John Gustaf Holmström.

Modern blacksmithing, rational horse shoeing and wagon making, with rules, tables, recipes, etc. online

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Modern Blacksmithing





With /IDanv Illustrations







Frontispiece 3

The Smith 10

The Shop 32

The Anvil 33

Tool Table 35

The Sledge 38

Blacksmith's Tongs 39

Hammers 42

Wrenches 46

Correct Position at the Anvil 50

Water Tuyer 53

Blowers 54

Standing Coulter 60

Holstrom Tire Holder 81

Tire in Sections 83

Axle and Gather Gauge 86

John Deere, Inventor of Plows 89

Plow of 200 years ago 93

Plowshares ' 95-1 12

Japanese Plow 105

Bench for Holding Plows 106

Tube for Welding 128





Tube Expander 129

The Horse 133

Horse Shoes 134 to 157

Foot, The Natural 147

Foot Prepared for Cartier Tips 150

Foot Shod with Cartier Tips 150

Ring Bone 154

Anatomy of the Foot 154

Clamping Iron 156

Sand Crack Clamps 157

Cracked Walls. . 157

Quarter Crack 157

Easy Position for Finishing . . . ; 161

.Spavin 168

Lathe, The 184


HAT prompted the author to prepare this
book was the oft - repeated question, by
blacksmiths and mechanics of all kinds, as
well as farmers: "Is there a book treating
on this or that?" etc., etc. To all these
queries I was compelled to answer in the negative,
for it is a fact that from the time of Cain, the first
mechanic, there has never been a book written by
a practical blacksmith on subjects belonging to his
trade. If, therefore, there has ever been such a thing
as "filling a long-felt want," this must certainly be a
cas^ of that kind.

In medicine we find a wide difference of opinion,
even amongst practitioners of the same school, in
treating diseases. Now, if this is so where there is a
system, and authority for the profession, how much
more so must there be a difference of opinion in a
trade where every practitioner is his own authority.
I shall, therefore, ask the older members of the black-
smith fraternity to be lenient in their judgment if my
ideas don't coincide with theirs. To the apprentice



and journeyman I would say : do as I do until you find
a better way.

The author has been eminently successful in his
practice, and his ideas have been sought by others
wherever he has been, blacksmiths coming even from
other States to learn his ways.

This little book is fresh from the anvil, the author
taking notes during the day while at work, compiling
the same into articles at night.

He is indebted to a number of writers for article-., in
this book treating on subjects belonging to their
trades, in which they have been regarded as expert*.

\\oiu there was no smith found in all the land of Israel.
/ Sam. 1:1



,OR centuries the blacksmith has been
a prominent person, and it is
natural he should have been, when
we consider the variety of work
he had to do. From the heavy
axle and tire, down to the smallest
rivet in the wagon, they were all
made by the smith. Bells and
bits as well as the ornamental
parts of the harness, they were all made by the smith.
From the crowbar and spade down to the butcher and
pocket knife, they were all made by the smith. The
carpenter's tools, from the broadax and adz down to
the divider and carving steel, they were all made by
the smith. From the heavy irons in the fireplace down
to the frying-pan and locks on the kitchen doors;
knives and forks on the dining-table, they were all
made by the smith. From the gun on the shoulder of
the soldier and the saber in the hands of the officer,
the spurs and pistol for the commander, they were all
made by the smith. From the heavy anchor and its



chain to the smallest pulley in the rigging of the ship,
they were all made by the smith.

