Tools of the Trade leaf graphic

Molly’s shop is mostly non-electric (we use a small generator to power the grinder) and is little changed from a blacksmith’s shop of several centuries ago in its tools. You can see a picture of a 17th century English shop and tools in the first plate to Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises. Important tools in that shop and in Molly’s are the forge, anvil, tongs, hammers and vise.

Molly’s forges (she has 3 set up) are of the same basic pattern — a metal frame supporting a cast iron fire pot and tuyere, a blower operated with a hand crank and chimney to draw smoke out of the shop. Molly uses low sulfur coal in her forge — a hot fire is central to blacksmithing.

Moxon’s forge and chimney were made of brick but they function is the same as Molly’s of metal.

Moxon’s forge used a bellows to deliver air to the fire. Toward the end of the 19th century, bellows were being replaced by hand cranked blowers like this one. The blower (or bellows) delivers a blast of air which creates a very hot fire.

The anvil is another important tool in the shop. It provides surfaces to shape the hot, malleable metal on. Moxon’s anvil had a very small horn (as was common until about 1800) and has no pritchel or hardy holes. The pritchel hole is round, the hardy hole is square. The prichel hole is used as a bolster to support the stock when punching holes. The hardy hole is used to hold various tools on the anvil like fullers. We use the hardy hole while making latches, for example, to drift the slot over. A bolster is laid on the anvil on the hardy hole to support the work and keep it from sagging. Our anvils are held firmly onto wood bases. The wood support is set into concrete several feet under ground. Blows to the anvil are not just straight down to the face, but sometimes are made from the side.

A group of tools are auxiliary to the forge and anvil. Hammers shape the hot metal, tongs hold the metal, and the vise is used to hold tools or support the stock during forging or cold-working operations.

We use four hammers when forging a latch — we use a table on the other side of the anvil to hold tools while working — sometimes we will change hammers during a heat, for example. These hammers in the photo from top to bottom are a ball peen used to bend the latch grip on the jig, a 2.5 pound blacksmith (German) pattern hammer (as are the next two) with a cross peen. This hammer has a flat face and is used for truing the sides of the slot while drifting. The primary forging hammers are the bottom two. The third hammer has a rounded face for use for final spreading of the cusps, the peen of this hammer is used also for spreading stock by fullering. The bottom hammer has a nearly flat face — it is used for the first few heats, punching and drifting the slot, and creating the grip of a latch.

We use a variety of tongs to hold the hot steel. The top three tongs are used to hold the stock while hammering it on the anvil or vise. They are able to withstand the shock that occurs during hammering. The bottom pair of tongs are a light weight pair made specially for working in the fire — they are used to pick small pieces of metal out of the fire and pass them on to a regular pair of tongs.

Molly’s shop has a number of “leg vises” which are specially designed to be pounded on. They are similar to that shown in Moxon’s plate. A strong spring keeps the jaw open unless it is closed intentionally. The leg is attached to the bottom of the vise bench, so that the vise is able to withstand a large amount of twisting force.

Molly’s vise benches are made of wood with a piece of steel on top. They serve much the same purpose as the workbench in Moxon’s plate but are much smaller in overall size.

One tool that Molly uses that Moxon doesn’t show on his plate is a drill press. This works much like modern electric ones, but turns very slowly with a hand crank which is perfect for drilling steel. We can drill holes in size from 1/16" to 1 1/8". The crank at the top controls downward motion of the bit. This drill press is attached to a post.


Making a Latch
is a description, with photos, of the steps we go through to make a Suffolk Latch.

Making a Hinge
is a description, like Making a Latch, that shows the steps we go through to make a Butterfly Hinge.

Making a Grip
shows the process for making a Cabinet Grip.

Blacksmith's Blog Posts
collects posts we created for the Horton Brasses blog in 2010 and 2011. There's information about the shop, what we make and how we make it, including links to two videos.

Tools of the Trade
shows some of the tools in Molly’s blacksmith shop.

Making a Living
describes how we became blacksmiths.

Glossary of Blacksmithing Terms
is linked to various words that are not commonly known by non-smiths throughout this section of the site.