By Dennis Geddis
In 2021 the blacksmith’s shop was officially opened by long-time museum supporters, wheelwrights Greg Lang, and wife Ali. They have helped restore many museum vehicles in the past through their wheelwright business, which is featured in the new display.
Wheelwrights Ali and Greg Lang officially drop the chain
to open the museum blacksmith workshop, including an
extensive wheelwright display.
In congratulating Brian Schnell and his team of volunteer workers in preparing the display, the Langs said the display would be a wonderful way of telling stories for future generations to come.
Blacksmith’s shops were a very important part of a community in days gone by.There were many blacksmith shops liberally dotted throughout the growing wider Manawatu farming community in the late 1800s to early 1900s. More than 18 have been identified locally in ongoing research, but it is thought many more existed, including backyard farmers who did their own work.
Blacksmiths were very creative workers, enduring hot, extreme conditions, making lots of then household, kitchen and farm machinery items, tools, and horse-drawn equipment.They made new tongs from wrought iron - later steel - through to steel springs for horse-drawn vehicles.
The smithies’ shop has been replicated in the museum using old recovered timber from a farm shed dismantled in Bunnythorpe and re-created on-site. The totara, rimu and matai 10 inch and 12 inch slabs for the walls, are believed to be well over 100 years old. Many of the sections in the smithies’ shop have come from items previously stored, mostly unseen, in museum storage.
The bellows, an integral piece of equipment in any shop, have been erected to provide tremendous ‘heat’ to a specially constructed forge, with a large anvil nearby. The fully bricked forge, with blacksmith, has been designed to replicate a coal-coke lit setup.
The bellows are driven by hand, by a blacksmith, or a worker, probably a hammer hand, and were constantly glowing. Coke ashes left smouldering overnight meant the fire was still going the next day.
The giant set of Alldays and Onions' air bellows from the
1800s, a feature of the new display.
Blacksmiths throughout the country relied on iron imports from England, and then moved them by horse and cart to its destination.
The first known blacksmith in the region was believed to be a Danish Navy blacksmith who emigrated to New Zealand, firstly to Marton, before going out smithing on his own in Stanway. A stupping jack made by him is on display.
The blacksmith shop has a working drill, grinder, and automated hacksaw machine, all driven off a line shaft. A foot-operated Bradford treadle lathe, with grinder and polisher are also operational by visitors via a push button interactive device. The machine has been designed to stop in the right place ready to start next time.
Wheelwrights used to be complimentary to blacksmiths, so it is fitting this display has been incorporated into the blacksmith layout.
Only a few working blacksmiths remain in New Zealand, most replaced many years ago by farriers, who largely are available to replace horse shoes.
Among items there is a tyring machine, a rubber tyre stretching machine (for newer gigs, and more comfortable rides), a hub mortorising machine that cuts square mortis - a spoke tenorising and boring machine that cuts round nobs. They had a iron rim for steel tyres which were heated and shrunk onto wooden spoked tyres, once they had been made.
There are a large number of blacksmith tools on the walls surrounding the forge and anvil - something for every job - the blacksmith would have needed from tongs and holding rods, to bending and straightening steel tools. (A lot of the tools came from the former Oroua County Council workshop, and held in storage until now.) Swage blocks, which held, and bent different metals in different shapes and sizes, are also displayed.
The apprentice blacksmith operates the giant bellows to run the forge in the blacksmith workshop display.