From the weather vane on the church spire, and


the clock in the tower down to the lock of the door*
and the artistic iron cross over the graves in the
church yard, they were all made by the smith. No
wonder, then, that the smith was respected. Vulgar


people swear by the devil, religious by the saints,
but the Swedes (the makers of the best iron) prefer
to swear by the smith. The smith was a well-liked
person in society, respected and even admired for his
skill, his gentlemanly behavior and good language.
His stories and wit were the sole entertainment in
many a social gathering. Things have changed in the
last few decades. Most of the articles formerly made
by the smith are . now manufactured by machinery,
and the respect for the smith is diminished in the same
proportion. Not because there is not enough of the
trade left to command respect there is yet more left
than any man can successfully learn in a short life-
time. But it has made it possible for men with less
training and ability to enter the trade and consequently
lower the standing of the smith. The result is, that
there is a complaint that the smith is not esteemed as
formerly, and I have been inclined to join in the
lamentation. But instead of doing this I shall ask my
brother smiths to unite with me in an effort to elevate
the craft.


I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with
a great number of intelligent and respected smiths.
People that did not know them would ask: "What is
he?" and when informed that he is a blacksmith would
say: "He doesn't look it; I thought he was a business
man"; another, "He looks like a lawyer or a minis-


ter. " From this you will understand how, in many
cases, the blacksmith looks. A great preacher was
announced to preach in a neighboring town, and *I
went to hear him. Just as I sat down in the pew one
of the local smiths walked up to me and sat down by
my side. He was a blacksmith and he "looked it."
Under his eyes was a half moon in black; on both
sides of his nose was a black stripe that had been
there since his first day in the shop. His ears, well,
you have seen a clogged-up tuyer iron. His clothes
were shabby and his breath a strong mixture of
tobacco and whisky, which made wrinkles on the nose
of the lady in front of us. I was somewhat embar-
rassed, but the sermon began. As the congregation
arose, I opened the hymnbook and my brother smith
joined, and with a hand that looked like the paw of a
black bear, he took hold of the book.

After service I was invited by the smith to dinner.
Between a number of empty beer kegs we managed to
reach the door of the house and everything inside
looked the color of his trade. I looked around for
books and other articles of culture and found a hand
organ and a pack of cards. The only book or reading
matter to be found was a weekly of the kind that tells
of prize fights, train robberies and murder. I had a
fair dinner and told my host that I had to start for
home. By this time I was sick of his language pro-
fanity, mixed with a few other words and I started to
leave. On my way to the livery stable I passed my
friend's shop, and he said it would not be fair to leave
before I had seen his shop. "I have," said he, "a


very good shop." The shop was a building of rough
boards 18x20 the average farmer has a better wood
shed. A big wood block like the chopping block in a
Butcher shop, was placed so close to the forge that he
could only get edgewise between. On this block was
to be found, anvil and all his tools, the latter were few
and primitive, and would have been an honor to our
father Cain, the first mechanic and blacksmith. What
thinkest thou, my brother smith? Having spent years
to learn the trade you must submit to a comparison
with smiths of this caliber. Their work being inferior
they must work cheap, and in some, perhaps many,
cases set the price on your work. Smiths of this kind
cannot expect to be respected. There might be some
show for them in Dawson City or among the natives
in that vicinity, but not in civilized America.




NE of the chief reasons why
the blacksmith is not so
successful nor respected
as before is his intemper-
ance. The danger for
the smith becoming a
drunkard is greater
than for any other me-
chanic. It is often the case
that when a customer pays a
bill the smith is requested to
treat. This is a bad habit
and quite a tax on the smith.
Just think of it fifteen cents a day
spent for liquor, will, in twenty-five years, amount to
$9,000. Then add to this fifteen cents a day for cigars,
which will, in twenty-five years, amount to $9,000 at
ten per cent compound interest. If these two items
would be saved, it will give a man a farm worth
$18,000 in twenty-five years. How many smiths are
there who ever think of this? I would advise every
one to put aside just as much as he spends for liquor
and tobacco ; that is, when you buy cigars or tobacco
for twenty-five cents put aside as much. When you
buy liquor for one dollar put aside one dollar. Try


