy onsite.

Historical Facilities Grant Project Narrative: Blacksmithing Shed

Recently, the Curran Homestead received the donation of an extensive collection of blacksmithing tools and equipment from a number of sources supplementing its own original holdings of tools and equipment. In total these items would have adequately satisfied the needs of a turn-of-the-century blacksmith in rural Maine. Blacksmiths of the past may have been called out to farm locations for tasks like metal fabrication and repair when they were available to do so, but more often farmers would have to travel to a formal blacksmithing shop usually in town for such services. The construction of a permanent structure for collections storage, demonstration, and instruction is deemed necessary to preserve and utilize a unique collection rather than to rewrite history by creating a blacksmithing shop on the site where one has never stood or would have stood in the past. This is a multi-purpose structure for collections management and educational programming.
During the fifteen plus years of the Curran Homestead’s status as a nonprofit educational institution, blacksmithing demonstrations by local craftsman have been an integral part of its “gatherings,” or events. Domestic arts and crafts as well as the skills characteristic of nineteenth century subsistence farmers have been presented almost exclusively in a demonstrational format at the site. The museum is poised to develop greater educational programming. With the addition of the tools and equipment now available for the purpose of providing hands-on instruction in the form of weekday and weekend courses for the public by trained blacksmiths, the Curran Homestead sees the realization of a blacksmithing shop as an important step forward in the development of its educational mission to share the skills and knowledge of a rural past.
The simple structure would be of post and beam construction with a gravel floor and metal stove pipe attached to a brick chimney that would serve one of two period correct portable forges with built-in bellows in the collection (See Attached Diagram). Such a structure will allow visiting blacksmiths the convenience of having a functioning forge extant avoiding the timely and laborious task of repeated set-ups of forge, anvil, and other necessary tools. It will also serve as an onsite location for metal fabrication, repair, and restoration necessitated by an extensive collection of nineteenth century wagons, sleighs, and farm machinery. It will be a workshop for creating new blacksmithing tools when needed for the maintenance and repair of other objects within the collection that see frequent use. Currently, no structure at the museum site could be adapted to the purpose of displaying and utilizing this collection in hands-on programming. This proposed structure will be far removed from the series of interconnected buildings on the site currently out of a concern for fire safety. The security of these valuable tools and accoutrements are also of great concern, and the proposed design has taken into consideration measures to prohibit theft though the design choice of windowless reinforced doors with locks and narrow fixed windows prohibitive of human entry.
The proposed wooden shed’s interior will be 14 x 20 feet. The structures midpoint height will be 9 feet while the back wall height will be 7 feet. The framing will consist of cedar posts that will be set into the ground. Rough quality “utility” bundles of board would be preferred but other comparable wood materials may be used for its exterior vertical siding. The roof will be of metal panels. The floor will consist of a wooden frame of pressure-treated wood around the perimeter, and this will accommodate the loose gravel floor surface that is above grade and porous for drainage and fire safety. The structure will not be insulated, for it would be unnecessary in winter months when forge fires will maintain comfortable temperatures for students and instructors whereas in warmer weather the lack of insulation will assist in needed ventilation. The structure will not be electrified; a set of reinforced doors with security latches will often be open during work activity in the structure to provide light. Oil lanterns will used inside the structure for lighting when necessitated. A narrow strip of glass panes or a Plexiglass strip sealed in a frame will be on each side of the structure allowing natural lighting while at the same time prohibiting any illegal entry. The chimney will be constructed of brick, terracotta flue, and mortar; these materials have already been donated.
Storage will be an important aspect of this proposed structure. Since the point of having both tools and accoutrements necessary for a variety of blacksmithing tasks is to use them rather than solely exhibit them period-correct pegging will be a major characteristic of the walls of the structure. An iron ring will be fixed above the forge area to accommodate tongs as well as an iron bar rack for pincers and other tools. There will be benches and racks to accommodate hammers, pincers, tongs, and a hardy, when not in use, as well as a large hand operated post drill, post vises, anvil, and leg vise in the collection. As the proposed future blacksmithing onsite will ultimately result in the fabrication of objects by staff and students, open shelf storage will be created for the purpose of receiving these projects, and some completed objects would become part of the museum’s permanent collection displayed here. Wooden benches will be constructed and fixed into the floor for demonstrations.
The structure will be constructed by volunteers; this has worked well with the major renovations and restoration of existing structures on the site. Bob Robinson of Split Rock Forge of Stockton Springs, ME, a professional blacksmith, will be integral to this project, for he has been responsible for much of the museum’s blacksmithing programming in the past as well as acquiring, through donation, much of the museum’s collection of blacksmithing tools and accoutrements.
In conclusion, The Curran Homestead seeks funding for the materials to build this structure that will serve the purposes of security and storage of a collection, a classroom for demonstration and hands-on instruction by blacksmiths, and a workshop for tool fabrication, repair, maintenance, and restoration to a collection of wagons, sleighs, carriages, and farm machinery.

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