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                  Thus At The Flaming Forge Of Life
                            Our Fortunes Must Be Wrought

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Blacksmiths may not have signed their creations like some other artisans, but their work and their lives left indelible marks on 300 years of our family's history...

                     In Remembrance of 6 Generations of Wallner Blacksmiths,
              And all the Generations of Blacksmiths in their Wives' Families.

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   The Smithy of Josef4 Wallner
                        Pastetten Bavaria
                          Built circa 1875?
        Or many years earlier if this is the same smithy
        used by Lorenz Brunner before Josef's marriage
          to his daughter Elisabeth.   Photo taken 1962

             Johann Maurer, the blacksmith in photo,    
             purchased the Wallner  property in 1905.

The early ironsmith or blacksmith was a master craftsman, an artist, an engineer and an inventor. He took shapeless lumps of iron and created virtually every metal object a village would need. He was indispensable to the people of the town because his craft was absolutely vital to their survival.

For a household, smiths crafted pot hooks, locks, utensils, plates, cups, fireplace backs, handirons, dippers, skewers, knives, trivets, kettles, pots and candleholders. For a farmer the smiths made hoes, hammers, axes, saws, tongs, hinges, and nails. His talents were required by other craftsmen, he supplied the metal tires for the wheelwright, all the metal objects used by saddlers, wagonmakers, planters and millers. If any metal object broke, it was taken to the smith for repair. And if a blacksmith did not have the right tool to do a job, he invented one! Designed and built from scratch, these tools had no names, and were never duplicated later in mass production.


The smith who made, fitted, and nailed shoes to horses, oxen, and mules was called a Farrier. The shoes were custom fit to the horse and each of it's hoofs. Each shoe differed in shape, size and weight, and also on the type of horse and the condition of the surface.

A blacksmith shaped his creations of iron by heating the metal and then bending and pounding it to shape it. Forging was the series of steps which were executed in a certain order, interrupted long enough to place the iron into the fire and bring it to forging heat.

The blacksmith's forge was a square brick hearth raised 2-1/2 feet off the ground, with a bellows at the side or back which forced air into the fire. Above the hearth was a hood which carried smoke and fumes away, and close by there was always one or more tubs of water to quench the hot iron. The fire was small and concentrated, only a few inches across at the center. Around the fire, the smith placed unburned fuel which he added to the fire when needed. Using his tools of slice (a long-handled shovel), fire hook (long-handled rake) and by sprinkling water around the fire, the smith controlled the size and depth of the fire. The bellows were used to regulate the intensity.

The surface upon which the smithy worked is an anvil, which was a piece of cast or wrought iron which weighed up to 300 pounds. The anvil's upper surface (face) was flat, smooth and hard. One end was horn shaped and was used to work rounded or curved pieces such as links, rings or shackles. The area between the face and horn was called the table, and it was used to place work cut with a cold chisel. The other end of the anvil was called the heel. The heel had two holes, the pritchel hole was round and the hardie hole was square. When punching through metal, the work was placed over the hole.

The blacksmith probably had more tools than any other craftsman. The smithy's shop was filled with a variety of tongs, vises, hammers, punches, cutting sets and chisels which he used in his work. The tongs were used to hold the hot metal, and included link, hollow bit, anvil, hoop and horsehoes tongs. The hammers were a large variety of different sizes and weights, a sledge could weigh as much as 12 pounds. He used scroll starters, scroll forks, twisting bars, top swags, heading stools, button head set, upsetting plates, set hammer, ball peens, cross peens, and straight peens. The blacksmith also had cutting tools called hot sets. After an iron was heated to a red-hot pliable condition, it then could be cut easily. A good blow on the head of the hot set would drive it through a 1/2 inch piece of iron. A smithy never discarded an old tool because he could make a new one out of two old ones. And for every short-handled tool, he had a corresponding long-handled counterpart.

Each of a blacksmith's jobs required the iron to be a particular temperature or heat, which was revealed by the color of the metal. Blood-red heat was used when the surface of iron was to be smoothed, but not reshaped. White heat was used when the work was to be hammered into a different shape and welding heat, or sparkling heat, was used in welding.

In welding two pieces of iron were joined together by heating them and firmly placing them face to face. The weld types were corner, split, T, jump, clift, split, lap, faggot and butt. Drawing was the thinning and lengthening a piece of metal by heating and hammering it. In making nails the first step was to draw the iron down: making the large dimension of a piece of iron smaller.Nail heads were formed using a skill that was the opposite of drawing, called upsetting. Upsetting thickened or bulged the iron.

Annealing softens the metal by heating it to blood-red and then cooling it slowly, so it can be worked by cutting tools. Tempering is the opposite of annealing because toughens the iron.

Axes, plows, hoes and other tools had wooden handles and wrought-iron heads and a strip of metal welded on to make the cutting edge. The process for replacing the strip when it was worn was called laying.(The Blacksmith, Nancy Hendrickson, History Magazine, April/May 2000)

In Bavaria, at the time the earlier generations of Wallner Master Blacksmiths were practicing their trade, the Guild (an association of merchants or craftsmen, much like the trade unions of today) was still powerful in the German work field. To have the right to operate his own business, a man had to become a member of the Guild and had to meet not only technical qualifications, but moral qualifications as well. He had to be of legimate birth, attend church regularly, and enjoy a good reputation. The Guild permitted its members to work only at a particular trade, in a particular place, and made sure that a newcomer in town became a citizen before he joined the Guild. By the 15th century guilds had been organized in Germany for all trades, including Ironsmiths or Blacksmiths, and flourished for centuries. In many larger towns the Guild became a political power.

There were three stages of progression in a craft: apprentice, journeyman and master. As an apprentice, a young man learned the basics of a craft under the tutelage of a master. Upon achieving a certain level of proficiency, the apprentice became a journeyman, or a "Wandergeselle" and travelled for three years offering his services to master craftsmen and laypeople. Afterwards, the craftsman settled in a community to set up shop and became a "master".

In some areas the Guild exercised so much control over their members that they could dictate the area in which a member lived, and even who they married (preferably the daughter of another guild member!). Whether it was the influence of the Guild, or simply a matter of practicality, each and every generation of our Wallner line were Master Blacksmiths - who all married the daughters of Master Blacksmiths from another town - and took over their father in laws' business there.    

    The Wallners weren't the only blacksmiths in the family:
               Photos of Philip Koehler's Blacksmith Shop               
     On Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, New York

We learned the poem, and then promptly forgot it. Most of us recognize at least the first few lines of Longfellow's famous ode to the Blacksmith from our school days. The poem becomes more personal, and takes on a whole new meaning, when generation after generation of these village smithys are your roots.

                                      THE VILLAGE BLACKSMITH
   By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn to night
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his haul, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.

Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.