this for one year and it will stimulate to continual
effort in that direction. The best thing to do is to
"swear off" at once, and if you must have it, take it
out of business hours. -Politely inform your friends
that you -must stop, or it will ruin you. If you drink
with one you must drink with another, and the oppor-
tunity comes too often. When you have finished some
difficult work you are to be treated; when you trust
you are to be treated; when you accommodate one
before another you are to be treated ; when you order
the stock from the traveling man you are to be treated.
Some smiths keep a bottle in a corner to draw custom-
ers by; others tap a keg of beer every Saturday for the
same purpose. No smith will ever gain anything by
this bad practice. He will only get undesirable cus-
tomers, and strictly temperance people will shun him
for it. What he gains on one side he will lose on
another. Besides this he will in the long run ruin
himself physically and financially. Let the old smith
quit and the apprentice never begin this dangerous
habit. A smith that is drunk or half drunk cannot do
his duty to his customers, and they know it, and prefer
to patronize a sober smith.




RUE religion is also an up-
lifting factor, and must, if
accepted, elevate the man.
I cannot too strong-
ly emphasize this
truth. Every smith
should connect
himself with some
branch of the
church and be punc-
tual in attendance to the same. There is a great deal
of difference between families that enjoy the Christian-
izing, civilizing and uplifting influence of the church
and those outside of these influences. The smith out-
side of the church, or he who is not a member thereof
will, in many cases, be found on Sundays in his shop
or loafing about in his everyday clothes, his wife and
children very much like him. The church member
his wife and children, are different. Sunday is a great
day to them. The smith puts on his best clothes, wife
and children the same. Everything in and about the
house has a holiday appearance and the effect on them
of good music and singing, eloquent preaching, and
the meeting of friends is manifested in their language,


in their lofty aims, and benevolent acts. Sunday is
rest and strength to them.

Brother smiths, six days a week are enough for work.
Keep the Sabbath and you will live longer and better.


Another reason the smith of to-day is not respected
is his incompetency.

When a young man has worked a few months in a
shop, he will succeed in welding a toe calk on a horse-
shoe that sometimes will stay, and at once he begins
to think he knows it all. There will always be some
fool ready to natter him, and the young man believes
that he is now competent to start on his own hook.
The result is, he hangs out his shingle, begins to prac-
tice horse-shoeing and general blacksmithing, and he
knows nothing about either. Let me state here that
horse-shoeing is a trade by itself, and so is black-
smithing. In the large cities there are blacksmiths
who know nothing about horse-shoeing, as well as
horse-shoers who know nothing about blacksmithing,
except welding on toe calks, and in many instances
even that is very poorly done. In small places it is
different. There the blacksmith is both blacksmith
and horse-shoer. Sometimes you will find a black-
smith that is a good horse-shoer, but you will never
find a horse-shoer that is a good blacksmith. This is
not generally understood. To many blacksmithing


seems to mean only horse-shoeing, and our trade
journals are not much better posted. Whenever a
blacksmith is alluded to, or pictured you will always
find a horse-shoe in connection with it. Yet there are
thousands of blacksmiths that never made a horse-shoe
in all their lives. Horse-shoeing has developed to be
quite a trade, and if a man can learn it in a few years
he will do well. I would not advise any young man
to start out for himself with less than three or four
years' experience. Every horse-shoer should make an
effort to learn blacksmithing. He will be expected to
know it, people don't know the difference; besides this,
it will, in smaller cities, be hard to succeed with horse-
shoeing alone. On the other hand, every blacksmith
should learn horse-shoeing, for the same reasons.
Therefore, seven or even ten years is a short time to
learn it in. But, who has patience and good sense
enough to persevere for such a course, in our times,
when everybody wants to get to the front at once?
Let every young man remember that the reputation
you get in the start will stick to you. Therefore be
careful not to 'start before you know your business,
and the years spent in learning it will not be lost, but
a foundation for your success. Remember, that if a
thing is not worth being well done it is not worth being
done at all. It is better to be a first-class bootblack
or chimney sweep, than be a third-class of anything

Don't be satisfied by simply being able to do the
work so as to pass, let it be first class. Thousands of
mechanics are turning out work just as others are


doing it, but you should not be satisfied to do the
work as others are doing it, but do it right.


