Historic Structures

Blacksmith Shop Ben Thresher's Mill, Barnet Vermont

The Blacksmith Shop was added to the east end of the main mill c. 1895. J. Loren Judkins purchased the shop from the John Manning Farm (old Goodwillie Farm) located north across the Stevens River in Barnet Center. During the Revolutionary War, Joseph Goodwillie served as a gunsmith in the British Army. In 1792, he moved to Barnet and brought his family the following year. He purchased the farm from his brother, the Reverend David Goodwillie. Joseph Goldwillie possibly built a blacksmith shop on his farm shortly after 1793. This is the same shop that was purchased c. 1895 and reassembled on the east end of the present mill. It is possible that the shop is about 185 years old.

The Blacksmith Shop measures 19' 8" by 17' and is constructed of heavy beams and siding. The shop consists of one floor, the forge area and a cellar. There is currently a metal roof.

When the Blacksmith Shop was reassembled at this site, a new brick chimney was built on a concrete foundation. The forge table measures 4' square with bricks for the fire-bed. A clean-out box for ashes and a water tank for wetting blacksmith coal are under the forge bed. The forge was originally powered by a large wooden bellows, now removed. The forge is currently fired by an electric blower manufactured by the Canedy Otto Manufacturing Company of Chicago Heights, Illinois. Electric lines were first run on the road c. 1903 and the blower may have been installed at that time. The electric blower is located in the cellar of the shop and can also be driven by water power. It is a type known as a rotary 'squirrel-cage' blower, which is essentially a series of fans mounted on a wheel. Air is directed through a sheetmetal pipe upstairs to the forge area. On the left side of the chimney is a wooden damper box where the exact amount of air can be manually controlled before entering the bottom of the forge. The purpose of the blower is to force air into the soft coal fire on the forge bed. Fumes and exhaust smoke rise from the forge and enter a metal deflector about half way up the right side of the chimney.

The anvil is located near the forge and the manufacturer is unknown. It weighs about 130 pounds, measures 25" long and has a single horn. The anvil, with two hardy holes, is fastened to a wood block that is bolted to the floor. The "hitting edge" on the face of the anvil is 30" from the floor. The height of the hitting edge is critical. The smith should have the face of the anvil reach the knuckles of his hands as they hang by his side. This critical height allows him to use the power of gravity and the full weight of his hammer on his work without straining or bending his back. The present anvil was brought to the mill by Ben Thresher and replaced a 250 pound anvil used by Fenton Judkins.

The cast-iron cone mandril is portable and its manufacturer is unknown. It is hollow, 4' high with a 1' base. The mandril is employed when welding hub bands, rings, hoops and stake bands. Running along the side is a tapered groove, employed when welding a ring into an eyebolt.

The swage block is 15" square and sits on an iron table near the anvil. Its manufacturer is unknown. The cast-iron block has numerous holes (round, square, rectangular, triangular & hexagonal) and tapered edges. The swage block is used to shape and draw hot iron rods into specific sizes and shapes.

There are two spring-post bench vises mounted on the work bench near the south wall. Their manufacturer is unknown. One vise has 6" jaws and the other has 3" jaws cut from original 5" jaws. The vises are cast steel and set at a working height where the smith can file, cut, bend, twist and hammer metals into desired shapes.

The caulking vise is a "Green River No. 3" manufactured by the Noyes Foundry Company of Greenfield, Massachusetts. The vise is portable and foot-operated. It is used to hold horseshoes while welding on the toe caulks. It also has a die box with attachments for making the heads for iron bolts.

The hand shear is a "Little Giant No. 2" manufactured by the Little Giant Punch and Shear Company of Sparta, Illinois. The hand-shear has a seven and a half inch blade for cutting cold or hot steel. It can also be used to punch holes in hot iron. It is mounted on a wooden block that is bolted to the floor.

The trip hammer was possibly manufactured by L.D. Howard of St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The machine has no name or numbers and the Howard association is oral history. The hammer is located in front of the coal bin near the west wall of the shop. The water-powered trip hammer is driven from the east end of the third line shaft in the cellar of the Blacksmith Shop. The trip hammer is foot operated, which allows the smith to hold a heavy iron bar with both hands while the hot bar is being molded under the weight of the large hammer. The hammer delivers a forceful blow to the metal many times greater than can be done with the smith's own strength and thus is a great labor-saving tool. The height of the base is adjustable and there are interchangeable dies and a punch.

The wall-mounted tire shrinker is possibly the oldest tool in the shop. It is mounted on the north wall and the inscription "F C No. 3" is legible, It is painted green and further cleaning may reveal more identification. With the tire shrinker, the smith can grab hot flat iron tires within its jaws and shrink the length of the tire. It is no longer in use having been replaced by the Champion tire shrinker.

The Champion tire shrinker "No. 2" was manufactured by the Champion Blower and Forge Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It is portable and has iron wheels. A tire can be set on edge between the jaws of the shrinker and the smith can turn the large hand wheel to move the base into the hot tire and shrink its length.

The tire bender, now located near the front door of the Wagon Shop, was once located in the Blacksmith Shop. It is bench-mounted and is possibly a Champion. The bender is crank-operated. Hot iron up to 8" wide can be rolled in the tire bender. It is used mainly to form silo hoops, water tub hoops, and wheel tires.

The wall-mounted nut remover is located near the door leading into the main mill. It was manufactured by the National Steam Pump Company of Upper Sandusky, Ohio. It is patent dated "Nov. 8', 98." The tool was used to remove nut heads from buggy tire rims.

The wood stove in the Blacksmith Shop is located near the southwest corner, It has "No. 30" cast on the loading door and will hold a 24" log. Its smoke pipe extends up and across the ceiling of the shop and vents out the chimney near the east wall. The wood furnace, near the southeast corner in the cellar, is the main heat source for the mill. A smoke pipe extends up through the first floor and runs across the ceiling in the Wagon Shop to the chimney located near the west wall. The cordwood saw is belt-driven from the third line shaft in the cellar. It is operated outside of the mill and wood is thrown into the cellar to feed the wood furnace.