National Dog Day; Dog Powered Blacksmithing

Posted by Shelby Barnhart on

In today's standard, a shop dog is just a dog hanging around the workshop, much like our two black labs. But throughout history and the modern day, dogs have had jobs and a purpose more than just companionship.


Typical "Dog jobs" that come to mind with little thought are therapy dogs, sled dogs, fire dogs, police dogs, and bomb dogs.


Dogs were also a tiny piece in the craft that is blacksmithing; before propane forges, blacksmiths used coal-fired forges to heat the metal. They grew the fire hotter and hotter using bellows (pictured below).

Blacksmith Bellows

Some bellows were pulled on by the blacksmith using a cord and handle or lever system. However, another method was a dog-powered bellows where a dog would power a wheel that would pump the bellows and feed the fire.

1763 ink, wash, and chalk illustration from Jean-Michel Moreau le jeune called “The Nail Makers.”

Check out this video from the 1930s in Belgium of the dogs at work in the blacksmith shop, and they look right at home (minute 4:10)

https://youtu.be/3WNvWmQ_ldE

 

Below are our two senior shop dogs, frequently requesting snacks and naps.

Maverick (left), Bear (right)

Shop dog maverickShop dog bear



Research credit: Joshua A. Klein, editor-in-chief of Mortise&Tenon.