This is a view from inside the wrought iron Bell Tower. It is made of hand-wrought mild steel. It show's the design of the ironwork best. This was my Dad's original design, however the bell itself is hundreds of years old. Part of the bell and its ringer assembly is visible in the upper left.
The Convent was established in the 1730's. Previous bell towers for that bell have rusted away, just as this one probably will one day.
It took us months to make and, sadly, we made very little money. I wound up having to hitch-hike home from NOLa to the Bay Area. It was a priceless experience, though.
A good anvil is so fine a thing to locate. My dad hunted high and low for this one, and he took great care of it. The temper of the striking surface is very important, like on a knife blade. People, often his friends, would visit the workshop and instinctively reach for a hammer and want to bang it down on the anvil. My dad would immediately shout them down - it would ruin it.
An inch or so chip came off the side of the striking surface one day and he feared it would lead to cracks, rust, and ruin the anvil in the middle of the job. It so happened a crew from the power company were working outside and heard the hammering. Several of them ventured in one day, wearing climbing gaffs and hard-hats. Dad was always hospitable, and the guys were fascinated with the work going on (this was a common occurrence, lol).
A welder was with them and he was full of questions about metal and working wrought iron. Dad was happy to talk at length. The welder said he could fill in the chip and not ruin the temper. With great trepidation, and with nothing to lose, Dad told him to go for it. So the guy filled in the chip, ground it and polished it flush, and by God it worked great! No cracks formed, no rust, and a nice smooth edge. This was an amazing thing to my 17 year old sensibilities, such generosity and enthusiasm, and I never forgot it, any of it.
Last Edit: Jul 20, 2020 23:28:21 GMT -5 by wiredog
It's essential to stay cool when working with hot metal! A flute, or a slide trombone, and occasionally a French horn did the trick for my dad. Jax, Falstaff, or Dixie Beer works well, too.
In the background, under the awning, is his forge. It has Mississippi River mud forming the bed, and the blower from a hair drier to form the draft. He fueled it with "coke", a heat-treated and concentrated form of coal. You can also see his Oxy-Acetalyne rig.
On Sundays we would ride bicycles, with my brothers and sis, along the train track just outside the city, to a spot where the rails dipped. The dip would cause coke to bounce out of the rail cars carrying it and it would spill out onto the ground by the tracks. We found bags and bags of it and kept a big pile of it in the shop! Coke burns hotter than coal, btw.
That railroad rail anvil is a cool thing. It would be great to see ironwork catch on again. I occasionally have seen craftsmen still making things from it. It's very cool.
Last Edit: Jul 20, 2020 23:47:28 GMT -5 by wiredog
Post by swampyankee on Jul 21, 2020 7:53:06 GMT -5
I made an anvil from a railroad rail many years ago when I was working as a machinery maintenance mechanic. I used a cutting torch, and grinder to shape it, with a final polish by hand with various grits of emery cloth. The boss wasn't too happy about the waste of his acetylene and abrasives . I played around with tinsmithing back then, and just general hammering stuff around. It sat in the bottom of my roll-away until just recently, when I sanded off the rust, cleaned it up, and put it back to use on my workbench.
I once took a theft report for a guy whose 300 lb anvil was stolen out of the bed of his pickup, while he visited the local topless bar. The universe, always struggling to maintain a cosmic balance, apparently matched his loss to the weight of a single dancer from that particular bar.
People such as he--with varied talents and interests--are invaluable as friends.
Absolutely agree with that.
Had a neighbor like that when I was in my late 20s-mid-30s: he'd only made it to 8th grade but, as an adult, kept going back to night school to pick up new skills. The guy was really a "jack of all trades" and master of several whose skills included welding, carpentry, auto mechanics, body work, electrical wiring: dang near anything, really. He was kind of a mentor and surrogate grandfather to me as both mine had died before I was born.
I wiled away many a pleasant afternoon in his garage as he was happy to teach me whatever I was willing/able to learn. In exchange, I'd do the grunt work that he was getting too old to do, like humping firewood and cleaning his gutters and serve as a second pair of hands in whatever project he had going. He's long since passed, but I'll always remember old Joe fondly. I owe him a lot.