If you’ve been here before, you may have picked up that I love woodworking and old woodworking tools. I inherited a gene that appreciates doing things with your hands- fixing things and making things. Years ago I discovered that there are still some pretty cool old tools out there available for a good price, particularly if you didn’t mind doing some de-rusting and adjusting to get them back in working order. Later I joined a group of like-minded people known as the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association. Yes, this isn’t the mid-west, but an older group merged to make a larger stronger group some years ago. Anyway, we have meetings several times a year in the Carolinas and Virginia. Last Saturday we met in Bethania, NC, just north of Winston-Salem to look at tools, buy old tools and talk old tools. Since Bethania was established in the mid-1700s, that seems to be a good place to talk about old things.
We always have a speaker that brings interesting information to the group, and this year, we enjoyed listening to Master Tinsmith Peter Blum, III whose family has been in the tinsmithing business for three generations. Mr. Blum the III has been working with tin and other sheet metals (copper, galvanized, etc.) since he was 15 years old. He took time out to get an engineering degree at NC State and work in industry for quite a few years, but eventually came back to the work that he loves- tinsmithing. He regularly does work to order including some for Old Salem (his father was tinsmith in residence at Old Salem for 22 years), and does many demonstrations including 20 years at the NC State Fair. He’s even made tinware for movies like The Last of the Mohicans and The Patriot. Needless to say, he knows what he’s talking about. His program included showing examples of his work and many of the tools of the trade. At one time, tinsmithing provided many of the containers used by households and many businesses. Like many crafts, its designs included both practical and decorative elements that even today can delight the holder.
Mr. Blum’s work shares with woodworking a joy of taking a simple raw material and turning it into things of utility and beauty using mainly one’s mind, hands and hand tools to make the transformation. If you’ve never done anything like this, you’ve missed what I think is one of the greatest satisfying feelings we can enjoy- being able to say, “I made that.”
Here are a few photos from the day.