The blacksmiths and horse-shoers have at last put
the thinking cap on, for the purpose of bettering their
condition., So far nothing has been accomplished, but
I am sure it will, in the long run, if they only keep at
it. We are now living in the license craze age. From
the saloon keeper down to the street peddler, they all
howl for license, and unreasonable as it is, thousands
of sensible men will cling to it in hopes that it will

We are, more or less, one-idea men, with fads and
whims. Nations and organizations are just like indi-
viduals, ready to fall into a craze and we see it often.
It is natural when we consider that nations and organ-
izations are simple one man repeated so many times.

Simply look at the hero-worshiping craze went
through at the close of the Spanish war. First, Lieu-
tenant Hobson was the idol, and great was he, far off
in Cuba. But, coming home, he made himself obnox-.
ious on a tour through the country, and the worshipers
were ashamed of their idol, as well as of themselves.
Admiral Dewey was the next hero to be idolized, and
he, too, was found wanting.

Physicians have their favorite prescriptions, min-
isters their favorite sermons. Politicians have their


tariff and free trade whims, their gold or silver craze.
Mechanics have their one ideal way of doing their
work. I know horse-shoers that have such faith in
bar shoes that they believe it will cure everything from
contraction to heaves. Others have such a faith in
toe weight that they will guarantee that in a horse
shod this way the front quarters will run so fast that
they must put wheels under the hind feet to enable
them to keep up with the front feet ; and in a three-
mile race the front quarters will reach the stables in
time to feed on a peck of oats before the hind quarters
catch up.

In some States there is a union craze. All that
these schemes will do is to prepare the legislatures for
the legislation that will some day be asked of them.
Unions have been organized and the objections are
the same. I object to all these schemes because they
fall short of their purpose.

Two years ago the horse-shoers of Minnesota asked
the legislature to give them a license law. I wrote to
a prominent member of the house of representatives
and asked him to put his influence against the meas-
ure. He did so, with the result that the bill was
killed so far as the counties and smaller towns were
concerned. Such a law will only provide for an extra
tax on the poor smiths and horse-shoers, and his
chances of making a living will not be bettered,
because no one will be shut out, no matter how



It deprives him of the means whereby to raise himself. Such a

law will only create offices to grease the machinery

for the political party in power.

HE only thing that will ever
elevate the standard of work-
manship is education, educa-
tion and nothing but edu-
cation. Give us a law that
will provide for a certain
degree of education before
a boy is allowed to serve
as an apprentice ; and that
he will not be allowed to
start out for himself until
he has served the full term, both as an apprentice and
journeyman. And if intemperate, no diploma shall be
issued to him. I see now that I was right when I
opposed this law. The horse-shoers of Minnesota are
now kicking and cursing the examining board. The
National Convention of horse-shoers which was held in
Cincinnati passed resolutions which were ordered
transmitted to the governor of Illinois, requesting that
the board of examiners now authorized to grant


licenses to horse-shoers in that State, be changed, as
"The board has failed to accomplish the purpose for
which it .was instituted the elevating of the standard
of workmanship of horse-shoers of that State. ' ' Unions
are all right in every place where there is only one
smith, let that smith unite with himself to charge a
living price for his work and he is all right. Where
there are more than one smith unions will only help
the dishonest fellow. Such unions live but for a short
time and then the smiths knife each other worse than

In hard times (and hard times are now like the
poor, "always with us,") a lot of tinkers start in the
shoeing and blacksmith business. If they could make
a dollar a day in something else they would stay out,
but this being impossible, they think it better to try at
the anvil. For them to get anything to do without
cutting prices is out of the question, and so the cutting
business begins, and ends when the regular smith has
come down to the tinker's price. To remedy this we
must go to the root of the evil. First, political agita-
tion against a system whereby labor is debased.

