PART 1   |  PART 2   |   PART 3   |   PART 4   |   PART 5   |   PART 6   |   PART 7
Paul Lacy returns to Cedar Lakes to rebuild the shop's 50 lb. Little Giant power hammer that he helped install in 1980.


The Story of the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association

By Paul Lacy

Part 6: The Cedar Lakes Shop Power Hammer

The 50 Lb. Little Giant power hammer at Cedar Lakes was put into operation prior to Jim Wallace's workshop in 1980. The workshop participants produced the entrance hall table that now stands in the Cedar Lakes cafeteria lobby.

John Cornish and I were thrilled to see that Tim Pyles (Cedar Lakes Craft Coordinator) had arranged for the hammer's purchase in 1979 along with the principal contents of an entire blacksmith shop. The forging equipment owned by Cedar Lakes was minimal until that time. John and I had attended Francis Whitaker's workshop at Cedar Lakes during the summer of 1979 and we were thrilled to see the Little Giant there, laying on it's side, in all of its grease and soot-dripping glory.

We promptly appointed ourselves its guardians and, following the workshop, set about the task of cleaning (transferring the dirt from the hammer to us) and disassembling the badly rusted and broken foot pedal assembly. I took the pivot home and made a new one on the lathe. The next time we got together, John and I forged a new treadle band-the original was to far gone to save.

We had a windfall the preceding summer in the form of a U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers encampment a Cedar Lakes in search of worthy projects. They provided the labor to cut through the relatively thin concrete of the Cedar Lakes shop floor and then excavated a hole for approximately one cubic yard of concrete to be poured as a flush foundation. Appropriate mounting bolts were set in the concrete pour and the hammer was secured. A piece of rubber conveyor belting between the base and the foundation serves as a cushion.

We were delighted to find the hammer in this upright and bolted-down condition when, as a group of volunteers, a half-dozen ABA members met as a three-day advance party prior to the Jim Wallace workshop.

We knew that Jim Wallace's workshop would be "Big" and that a special group project was to take place, which would utilize the new hammer to construct the elements of the project.

The volunteer party was also charged with a diverse set of tasks that involved making and setting up extra forge stations, mounting anvils and post vises and constructing tool tables, mounting boards, and a welding station, and generally fine tuning what had previously been a VoAg welding building into a blacksmith shop. Tim Pyles had decided the blacksmith craft was a "GO" for the Cedar Lakes Craft Center program and had the maintenance staff install the hoods from the old dining hall in the building as smoke catchers.

Tim had also followed the shopping list I had given him to the letter; he had obtained the necessary steel to hang a small line shaft and the new single phase motor, and of course the necessary pulleys, belts and bearings, along with appropriate switch gear for the Little Giant's motor.

Glenn Horr assisted me ably in hanging the steel, it having been decided that the existing steel in the shop was sturdy enough to support the drive. The hammer was a center clutch model and was intended for overhead drive. Because the clutch bearing was just starting to get a trifle loose, all involved agreed that the overhead drive would provide the least damaging side load on the bearings.

I had just purchased a portable DC welder the previous year, which greatly facilitated the out of position arc welding we had to do to fabricate the drive.

Since the work of driving the hammer was performed without drawings, a small XY table was used to put keyways in the driveshaft at the right place with an end mill. We used the drill press in the Cedar Lakes woodshop.

Glenn and I accomplished this, using the old Jim Wallace adage, " It is usually easier to beg forgiveness than to seek permission."

At some point, we decided that a more fair appropriation of assets would be for one of the two woodshop drill presses to be located permanently within the blacksmith shop. Since we had sullied one of the presses with metal shavings, that one became the donor drill press.

Throughout the bulk of the pre-workshop session following Jim's arrival, he assumed the role of Chief Pusher and Whip Cracker and opined that if we didn't get a move on, the workshop would be upon us, with the hammer not running and disaster would follow.

This being 1980, I had not had the benefit of watching American Chopper, or American Hotrod, to get a mindset for the deadline thing and as for metal working being fun. But I'm happy to report that when the hammer was needed, it was started without problems and performed the tasks asked of it throughout the week.

I recall in addition to the previously mentioned, that Boyd Holtan, Pete Minier, Terry Arlett, Jay Hurley, and Frank Bordo all contributed to the pre-workshop fixup. I have probably run the risk of creating a life enemy by omitting someone, but these are the names of those that were of greatest personal help to me at that event. I could claim omission due to senility, this being the year that I officially enter old fartdom, but I'm sure Boyd will clear up the record and you can save my face by editing away the errors in this last paragraph.

Thanks, Paul Lacy

Editor's note: Boyd Holtan wrote "The ABA members who contributed to the work session were: Frank Bordo, Robert Dennis, Boyd Holtan, Glenn Horr, Jay Hurley, Paul Lacy, Pete Minier, George Nichols, Bob Selvaggio, Ed Small, and John Schlessinger." in part three of "Rekindling the Fires".