Tools of the trade
Old-time craftsmanship on display at festival
When he was 12, Jim Neubauer saw a blacksmithing demonstration and immediately fell in love with the craft.
“The fire, dirt, noise, hammering metal – it’s taking a piece of metal that’s junk and turning it into something useful,” the Aston, Pa., resident explained.
Neubauer spent years learning the finer points of blacksmithing and now teaches them to others. On Sunday, he was at the Iron Hill Museum’s Archeology and Heritage Festival demonstrating his skills and, perhaps, inspiring someone else to take up blacksmithing.
“I hope people get a feel for the difference between something bought in a store and something handmade,” he said. “There’s a big difference between the two.”
Several hundred people attended Sunday’s festival, held on the grounds of the museum at 1355 Old Baltimore Pike. This year’s theme was “tools of the trade,” and the festival featured artisans from several disciplines showing off their skills and the tools they use.
All the demonstrations were focused on showing visitors how things were done hundreds of years ago by the people that shaped the Iron Hill area. Native Americans were first drawn to the land for its deposits of jasper, a stone used for making arrowheads and other tools. Later, roughly from 1700 to 1900, Welsh and Irish settlers mined the site for iron.
“We like to explain to people the significance of this area,” said Robin Broomall, a museum board member who helped organize the event. “Lots of people live here and have no idea of the history or why the dirt in their backyard is red – because of the iron ore.”
The featured craftsman was Mathew Grubel, who demonstrated how log cabins were made in the 1700s.
He first became interested in the subject while working at Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey, where George Washington and the Continental Army spent their second winter of the Revolutionary War. Through trial and error, the soldiers learned to build temporary log cabins to keep warm during the cold winter.
Using a variety of axes and other tools, Grubel measured and chopped logs as festivalgoers looked on.
“Lincoln Logs make it look simple, but it’s a little trickier,” he said.
Dressed in period garb, Bob Fullmer spent the afternoon demonstrating beermaking techniques from the colonial period.
“My passion is equipment and seeing how things changed,” Fullmer, of Media, Pa., said. “Brewing is the same as it was in 10,000 B.C., but our equipment has gotten better and more efficient.”
In the 1700s, beer was often more readily available than clean water, he noted. Beer also provided needed calories, and taverns were an important social gathering place.
“I want people to understand that brewing is important to American history,” Fullmer said. “We look at it as party time, but beer was the lifeblood of colonial America.”
Henry Ward, an arche- ologist who’s also a trained chef, wrote a cookbook inspired by Native American life. Using what he knows about the ingredients and cooking methods available at the time, he developed recipes that taste good.
“I can’t guarantee they put those spices together in the past, but there’s no reason they couldn’t have,” explained the Baltimore resident who does demonstrations as the TimeChef.
At the festival, he served visitors dishes like berry wojap, a sweet and tart blend of native berries; parched corn, which are crunchy fried corn kernels flavored with smoked salt; and Tochwaugh Tea, made of peppermint leaves, juniper berries, clover leaves and other herbs.
Sunday’s festival also gave visitors a chance to experience an archeological dig. In the woods, near where the remnants of the open-pit iron mines are still visible, archeologists allowed kids to dig for artifacts.
Nine-year-old Madeline Perry delighted in finding a small piece of stone.
“It felt exciting,” she said. “I found something that might be a part of history.”
Blacksmith Jim Neubauer demonstrates his craft Sunday at the Iron Hill Museum.