This is a fact, in spite of all prosperity howling.
Whenever there is trouble between labor and capital
we will always find the whole machinery of the gov-
ernment ready to protect capital. The laboring men
will not even be allowed to meet, but will be dispersed
like so many dogs. They are the mob! But the
capitalists, they are gentlemen! When the govern-
ment wants a tailor for instructor in our Indian schools,
or a blacksmith for the reservation, they get about


$600.00 per year. But, when a ward-heeler wants
office he must have $5,000 per year. What induce-
ment is it, under such conditions, for a young man to
learn a trade? Laboring men, wake up!

But, as this will bring us into politics I shall leave
this side of the question, for it would do no good.
Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence
said: "Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while
the evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by
abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
The laboring people will, in my judgment, suffer quite
a while yet. In the meantime let us build up a fra-
ternity on the ruins of the ancient guilds. Between
the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries mechanics of
all kinds prospered as never before, nor have they
done it since. The reason for this was not a high
protective tariff, or anything in that line, but simply
the fruit of the guilds and the privilege they enjoyed
from the state.

What we now need is a modern guild. I anticipate
there would be some difficulty in securing the legis-
lation necessary, but we will not ask more than the
doctors now have. I cannot now go into detail ; that
would take more room and time than I can spare in
this book.


NE thing is certain, we have a hard row
to hoe, because, this is a government
of injunctions, and any law on the
statute book is in danger of being
declared unconstitutional, according
to the biddings of the money power,
or the whim of the judges. One
tyrant is bad, but many are worse.

I am no prophet, but will judge the future from the
past. History will repeat itself, and Christ's teachings
will be found true: "A house divided against itself
cannot stand. ' '

I will say so much, however, that no man should be
allowed to start out for himself before he has served
three years as an apprentice and two or three years as
a journeyman. This should be proved by a certificate
from the master for whom he has worked. This
certificate to be sworn to by his master, one uninter
ested master and himself. No apprentice to be
accepted without a certificate from the school superin-
tendent that he has a certain knowledge in language
and arithmetic and other branches as may be required.
It shall not be enough to have worked a few days each
year, but the whole time. With these papers he shall
appear before three commissioners, elected by the
fraternity and appointed by the governor of the State.


He shall pay not less than ten and not more than
twenty-five dollars for his diploma. All complaint
shall be submitted to these commissioners, and they
shall have full power to act. If a practitioner acts
unbecoming, runs down his competitor, charges prices
below the price fixed by the fraternity, or defrauds
his customers, such shall be reported to the commis-
sioners, and, if they see fit, they can repeal or call in
-his diploma and he shall not be allowed to practice in
the State. These are a few hints on the nature of the
modern guild we ought to establish. The fraternity
should have a journal edited by one editor on litera-
ture and one on mechanics, the editor on mechanics
to be a practical blacksmith with not less than fifteen
years' experience. The editors are to be elected by
the fraternity. This is all possible if we can get the
legislation that the doctors have in many States. And
why not?

Mechanics of to-day have a vague and abstract idea
of what is meant by journeyman and apprenticeship.
In Europe there is yet a shadow left of the guilds
where these were in existence.

When I learned my trade I worked some time with
my father in Sweden, then I went over to Norway and
worked as an apprentice in Mathison & Johnson's
machine, file and lock factory of Christiania. I was
requested to sign a contract for four years. In this
contract was set forth the wages I was to receive, and
what I was to learn each year. Everything was
specified so that there would be no room for misunder-
standing. The first two weeks I worked, they simply


drilled me. I was given a good file and a piece of
iron , this iron I filed square, round, triangle, hexagon
and octagon I wore out files and pieces of iron one
after another, the master giving instructions how to
stand, hold the file, about the pressure and strokes of
same, etc. The same careful instructions were given
in blacksmi thing. The apprentice was given some
work, and he had to forge it out himself, no matter
what time it took, nor did it make any difference if the

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Online LibraryJohn Gustaf HolmströmModern blacksmithing, rational horse shoeing and wagon making, with rules, tables, recipes, etc. → online text (page 1 of 10)