Childhood Memories Forged in Flinton

Glenn Davison

[This article ran in the April/May 2016 issue of The SCOOP.]

I spent a lot of time with my grandfather Jack Davison at his garage in Flinton when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. My grandfather owned the blacksmith shop, which had been Alexander York’s garage and a blacksmith shop too. He worked as a blacksmith and mechanic, and I have fond memories of helping him in his shop. I would stand on a wooden box and crank the hand-crank forge. He would heat up the steel, and then he would use a hammer, the forge, and an anvil. He made horseshoes, his own nails, and many of the tools that he actually used. He showed me how to temper metal out of forged steel and how to weld before they had mig, tig, acetylene, stick welders and everything else. If you look very closely at an old wagon wheel today, you might see how it was welded by a blacksmith.

It seems hard to imagine how blacksmiths long ago were actually able to weld without all of today’s fancy technology and tools, but really, it was quite simple. My grandfather would take a piece of steel, put it in the coal-heated forge, crank it, and when the steel came out, it would be white-hot, not red-hot, white-hot with sparks flying off it. Then he would hammer that piece until it was pencil thin, take the other piece and do the same, sprinkle white boroxide powder on them, put the pieces back again on the anvil and pound them — and they would never come apart.

My grandfather’s anvil weighed about a hundred and fifty pounds and was made by a company in Toronto that made anvils and forges that matched. Every part of an anvil has a purpose and my grandfather taught me what they are and showed me how to use them. The base of the anvil is totally different from its other parts. It’s the hardest part, and the end of the anvil is called the horn. That’s where he shaped all the horseshoes, rings, whipple trees and whatnot for horses. Then there is what you call the cutting table. The cutting table drops down from the face and is a little bit softer, and that’s where he would cut metal. All the hammering was done on the face, which is the hardest part of the anvil. There are two holes in an anvil. One hole is square and is called the Hardy hole. He would heat a little square piece until it was red-hot, white-hot, put it on the Hardy hole, hit it with a hammer, cut it, and it would make a perfect cut. The other hole is called the pintel hole and is used for bending steel.

My father Earl joined my grandfather when he was old enough to go to the garage. My grandfather taught him how to forge steel, in other words, how to temper and harden it. All the steel that drilled the rock cut going off Highway 41 onto Highway 7 at Kaladar was forged and hardened by my father for hand drilling. There's a special way to do it. He would put coal in a great big pot until it got red-hot. This steel had a hollow centre so that the chipped stone would come up the hollow centre. He would sharpen the steel and temper it, and in tempering it showed all different colours. He taught me, so I can temper metal too. He would then pound and twist, pound and twist, and finally drill the holes for the dynamite that blew out the rock cut near where Arnold York’s store used to be, years and years ago.