inhabitants for the space of seven years.”
The man who accepted the offer, fittingly,
was named John Smith.
Though the colonists imported most
of their metal from Europe, especially England, iron was not unknown here. The continent’s first metal refinery fired up in 1646
in Saugus, Massachusetts, where workers
used native “bog iron,” found in the reddish
marsh sludge that forms when water seeps
through mineral-bearing soil and rocks.
However, to keep the Colonies in the raw-materials-supply role that so benefited the
Mother Country’s coffers, in 1750 Parliament passed the Iron Act, prohibiting the
manufacture of finished iron goods here, a
move that historians cite as one of the irritants that led to revolution.
When both your budget and your style matter.
The crux of the matter
is the near-miraculous
transformation of rigid
and tough metal into
something soft and
pliable — and that requires
a very hot fire.
305 Commercial St.;;;Portland, ME 04101;;;207-321-3555
Colonial or independent, historic or
modern, New England’s blacksmiths practice a trade that hasn’t changed much over
the centuries. The crux of the matter is the
near-miraculous transformation of rigid
and tough metal into something soft and
pliable — and that requires a very hot fire.
Once charcoal did the trick; nowadays coal
is the common fuel. Roger Chudzik, sixty-something and built like a linebacker, flicks
a switch in IronBearForge, his shop in the
Dorchester section of Boston, and explains
how a fan drives air upward through a hole
in the bed of his forge’s hearth, where
a pile of soft bituminous coal begins to
burn brighter. Once upon a time, a giant
leather-and-wood bellows, often operated
by a young apprentice, provided this crucial supply of oxygen, which drives the fire
toward 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Chudzik
pushes into the fire a square bar of mild
steel (iron with a small amount of carbon)
and watches carefully. “It starts to glow at
around a thousand degrees,” he says. “It
starts to turn white and burn at 2,800. I
want to work it when it’s a bit shy of 2,000.”
Like most shops, his has few windows, the