Brigus forge makes metal gear

Lo­cal his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety re­opens prop­erty with first black­smith in 41 years

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

When John Pinkston of Brigus was young, he would smell a fa­mil­iar odor com­ing from his grand­fa­ther’s black­smith forge.

The build­ing that housed the forge was built in 1889, and John’s grand­fa­ther, John Charles Pinkston, looked af­ter it un­til his death in 1947, at which point his sons Robert and Dou­glas ( fa­ther of John Pinkston) took over the forge. Dou­glas Pinkston con­tin­ued us­ing it un­til he re­tired in 1976. It hasn’t been used ever since. That is, un­til now.

“I was out here yes­ter­day and they had the fire go­ing and the wind was in, and I could smell the fire,” John Pinkston told The Com­pass last Thurs­day, tak­ing John Pinkston’s dad, the late Dou­glas Pinkston, was the last black­smith to use Pinkston’s Forge in 1976. John says the smell com­ing from the forge to­day brings back a lot of mem­o­ries. a break from paint­ing a fence on a sunny day. “Brought back a lot of mem­o­ries, be­cause as a boy, we used to live in this house right here, so I’d al­ways be pump­ing the bel­lows for dad, es­pe­cially on Satur­days and stuff.”

“We want to do that by giv­ing peo­ple some­thing from our past. There aren’t too many black­smiths around now.”

— David Collins

A few years ago, John Pinkston do­nated Pinkston’s Forge to the Brigus His­tor­i­cal and Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety. To­wards the end of 2014, the so­ci­ety ar­ranged to move the forge from Pinkston’s prop­erty to land lo­cated next to the John N. Lea­mon Mu­seum (also known as Ye Old Stone Barn).

Now, with sup­port from the At­lantic Canada Op­por­tu­ni­ties Agency, the Depart­ment of Tourism, Cul­ture, In­dus­try and In­no­va­tion and the Rad­clif­fle Foun­da­tion, the so­ci­ety has a trained black­smith work­ing un­til the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber.

“The main thrust of what we’re try­ing to do is im­prove the visi­tor ex­pe­ri­ence to our town,” David Collins, past-pres­i­dent of the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety, told The Com­pass. “We want to do that by giv­ing peo­ple some­thing from our past. There aren’t too many black­smiths around now. There are a few, but there aren’t too many, and there aren’t too many forges around.”

Ac­cord­ing to Collins, Pinkston’s Forge is one of only two op­er­at­ing in the province, with the other lo­cated in Trin­ity.

“We’re quite proud to of­fer this work­ing forge to the pub­lic and have a first-hand view of a black­smith — John Bun­gay — hand forg­ing items that we in­tend to of­fer for sale to the pub­lic as well.”

The prop­erty it­self un­der­went ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tions. The forge’s chim­ney was re­built and a new dou­ble-ac­tion bel­lows (the de­vice that pumps air into the chim­ney) and win­dows were in­stalled, and the an­nex where the bel­lows is set up had to be re­built as well.

“We took pic­tures, cat­a­logued ev­ery­thing be­fore we moved, and then we put ev­ery­thing back in the orig­i­nal po­si­tion based on all the pic­tures that we had be­fore we moved it,” said Collins.

For Bun­gay, a na­tive of Val­ley­field, work­ing at the forge amounts to a dream of sorts.

While liv­ing in On­tario a few years ago, he took a course on ba­sic tool mak­ing from a mas­ter black­smith. Upon his re­turn to New­found­land, Bun­gay set up his own hobby forge. He was in­ter­ested in find­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship, and re­search lead him to the Pinkston’s Forge.

To get him pre­pared for the job, the his­tor­i­cal so­ci­ety en­rolled him in an in­ten­sive black­smith pro­gram at Flem­ing Col­lege in Hal­ibur­ton, Ont.

“I came straight out of that into here,” he told The Com­pass while ham­mer­ing away at steel later formed into a hook. “Ev­ery­thing kind of lined up per­fectly.”

So far, he’s crafted ta­ble stands, axe blades, hooks and even en­gage­ment rings for his fi­ancée and him­self. This sum­mer he’ll be mak­ing triv­ets, bot­tle open­ers, coast­ers, wall hang­ers, can­dle­hold­ers, fire pok­ers, shov­els and what­ever else peo­ple might have in mind. Bun­gay would also love to get into his­tor­i­cal re­pro­duc­tion work.

“It’s only limited by the imag­i­na­tion and the tools and tech­niques you have avail­able,” he said.

Bun­gay will have a sum­mer stu­dent work­ing with him as an as­sis­tant. While Bun­gay’s con­tract con­cludes Oct. 15, there’s a chance Bun­gay could con­tinue work­ing at the site be­yond that date if there’s a de­mand for prod­uct.


Pinkston’s Forge black­smith John Bun­gay con­sid­ers his new gig to be a dream job.

Pinkston’s Forge is lo­cated next to the John N. Lea­mon Mu­seum in Brigus.

An ex­am­ple of John Bun­gay’s hand­i­wock at Pinkston’s Forge.


The new dou­ble-ac­tion bel­lows that pumps air into the chim­ney.

John Bun­gay pumps the bel­lows to in­crease the heat in the forge.

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