Some thirty-five years ago while living on the old family ranch on Liebre Mountain I acquired a hand crank Buffalo forge which faithfully served us for several years. I used it to fabricate crude gate hinges, forming horseshoes and other various sundry jobs that required red hot metal for bending, punching or crude Borax welding. It wasn’t long however, until I was able to upgrade the ranch shop with both gas and arc welders, causing the old Buffalo forge to become another nostalgic fixture on the place until it eventually seized with rust and became completely nonfunctional.
When our family moved to Idaho in 1989 the old forge somehow survived the moving sale and was loaded on the trailer along with the anvil, harness sets, a horse drawn buggy, a 1951 Dodge ranch pickup and dozens of other ranch treasures I couldn’t see my way to part with. In Idaho we moved five times before we finally settled here on our Timber Butte homestead. Every move we made during those years gave occasion for yet another garage sale and miraculously the old forge made the cut every time.
The Buffalo Forge Company was founded in Buffalo New York in 1877 and stayed in business building portable forge blowers well into the 20thcentury. They were a simple invention that
served ranchers and farmers for over fifty years. Even today people are searching for used parts on the internet in attempts to keep the old machines functional. My forge had stayed pretty much in one piece through all of the moves and abuse it had received except for a crank shaft and handle breaking off after a muscled attempt to break the rusted gearbox loose a few years before. In our last move I had parked it with the broken down 51 Dodge pickup in a storage shed believing that one day I would pull it out and restore it back to use. That day finally came last week.
I’m not sure why, but as I was thinking of how to spend my day off (another snowy winter day) when the old broken down forge came to mind. It was then that I decided the time had finally come to pull it out of its twenty-five years of non-functionality and tear into it. It wasn’t easy, but after using a can or two of WD40 I managed to loosen the old original square nuts and bolts and free the inner gears and shafts. I took it apart piece by piece until it was spread across my work bench from one end to the other. I welded a new crank shaft to reattach the broken crank handle (which was one of the few parts not made of cast iron). I wire brushed every part lubricating and reassembling them back into their proper place. I closed the pot metal casing and reassembled the blower mechanism to the legs and fire pan (years before the fire pan had been replaced with a steel farming disc). After a few minor adjustments to the fan that was rubbing against its housing the blower freely spun blowing a gale force of air into the fire pan. With the assistance of my daughter-in-law Andrea we fired up some charcoal only to discover that the one hundred year old Buffalo forge worked as well or maybe even better than when I had first used it thirty five years before.