must wrestle is, in his words, “muscular
poetry.” That is well demonstrated when
his 100-year-old Champion power hammer is engaged and its electric motor turns
a wheel that lifts and drops a 65-pound
head, flattening and shaping hot iron as if
it were taffy.
“Blacksmith shops are
simple and practical —
made to keep the elements out and built from
wood to keep the cost
down,” says Tom Kelleher,
which may explain why
the museum had to acquire its current shop, the
Moses Wilder Blacksmith
Shop, in 1956: The old
one burned down.
At Old Sturbridge Village, the living
history museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, where costumed historians depict life
in New England between 1790 and 1840,
Tom Kelleher is both a curator and a blacksmith, and he occasionally swings his hammer at the museum’s shop and forge, demonstrating the old ways for visitors. He’s
built two shops over the years, and they’ve
shared their predecessors’ no-nonsense
architecture. “Blacksmith shops are simple and practical — made to keep the elements out and built from wood to keep the
cost down,” he says, which may explain
why the museum had to acquire its current shop, the Moses Wilder
Blacksmith Shop, in 1956:
The old one burned down.
Moved from Bolton, Massachusetts, the following year,
the Wilder shop was built around 1802
— out of stone. Kelleher doesn’t believe
this was a fireproofing move, however, but
rather something even more New England.
Smith Wilder was related to and made and
maintained tools for the owners of a quarry
and, in fine Yankee tradition, he most likely
got the stones for free.
Behind every design there’s a story.
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