............THE FOREST






“The Blacksmith Shop”

I 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 hardness.
....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,

Bill Moore