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.

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