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Blacksmith bellows

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 6:22 pm
by Nemeton John
Hi all
Has anyone some designs for blacksmith bellows around 14/15c.
I have been speaking to Dave Greenhaigh and he drew his that he said is early medieval. His description is good but I was wondering if anyone has more precise plans and materials. Time was somewhat limited so I didn’t ask enough questions (thanks Dave)
Attached is the design I think he was referring to.
Thanks in anticipation.

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 8:00 pm
by guthrie
I've never seen pictures of bellows like that before. My period is circa 1300 to 1500, and what I have seen in manuscript illustrations and books is starting backwards:
By the mid 1500's double action bellows were becoming quite common, but even so were not that common, and are right on the edge of permissability for late 15th century. Before that, single action bellows worked in pairs were very common, operating with a lever or foot treadle pushing down one set, causing the other set (with weights on it) to rise, and then when the lever is released, the bellows with weights on sink back down. Thus a continous blast is maintained. I have seen what are often crude illustrations,back into the 14th century.

Interestingly enough, there are also pictures of bellows in Goldsmitths workshops, which are vertical bellows. They are shaped like the normal kind you expect, but are set verticallyly into a table next to the fireplace, obviously with a pipe going through. These can be seen in a German woodcut from 1479 and a Tuscan illustration from the second half of the 14th century.

Theophilus, writing in the early 12th century, in Germany, has instructions for making bag bellows out of a rams skin.
So at some time during the 11/ 1200s the kind of bellows we know of as bellows came into being, the question is when and where?

Also by the 16th century there also existed some horizontal bellows that were worked by pushing back and forth, they were shaped like concertinas, and look really simple to make.

I have seen people using the kind of small hand bellow whereby you have two blocks of wood, joined by leather, with a hole in the top piece of wood with a leather strap for your hand over it. You expand the bellows by lifting upwards, the hole open, then pump by pushing downwards, hand over the hole. What evidence there is for these I do not know.

Posted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 8:42 pm
by guthrie
Holkham picture bible, around 1325: ... e2163.html

Blacksmith, circa 1326:

Farrier, Mendel Hausbuch, 1426:

All taken from Karen Larsdatters page on blacksmitsh aprons:

Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 10:36 am
by guthrie
As for actual designs, "De re metalllica" by Georgious agricola has pictures and instructions for making great bellows. Ok, they are 6 feet long, but you can adapt them. Failing that I am sure that any textbook on traditional blacksmithing will have something on bellows and how to make them.