Heavy Metal, Men and Their Machines, Black Smith Round Up!
Most of us are acquainted with the television version of a blacksmith: an anonymous figure, busy shoeing horses for the good guys and the bad guys. The truth is, before almost anything we understand today as modern technology, there were blacksmiths. Blacksmiths were the men who forged the Iron Age. Mastering fire, water, air and stone, ancient blacksmiths developed a deep understanding of metalworking. Part artist, part chemist, blacksmiths take years to learn their skills. Without the blacksmiths’ intelligence, ingenuity and ability to pass their skills along to the next generation, we would, literally, all be living in the Stone Age.
It’s just that kind of intelligence and ingenuity that Chester Grady possessed. Born and bred in Belfast, Maine, Chester passed away in 2008 at age 100. Before he died, he did a whole lot of living and some of it has come to life again at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum’s Grady Machine Shop exhibit. The museum provides a living history format, a form of education that re-enacts history through hands on experiences at the museum’s growing campus of meticulously recreated exhibits in Bradley.
Chester would be proud.
You see, Chet, as his friends called him, liked to set goals and attain them. Graduating from high school in Belfast during the Great Depression, Chet worked cutting wood, driving trucks, taking any available job, and earned the money himself to go to college. He learned welding and machine work at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, a complement to the blacksmithing skills he learned from his father. He returned to Belfast where he set about his next goal, to open a machine shop. The Grady Machine Shop, established in 1941, was known for artisanship and loyal support of the Belfast community. In 2009, shortly after Chester’s death, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum acquired a portion of the original Grady Machine Shop. The folks at the museum have a few goals of their own, which include the collecting, preserving and sharing with the public, information and artifacts related to Maine’s rich forest and logging history.
Powered by the intelligence and ingenuity of countless volunteers, the museum’s centerpiece exhibit, Leonard’s Mills, is set is off the grid providing museum visitors with the sights, sounds and experiences of Maine’s early logging industry. Lately, those sounds have included some heavy metal coming from the Grady Machine Shop exhibit located adjacent to the 1800’s mill complex. Professor Herb Crosby and about 40 seniors from UMO’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program’s Capstone project decided they also needed a goal. Enter the Lombard Log hauler. What comes next is a 19 ton, steam powered, log hauling tribute to Yankee Ingenuity.
The Lombard log haulers were first built in Waterville by Alvin Lombard, in the early 1900’s. Part locomotive, part tank, the Lombards were the first successful tracked vehicles, doing the work of fifty horses. The ingenious track design led the way to the development of the snowmobile, the tank and other equipment that require mobility over rough, uncertain terrain. Today, only a few of these old giants exist. Luckily for us in Maine, two Lombards are together at the Forest and Logging Museum. Both are on exhibit. One of them is coming to life on Saturday afternoon, August 16, having been restored thanks to volunteers and over 100 donors of materials and expertise. It was no easy task, you see, Lombard parts are not available at Walmart.
Which brings us back to Chester Grady’s Machine Shop and how this writer gained a greater knowledge of the integral relationship between blacksmiths and industry. Because before Walmart, before ‘Made in China’, before machines, before machines that made machines, things were made by blacksmiths. The word “smith” which today translates as ‘maker’ comes from the Old English “to smite” as a blacksmith does with his hammer. Blacksmiths are the original makers; it is not an exaggeration or extravagant use of language to say blacksmiths forged the Iron Age, blacksmiths stoked the Industrial Revolution. It’s nearly mind bending to imagine, but without blacksmiths we would still be living in a world made of wood and stone; there would be no Industrial Revolution, no planes, no trains nor automobiles. We might all be tempted to consider blacksmithing a fad, since so many things are these days, but I challenge you to eat your next meal and consider what it would be like without the benefit of metal utensils.
If you would like to gain a greater knowledge of blacksmithing, then mark Saturday, August 16th on your calendar when the Maine Forest and Logging Museum brings Heavy Metal to Bradley with Men and Their Machines and the Blacksmith Round-up. Try your hand at forging, help dedicate Chester’s Machine Shop exhibit, see the Lombard Log Hauler in all its noisy, steam powered glory. You will learn more about the intelligence and ingenuity of Maine’s logging men and women in one afternoon than you would ever have imagined.
For more information about Saturday August 16th’s Heavy Metal, Men and Their Machines and the Blacksmith Round-up visit the Maine Forest and Logging Museum’s Facebook page. The Maine Forest and Logging Museum is located just off Route 178 in Bradley Maine. The event is free for museum members or just $10 for adults and $5 for kids over 13. Don’t believe me? Just call them at 207-974-6278 or visit them online at www.LeonardsMills.com or http://on.fb.me/XeeJKO
Want to learn more before you go? Check out the UMO website for the Lombard Capstone project at http://umaine.edu/met/capstone-projects/2014-lombard-steam-log-hauler-restoration/.
Want to participate in the conversation year round? Use #HeavyMetalMaine on Facebook or Twitter. If the museum likes your comment, you could win free passes to Heavy Metal, Men and Their Machines on August 16th!
This story was submitted by Karen E. Robertson. Karen is the Chief Executive Officer in charge of storytelling at Plan_it Marketing.