t was down at the far end of the float camp and it was just a ship-
lap shack – sooty, filled with chunks of iron and run by a chap
that no one gave any lip to. This was the blacksmith shop and the gentleman
in question was the black-smith.
....Today the name conjures up some-thing
out of the past – “the smith, a mighty man is he, with strong
and sinewy hands.” Well, let me tell you, he was strong and he
did have strong hands and I believe they must have been a mixture of
skin and asbestos. The blacksmiths I knew could handle a hot piece of
iron that would make others holler.
....The shop was the hub of the old time
camps, for here was made the heavy shackles, the chokers, the marlin
spikes and all sorts and kinds of logging rigging. With a hot forge
and a good anvil as his main tools, the blacksmith could transform a
straight piece of two-inch iron into just about anything a logger needed
out in the woods.
....I understand there is still the odd
blacksmith shop in some logging camps, but I’m sure they are few
and far between. The trade is nearly a lost art, for as the older blacksmiths
fade away there is little call for a young fellow to learn the trade.
....But in the thirties when steam was
having its last great decade and logging machinery was uncomplicated
by hydraulics, automatic gears and computers yet to come, the role of
the mechanic was far less than it is today. Then the blacksmith made
up most of
the heavy duty rigging we
would later come to buy from manufacturers.
....My father had a chap named Frank work
for him from time to time. Frank was Yugoslavian and an expert black-smith.
He would come out to camp in January and stay until he ran out of iron.
Frank had to have a helper in the shop, for his day was full speed and
the hammer and forge and anvil never stopped. His helper would be a healthy
young lad who could direct a hammer at a piece of red hot iron without
missing – God help him if he did.
....The iron was big, with round iron (in
diameter up to four inches) being hammered into huge, heavy skyline shackles.
These great U-shaped shackles could weigh up to 60 pounds. Watching them
form from a straight piece of round iron would make you hold your breath.
....Frank could make beautiful steel marlin
spikes for splicing cable and would temper them with oils to get the correct
....My father would buy a goodly supply of
iron when Frank came to camp. That and lots of sacks of blacksmith coal
plus a helper, and old Frank was away. He would make his own tongs to
work with and great iron tree plates for the tops of wooden spar trees.
He would heat up a strand of cable in the forge and make beautiful strong
screwdrivers from it.
....Gradually, after possibly two months
of Frank’s work, his iron supply would be down and the fruits of
his labours would be neatly stacked up awaiting use in the woods. At this
time Frank would quit as there was not
enough work for him. Unless he had eight hours of heavy work in front
of him Frank was simply not interested in putting in time waiting for
something to fix.
....Nobody bothered the blacksmith –
he was generally a serious man intent on his trade, most often found
standing in the midst of a smoke filled, sooty room, hitting while the
iron was hot. The rhythmic sounds of a blacksmith hammer, working on
a piece of iron and skipping a beat now and then to hit the anvil, was
a true logging camp piece of music.
....Most of the great blacksmiths of those
days had come over from parts of Europe and spent years at their apprenticeship.
They adapted well here in the logging camps and their skills were certainly
needed, par-ticularly on the coast of B.C. in the big timber.
....The blacksmith played his part in the
development of the forest around us, but gave way to the modernization
of the industry. Our forest industry was simpler then, not complicated
with giant mega-monsters that need a man from the institute of science
to solve the million dollar breakdowns.
....No, friend, I’ll take the blacksmith
in his smoky, sooty blacksmith shop – with hammer in hand as he
beats out the Anvil Chorus – That’s loggin’.
Do it right
Keep out of the bight,