Blacksmiths Return to Rices Landing Foundry for ‘Hammer-In’
Annual Hammer-In set Saturday at Rices Landing
Washington PA Observer-Reporter
12 April 2016
By C.R. Nelson
RICES LANDING – Metal leaves, hooks, spoons, knives and crosses –
each one as unique as a fingerprint when forged in fire – are just
some of the items blacksmiths will create Saturday at the 31st
annual Hammer-In at the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop and
Foundry in Rices Landing.
Hammer-In – a sure harbinger of spring in Greene County – has
become something of a pilgrimage for those who love old machines
and those who enjoy watching blacksmiths at work.
The event is held at the historic machine shop on Water Street
that once repaired riverboats, fixed coal mining equipment and
even made a mouse trap or two.
The Young family business opened in 1900, and its tools, equipment
and machinery, some dating to the 1870s, offer a rare glimpse of
this region’s industrial past.
When the doors closed in 1966, everything was left behind, making
its bevy of artifacts one of the few intact collections of its
Last Sunday, Tim Schiffbauer brought his hammer down and the
sparks flew as he got the foundry’s old forge ready for the
upcoming show. As other volunteers oiled old machinery, cataloged
inventory and stopped to watch him work, the metal he was heating
and hammering turned into a leaf with neatly notched veins.
After plunging it into a bucket of river water, Schiffbauer swiped
it with a wire brush and held it up for inspection.
“No one makes the same pattern,” he said. “Every piece that is
forged is like your handwriting. Give it a try; I’ll show you.”
Members of Pittsburgh Area Artist Blacksmith Association and
Appalachian Blacksmiths Association of West Virginia are the fiery
heart of this old machine shop, but it took a community of
dedicated tinkerers to recognize its worth and preserve it.
When the late George Kelly, owner of Point Auto in Waynesburg,
discovered the old building and its treasure trove of tools in the
1980s, he was on the board of Greene County Historical Society and
in a position to “do something about it,” volunteer curator George
“Bly” Blystone remembered.
“He invited me down and asked me if I wanted to help him get some
of the machines running.” said Blystone, who has been making the
machines run ever since.
The historical society acquired the property in 1985 and by the
next year had it open to the public. Blacksmiths began coming to
the forge and the spring Hammer In became a free for all event, a
real magnet for those who try their hand at hammering for the
first time and end up becoming blacksmiths themselves.
Rivers of Steel, a nonprofit formed to preserve the industrial
history in river towns along the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio
rivers, acquired rights to the machine shop in 2011 and began the
larger projects of a new roof and foundation stabilization. The
shop is open for tours every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. when
Blystone and his volunteers are there doing their continuing
restoration work with Rivers of Steel interns like Heather Adams,
who is cataloging inventory for the organization this year.
“When I got here I didn’t know what a drill press or a planer
was,” Adams said last Sunday as she finished up a day of
documenting tools and stopped to watch Schiffbauer make his leaf.
“Now I want to try doing this. It really looks like fun.”
Nearly all of the shop’s 25 machines are back in action, thanks to
mechanically minded volunteers. Some of these machines are used by
other restoration groups machine parts for their own collections.
On Saturday the shop’s restored metal planer will be shaving off
slivers of metal grates that were just cast at the Kerry Furnace
in Homestead. They are designed for the firebox of a 23-inch gauge
steam locomotive built in 1937 to move ingot trains for J&L
Steel. This piece of living history will soon be up and running
again at the Youngstown Steel Heritage Center in Youngstown, Ohio.
Blacksmith demonstrations on Saturday are ongoing from 9 a.m., and
there will be afternoon auctions of tools, anvils, books and hand
forged objects d’art to raise money for the continuing
Rices Landing is on a section of the Rails to Trails that begins
at Greene Cove Marina near Fredricktown. A landing dock in town
gives boaters a place to tie off and walk to the old foundry on
Water Street. For more information about the event, call Blystone