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Part 1 of a Series

by Dagonell Collingwood 

The Buffalo Maritime Center (https://buffalomaritimecenter.org/) is building a replica of a sloop from the War of 1812 that they’re calling the USS Trippe.  They’ve asked the Niagara Region chapter of the New York State Designer Blacksmiths (https://nysdb.org/) to do a lot of the metal work.

Hinge prototype. All photos courtesy of Dagonell.

We started the new year by fabricating hinges for the hatch covers over the main hold.  The BMC had given us a prototype made from plastic. Note that both hinge plates have their knuckles curling clockwise around the pin so that the sections of the plate closest to the pin will be in contact when the hatch is closed.

Their version had three and two knuckles around the pin.  We decided to go with a simpler strap hinge and a two-knuckle hinge plate instead. There was going to be a lot of trial and error involved with most of these projects.


First, we had to get the coal forges started. Fresh coal has a lot of impurities which need to be burned off before we can use it. In the photo below, the yellow smoke is the impurities being driven off by the heat. The flames eventually come through, but there’s still smoke from impurities. The second photo below is a clean burn with no impurities.

Freshly started fire.


A senior blacksmith cuts bar stock for hinge plates. The BMC asked us to ‘make them look handmade,’ so we cut without measuring which varied the width of the strap hinge by as much as a half inch from largest to smallest and we left hammer marks in the final product instead of flattening them out. Forgemaster Tim holds a hinge plate in a clamp prior to heating.  The clamp allows for the hinge to be more easily manipulated. An early version is in his left hand along with an uncut plate. Rolling the knuckle on a strap hinge. Using a drift to shape the inside of the knuckle for the pin. There are two ways to insert a drift.  The first method is to roll the knuckle tight and then hammer the drift into it to open it up.  The second method is to almost close the knuckle, trap the drift and then hammer the knuckle closed. We found the second method easier. The drift is pointed for easier removal. By quenching the back end of the hinge in ice water, you drive the heat towards the knuckle which makes it more malleable.  We had to break the ice in the bucket with a hammer. A finished strap hinge with a knuckle.  Note that the tip was beveled to an edge before rolling it over to form a better inner circle without the edge cutting into the metal plate. Starting to shape a knuckle on the hinge plate.  Notice that there’s a slight upward bulge to the knuckle. As the knuckle is hammered on the outside, it will only flatten instead of denting inward. Forming the curl of the knuckle. Tightening the curl. Further tightening the curl. Comparing a strap hinge and a half-finished  hinge plate to make sure they fit together.


Starting my strap hinge.  The edge has been beveled and I’m curling it over to form the knuckle. The drift was in use forming someone else’s hinge, so I used the actual pin. I had trouble getting it back out! 😀 Not tight enough and teardrop shaped instead of circle shaped.  I had to open it back up and try again.  Comparing my hinge to first hinge.  It needs to be a smaller diameter. Success!  We used a cold chisel to push the beveled edge further in.  Non-blacksmiths would recognize the chisel as an old railroad spike. 😀


A wooden deadeye with shackle.  Making shackles for the deadeyes was the first project our chapter tackled last fall. [2005] A wooden deadeye with steel shackle, u-clamp and temporary nuts and bolts in place of permanent pins.  A pin through the U-clamp is how it will be fastened to the side of the ship.


Making pegs for the deadeye brackets. Driving the pin into the mold to form the shaft. By hammering down on the end, you force the end to mushroom out so the shaft can go through but not the head. This is called ‘upsetting’. Removing a finished peg from the mold. A deadeye with a pin through its U-plate. Side view of the pin through the U-plate.


A decorative finial with its blueprint.  In addition to the practical ironwork, we’re also making decorative pieces for the ship.  Starting a decorative finial. Shaping the neck of the finial. Centering the diamond shaped head on the neck of the finial. Forgemaster Tim examining the finial after the first heat. Tightening and curving the neck on the finial. More work on the neck of the finial. Forgemaster Tim with a finished finial. A completed finial resting against an anvil. Drafts for a finial and a deadeye bracket.