Artisans

Many professions were critical to Furnace Town in the early nineteenth century, not only to operate the furnace, but to support a thriving community. Each one played a unique and important role in the success of the village.

The storekeeper also served as the banker and the postmaster. Ladies in the town took their risen yeast bread to the baker, who baked it in turn for a share. The wheelwright made and repaired the wheels on many of the carts and wagons at Furnace Town. The potter made plates, storage jars and jugs.

Today artisans in period dress help us better understand the past as they interpret several nineteenth century professions which provided needed goods and services to Furnace Town.

The artisans at Furnace Town make several handcrafted items, which are for sale in our Museum Gift Shop.

Each of these items is made using historic methods and many on original machinery from the nineteenth century. The wares are unique, reasonably priced, and make great gifts!

Many of the artisans also do custom work. If you have a project that you would like one of our artisans to make for you, please contact Furnace Town via email or stop by to talk to our artisans to discuss feasibility and pricing.

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Blacksmith

Blacksmiths made a variety of objects that people used every day. Iron was valuable because it was strong and durable. It could be forged, or heated and hammered, into many shapes, from cutting utensils to horseshoes and kitchen tools. He also made hoops for the cooper's barrels and wheel coverings for the wheelwright. Carpenters relied on him for nails, latches, and hinges, and farmers needed him to make farming implements.

The tinsmith created objects for the home and for other artisans from tin-a soft, silvery-white metal. The tinsmith hammered sheets of tin into all kinds of things, such as pails, lanterns, colanders, cups, and kitchen utensils.

THE FURNACE TOWN BLACKSMITHS GUILD AND GICHNER MEMORIAL FORGE

The Furnace Town Blacksmiths Guild was created to teach blacksmithing to those interested, with the hope of having some of those taught demonstrate in the Furnace Town Historic Forge. This historic double-forge is a good representation of a blacksmithing shop in the early 1800's.

The Guild is also used by those who wish to work in a modern forge. A new shop, named The Gichner Memorial Forge, was built adjoining the existing forge with the help of Bill Gichner who donated tools, equipment and funds. For more than fifty years, Bill Gichner owned and operated a store, Iron Age Antiques, which specialized in blacksmithing tools and equipment. This incredible collection of valuable tools now equips both the modern and historic forges at Furnace Town.

Annual membership in the guild is $35. The Guild meets the first Saturday of every month. throughout the year. Every March there is the "Hammer In", a two-day weekend class where students learn basic blacksmithing techniques and make their own hammer.

Broom Maker

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Early brooms may have been just a bundle of sticks bound together with a piece of hemp, or a broom sage, a grass which grows tall that was cut and bundled together. Broomcorn, from the sorghum family, was grown specifically for making brooms. Its stalk was used for the handle, and its tassel bound with wire for sweeping.

Ann the Broom Maker demonstrates how to use a kicker winder to add the "hips" to the broom to make it wider. A broom vice is used to hold the broom while twine or thread is interwoven to hold the broom together. It takes about 45 minutes to make a broom from start to finish.

In the nineteenth century, brooms were very expensive and considered a luxury item only owned by the very wealthy.

Organic Gardener

The residents of Furnace Town had garden plots, called kitchen gardens. Many varieties of herbs and vegetables were grown. Herbs, such as basil, dill, parsley, garlic, bee balm, fennel, mints, rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, tansy, lavender, chamomile, rue, lemon balm, pennyroyal and marjoram, were used not only to flavor food, but also for medicinal purposes. Vegetables, likewise, had a dual purpose, being used to eat and also as dye material for fabrics and wool.

In order to more effectively interpret nineteenth-century life, it was decided to develop nineteenth-century Kitchen and Perennial gardens. In addition, it was decided to use plants appropriate to the early nineteenth century as living fence/screen on several areas of the property. Currently, only plants which could have been grown on the site during its years of operation are selected, based on information in Ann Leighten's American Gardens of the Nineteenth Century.

Spinner

The act of spinning stretches and twists fibers of wool, cotton, or flax in such a way that they cannot come apart.  Early spinners used just their hands to meld the fibers together. Soon the first simple machine for spinning evolved: the drop spindle. This allowed for betting spinning, but the work was tedious and still required a lot of time. The invention of the spinning wheel in medieval times changed that. The wheel made spinning a lot faster. It still needed a lot of coordination, but the quality improved.

Most of the wool used came from sheep, although any animal with hair can also be used for wool. Usually in the spring, the sheep were sheared. The wool was then washed and carded to be prepared for spinning. The spinster kept the spinning wheel steadily moving with her foot and held the wool tightly between her fingers to twist the wool evenly. 

The wool became yarn. Using a "lazy cate," a spinner could ply two skeins (a measurement of yarn) of yarn together to make a stronger fiber. The fiber the spinner spun could be made into various and assorted fiber wares such as clothes, shawls, mittens and gloves, scarfs and hats. In addition, the spinner often used dyes, from natural plants, flowers, and berries and other fruits, to color the wool to make more beautiful garments.

Keep a Steady Pace

Spinners had to keep a steady rhythm as they worked on wheels in order to ensure that the yarn was even. Oftentimes they sang songs to keep the repetitive motion at a steady pace. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is a simple example. Another one that has become popular over the years is the nursery rhyme "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" (originally sung to protest the high taxes on wool in 13th Century England.) Spinners have also often made up songs for whatever task was at hand, like measuring how much yarn is in a skein. A good example of this is used with a...

NIDDY NODDY

Niddy Noddy, Niddy Noddy

Two heads, one body

'Tis one, 'Taint one,

Twill be one, bye and bye

'Tis two, 'Taint two,

Twill be two, bye and bye

And so on until all the yarn is wound on a niddy noddy.

Weaver

Weaving meshed together threads that run in two different directions, and was done on homemade "hand looms". Without a loom, settlers could not weave cloth for making clothes, sheets or blankets. The weaver threw a shuttle, which carried the crosswise thread (weft) back and forth between the lengthwise threads (warp), then used the beater to push the crosswise thread against the already-woven material to form a flat, smooth piece of cloth. As well as weaving cloth, settlers used their looms to weave rag rugs. Some settlers brought their rags to the weaver, who wove them into rugs for a fee.

Most people today associate weaving with women and believe it has always been that way. It would surprise many to learn that weaving is traditionally a man's job, especially in countries like Germany, where a lot of cotton was grown. It wasn't until the introduction of more mechanized methods of weaving, around 1870, that women really started to enter the workforce. By then, women could be easily taught how to use the machines and places like Lowell, Massachusetts experienced a boom. To this day, men still weave among Native American tribes, such as the Navajo, and some of the best weavers in the world are men.

Woodworker

As wood was the main raw material available to early communities, the talents of the woodworkers were heavily relied upon.

Carpenters made and repaired items from wood. They built houses and made furniture, such as tables, chairs, and cabinets.

Coopers made casks, or wooden containers, used for most storage needs. The cooper bound planks called staves together with wooden or metal hoops. He heated the barrel over a small stove to make the staves bend more easily.

Wheelwrights made wheels, and wainwrights made wagons. These artisans were in great demand as wagons were needed for travel and for transporting goods. Both wagons and wheels were mostly wood and needed constant repairs because the roads were bumpy and rough.