Blacksmithing Tools and Equipment
|Except in times of emergency, or in the case of widows, work on the
homestead tended to be divided according to sex. Most women had so
much to do, that it is doubtful that many of them aspired to do men's work,
too, although women on the frontier often found themselves doing
whatever job came to hand.
Agricultural Tools and Equipment
Blacksmithing, or working with iron, was a professional
trade, yet some farmers aspired to learn this art. The tools
involved were the anvil, a forge for heating the metal, a
bellows for blowing air to fan the flames, and various
hammers and nippers for shaping the soft metal.
Professional blacksmiths often made horseshoes and
ox-shoes, and shod draft-animals.
The plow is the basic tool for field
work, breaking up the land to prepare
it for planting. There are/were many
different types of plows used for
This simple walk-behind plow was very
common. Larger plows enabled the
farmer to ride.
Field work was incredibly hard and
often dangerous, as the implements
were extremely heavy. If the horses or
mules spooked, falling under the
machinery could be deadly.
The most basic tool was the plow
(above), that broke up the land after it
had been cleared of trees, stumps and
rocks. Plowing "new ground" was
extremely hard work for both man and
beast; heavy oxen were preferred for
For regular plowing, boys were often
sent out with a team of well-broke
mules or horses.
A cultivator like this one broke up a
field into finer bits of dirt.
Before the threshing machine was
commonplace, men used flails such
as this one to beat the grain from the
A scythe (left) was used for reaping
A grain cradle (right) was a scythe
with wooden teeth.
The grain had to be cut when it was
dry, then tied into bundles called
shocks. Later it could be threshed (the
wheat-berries separated from the
stalks.) The stalks could be used for
making hats or for animal bedding.
Cutting Hay or Grain
|An Early Threshing Machine
Men's work on the farm revolved around providing the basic necessities of life that his wife would then
process or refine. The man cut wood or gathered stones and provided a home, a barn for the animals and
fences to keep them confined. He plowed the fields to grow vegetables, grain, and cash-crops. He grafted
and pruned trees in the orchard for fruit, and he repaired broken tools and equipment. He cared for the
animals that provided the family with food, and he ensured that the family had a source of clean drinking water.
1. Logging & Acquiring Timber & Fire Wood
The earliest settler used an ax to fell trees to clear the fields. Some he used for building, and other logs he
simply burned. If time permitted, he would hew (flatten) the logs for his cabin with a broadax or adze,
(foot-adze) so that they would fit more closely together. He also hewed beams for his barn and other
2. Carpentry: Building Houses, Barns, Fences, Furniture, Mills and anything else
3. Simple Repair of Tools, Harness and Machinery
4. Digging Wells
5. Cultivation of Fields, Orchards & Crops: Manuring, Plowing, Cultivating (Harrowing), Planting, Weeding,
Making Hay for Fodder
Cultivating Cash-Crops: cotton, sugar cane, rice, tobacco,
Cultivating, Harvesting, Threshing & Winnowing Grain
6. Providing Wild Game
7. Animal Care & Training
8. Legal & Financial Matters, Civic Duties While the wife often kept accounts, the man was usually in
charge of financial and legal duties. He often took charge of the sale of cash crops. Men also sat on juries
and took more of a role in politics.
9. Protection In a world without 911 and a police force, a man might be called upon to physically protect his
family from wild animals, robbers, or other hostiles.
A man might also be in charge of smoking meat, tanning leather, making sugar or syrup, trapping animals for
skins, and building a number of helpful and labor-saving devices on the farm.
Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin removed the
seeds from the cotton quickly and easily,
thus making cotton a profitable crop.
Fabric mills in the North and in Europe
depended on a supply of inexpensive
cotton for fabrics.
While a few farmers owned their own gins,
many farmers hauled their cotton to a
huge community gin for processing.
Reaping with a sickle, also called a
grass-hook. The sickle cuts a smaller
path than the scythe.
A froe is a type of wedge used for
splitting wood. It was often used to make
wooden shingles or shakes. The
workman hit the top of the metal blade
with a mallet, driving the wedge into the
wood deep enough to make a spit.
A broadax head, used for hewing
timbers. Broadaxe blades were
sharpened only on one side.
Below: A cotton scale (hanging in
front) with weight (sometimes called a
pea or a poise) to hang on the end
opposite the bag of cotton being
Behind this are two adze-heads and a
broadax-head in the middle.