Gene’s hutch had the type of rat tail hinge which gets mortised into the side of the door, so all you see is the tail on the face frame. I wanted to see the blacksmith made hinge on the door face. I thought this would really add to the piece, and also it would be easier to install. I had seen several versions of this style hinge but was really attracted to the hinges Gene used on a hanging corner cabinet in his house. I’ll refer to these as “rams’ horn”, but I’m not sure if that is the correct terminology. I traced Gene’s hinge and grew a slightly reduced size version on a 3D printer which I then taped to my door stile.
I contacted a blacksmith I came across from a Google Search, but never received a reply to my emails or phone messages. I contacted a second blacksmith, who actually made a prototype of the hinge after quoting a very reasonable price, but he never returned my emails or calls after he sent me the picture of the prototype. I think he realized there was a lot more work in them that what he quoted.
I asked Bess at Olde Mill if she could put me into contact with the blacksmith in York, PA, who made most of the hardware for Gene’s classes, but she told me he was no longer available. However, she suggested I contact Peter Ross of Colonial Williamsburg. She gave me Peter’s phone number.
Now a little background. After high school, and before the Army, my dad worked as a blacksmith of sorts. This included making iron gates for some very expensive houses. He got a job at Kodak after the Army, but there was always an anvil in his basement workshop. He was always making railings, gates, room dividers, light fixtures, candle holders, etc. for our house or for friends and relatives. He didn’t have a forge, so most of the work was thinner (1/8”) hot rolled steel which could be hammered out and scrolled. Half-inch square stock could be twisted with a 3-foot wrench. So basically, I grew up around iron work. When I was in 6 grade or so I helped out with flaring the ends of the bar stock for the start of a tight scroll. He made around 100 candle holders of a certain design which he sold, and I did some work on all of them.
When I got my first house, I started to watch Roy Underhill on Saturday mornings. In my two favorite episodes Roy visited Peter Ross at Colonial Williamsburg. In one they showed the making of a wagon wheel. After heating the steel wheel, they placed it over the wood frame and poured buckets of water over it to keep the wood from burning. As the iron cooled it shrunk to a tight fit on the wood. In the other episode Peter made a draw knife which involved forge welding the steel cutting edge onto the knife. The best part was when he heated the tangs and pressed a wood handle on it through a pre-drilled hole. The flame that shot out of the end of the handle was awesome! Of course, it was immediately plunged into water to keep the handle from burning up.
Needless to say, my interest in wood and iron go back to my childhood! When Bess told me to call Peter, I was a little intimidated - he was always a hero of mine - but I made the call!
That’s enough for now. Next up: hinge design and installation.
- Mortised rat tail hinge on Gene's hutch
- Hinge on Gene's hanging corner cabinet
- 3D printed "hinge" on my hutch
- Dad's candle holder (actually I think I made this one when I was in high school or college)