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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ornamental Blacksmithing

Story by Roger Edison

Richard Heinicke is a modern day Blacksmith creating an array of fine crafted iron works. His artistry forging metal hammered into fine crafted fabrications has been used for home, garden, camping and miscellaneous items which replicate the appearance of authentic antiques from the 1600's through the late 1800's.

Along with household consumers,   many of his items are used by cooking enthusiast working from a Chuck wagon or Dutch Oven Cooking Society members.  Additionally,  several of his pieces have been purchased by museums and used by various reenactment groups that honor particular events that forged the legacy of a historic past. Each item handmade, hand tooled and worked just as early blacksmiths operated hundreds of years ago.  

The art of blacksmithing was developed by the Hittites of Anatolia, modern day western Asia and Turkey. Copper and Bronze work was already known when the Hittites civilization discovered or developed the smelting of iron ores around 1500 BC. They had maintained a near monopoly on the knowledge of iron production for several hundred years, but when their empire collapsed during the Eastern Mediterranean upheavals around 1200 BC, the knowledge seems to have escaped in all directions.  As settlers migrated to the New World know as America, so followed the trade of blacksmith. 

Richard's  blacksmith shop is located in Westland, Michigan. He became interested in the art of smithing when visiting Green Field Village during the late 1970's where a friend preformed the work as a Blacksmith.  Richard worked as a welder with the C&O railroad in Grand Rapids, Michigan when he started the hobby, but after a work lay-off, took his craft to become his daily profession. 

Using a coal forge, Richard heats Pea Coal bellowing air into the fires to reach temperatures at 2000 degrees fahrenheit.  As coal burns, it is converted into a solid product called Coke resulting from the destructive distillation of coal consisting principally of carbon which he then uses to weld metals together.  Much of Richard's work is with 1018-1020 grade carbon steel.  Many items require riveting to join metals together adding brass or copper to compete some of his products. Steel items used for cooking are brushed to a pewter like finish, then treated rubbing a coat of vegetable oil over the item and then heated at a high temperature around 500 (f) degrees; A process called seasoning. Other metal items that are non cookware are painted using a flat black Rustoleum finish. 

Richard often researches photographs or drawings of original items in order to replicate his craft for period correctness.  Upon finishing each piece, Richard cold stamps his trade mark called a "touch mark" so items can be identified as replicas because they appear to look so close to original antique artifacts and heirlooms.

Tim Todish
Tim Todish is a reenactment enthusiast who volunteers during the Fort Michilimackinac Pageant, held over Memorial Day weekend each year.   Tim explains the history behind the reenactment, "The first fort on the Straits of Mackinac, Fort Du Buade, was constructed in about 1690. The fort became the main trade depot of the upper Great Lakes fur trade and functioned as both a military post and a civilian community. Michilimackinac remained a French outpost until 1761 when British soldiers took control after their victory in the French and Indian War (Seven Years War).  The Fort eventually seized by American colonial settlers during the Revolutionary war of 1776, and the first British attack on the new nation of the United States during the War of 1812.  The pageant is the longest running reenactment celebrating 50 years in May 2012 that will feature several match competitions with Musket rifles, tomahawk throwing and events which relive this historic past."  

Tim also stated. "Richard's blacksmith work is consistently made with the quality of excellence at extremely reasonable prices. While he offers an array of items, he has also custom made several items for me which I am more than pleased.  I have known Richard now for over 40 years and can say without hesitation, Richard is the best blacksmith I know."    

Richard also performs his blacksmith skills using a traveling forge at several shows through the year.  Demonstrating how to twist, work and cool the metals during the shows, Richard works his hand crack bellow as he forges items for the on looking audience.  The Feast of Hunters Moon,  Kalamazoo Living History Johnny Appleseed Fest, and Cascades Civil War Muster  are amongst the few shows he exhibits his trade of historic craft.  Forging items like custom branding irons, chandeliers, Civil war frying pans with left or right hand pouring spouts, door stops, cookware or hardware from pre Colonial era through the Victorian age, Richard's hand crafted works include his personal guarantee of satisfaction along with being American made in the USA.  

Coffee Pot Tipper
Trivet, Ladles,  Dutch Oven Lid Lifter
Heart Trivet often use placing hot pans and pots on also use inside Dutch Ovens when using pie pans for early styled baking. 
Pie Pan remove tools for Dutch Ovens
Reenactments Jaeger's Battalion Encampment at Ft. Michilimackinac

The Battalion Commander reviews the troops from the porch of the Commandant's Quarters.    Photo credits  Tim J. Todish, Jaeger's Battalion Encampment at Ft. Michilimackinac

1600's period fireplace hearth Trivet with Handle

"Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands."  -   Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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