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Try trying to figure out the age of a old coal forge blower

jeffb85

Plastic
Joined
Apr 21, 2024
Location
Crandall, GA, United States
Wanting to clean up my grandfather's old blower and was just curious if anyone knew the age of it. Forgot to take a picture before I started taking it apart.But here are a few pictures. Any help would be.
Greatly appreciated! Yall have a good one
 

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I have a reprint of the Champion Blower & Forge catalog from 1909. The blower pictured does not appear in the Champion catalog reprint. Champion made three (3) lines of hand-cranked blowers: the 400 series, the Midway, and the Lancaster. The 400 series uses compound gearing and a 90 degree worm drive to the blower. This was their top of the line. The Midway used a combination of spur gears and a helical gearset for the final drive to the blower, bronze bushings used on the shaft journals. The Lancaster series was the economy model, spur gearing, no bronze bushings. Champion also offered a line of forges with blowers worked by pumping a wooden lever, and some forge blowers that used a large flywheel/pulley and open belt drive. The blower pictured here look like an economy type of blower. The exposed bull gear is something most blower designs avoided. The selling point was that the gearing and bearings were inside a closed case, so coal soot and cinders would not cause wear.

Seeing the square-head bolt, and the exposed bull gear, I would not be surprised if the blower predated 1909. Champion went through a number of blower designs before arriving at the 400, Midway & Lancaster series. Blowers were sold on pedestal bases, as pictured, as well as mounted on factory-made forge hearths.
The pedestal base mounted blowers were sold to people who wanted to build their own hearth or replace traditional bellows on an existing masonry hearth.

I use a Champion 400 series blower with 12" diameter fan on my own forge. This is a Champion riveted steel hearth with their "Whirlwind" firepot/tuyere. When Champion sold their blowers, at least in the 1909 catalog, they included a blast pipe and tuyere. The tuyere is a casting which was placed at the bottom of the forge hearth to blow draft air up into the fire and allow dumping ashes & clinkers. Some people got just the blower and used galvanized 'stove pipe' to connect the blower to their forge hearth. It looks like the OP had a tough time getting this blower apart. It is hard to date the OP's grandfather's blower. On the 400 series blowers, Champion cast the patent dates into the gearcases. They also stamped serial numbers on the 400 series gearcases. This blower has no visible patent dates, so is even more difficult to date. Add to the equation that fact that the OP's grandfather may not have been the original purchaser of this blower. It could have been bought used, maybe picked out of a junk pile prior to WWII scrap drives... it's anyone's guess.
 
I have a reprint of the Champion Blower & Forge catalog from 1909. The blower pictured does not appear in the Champion catalog reprint. Champion made three (3) lines of hand-cranked blowers: the 400 series, the Midway, and the Lancaster. The 400 series uses compound gearing and a 90 degree worm drive to the blower. This was their top of the line. The Midway used a combination of spur gears and a helical gearset for the final drive to the blower, bronze bushings used on the shaft journals. The Lancaster series was the economy model, spur gearing, no bronze bushings. Champion also offered a line of forges with blowers worked by pumping a wooden lever, and some forge blowers that used a large flywheel/pulley and open belt drive. The blower pictured here look like an economy type of blower. The exposed bull gear is something most blower designs avoided. The selling point was that the gearing and bearings were inside a closed case, so coal soot and cinders would not cause wear.

Seeing the square-head bolt, and the exposed bull gear, I would not be surprised if the blower predated 1909. Champion went through a number of blower designs before arriving at the 400, Midway & Lancaster series. Blowers were sold on pedestal bases, as pictured, as well as mounted on factory-made forge hearths.
The pedestal base mounted blowers were sold to people who wanted to build their own hearth or replace traditional bellows on an existing masonry hearth.

I use a Champion 400 series blower with 12" diameter fan on my own forge. This is a Champion riveted steel hearth with their "Whirlwind" firepot/tuyere. When Champion sold their blowers, at least in the 1909 catalog, they included a blast pipe and tuyere. The tuyere is a casting which was placed at the bottom of the forge hearth to blow draft air up into the fire and allow dumping ashes & clinkers. Some people got just the blower and used galvanized 'stove pipe' to connect the blower to their forge hearth. It looks like the OP had a tough time getting this blower apart. It is hard to date the OP's grandfather's blower. On the 400 series blowers, Champion cast the patent dates into the gearcases. They also stamped serial numbers on the 400 series gearcases. This blower has no visible patent dates, so is even more difficult to date. Add to the equation that fact that the OP's grandfather may not have been the original purchaser of this blower. It could have been bought used, maybe picked out of a junk pile prior to WWII scrap drives... it's anyone's guess.
Wow! Thank u so much for the info! One thing tho, the gears weren't exposed tho. I just had the top off of it
 
I would recommend not taking apart the gearbox. Clean & flush it by filling with solvent or diesel and then fill with oil. Only take it apart if it is really bad. I watch some blacksmithing forums and people have had problems during re assembly when they thought they were "helping" by taking it apart to clean. ;) I cant remember the details as to why.
When working good you should be able to give the crank a few good turns and it spins by itself for 2 or 3 or more revolutions of the handle.
 
I would recommend not taking apart the gearbox. Clean & flush it by filling with solvent or diesel and then fill with oil. Only take it apart if it is really bad. I watch some blacksmithing forums and people have had problems during re assembly when they thought they were "helping" by taking it apart to clean. ;) I cant remember the details as to why.
When working good you should be able to give the crank a few good turns and it spins by itself for 2 or 3 or more revolutions of the handle.
That's man! Yeah I've read a few ppl on other things saying the same. I'm just cleaning up what I can and leaving it alone. It was tight to begin with but after some oil it's pretty smooth turning now. Just really going for a cosmetic restoration. Don't plan on using it. Just want it to look nice. This is where I'm at so far
 

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What you have is the Lancaster blower. I have never seen a Lancaster blower apart, so the first photos were a bit confusing (call it a "senior moment"). Seeing the blower & gearcase assembled, the blower is the basic Lancaster blower on a pedestal mounting. As for dating, could be anywhere from maybe 1900 to maybe the 30's. This is just a guess on my part. All of the Champion hand-cranked blowers had wooden crank handles.

As for taking a forge blower apart and running into difficulties getting it back together: sometimes, if a person intends to use the blower, they have no choice. Been there, done that with a Buffalo Forge blower and a couple of Champion 400 series blowers. Worn parts and caked/congealed grease sometimes work together to allow a worn and hard used old blower to run. Get it apart and cleaned and it turns into more of a project. Burrs on the shaft with the crank handle (plowed up by the slipping of the crank hub and its 'dog point' setscrew), worn bushings and journals, and 'bicycle' type ball bearings with deep grooves worn into the cones are all things I've encountered. The Champion 400 series blower on my own forge sat in a collapsed junkyard shed for a few decades. Water got into the gearcase. The resulting corrosion had nearly stripped the multiple lead worm on the blower fan shaft. I was able to buy another Champion 400 blower with smashed gearcase and smashed fan case (collapsing barns and sheds + forge blowers was a common factor). I put two together to make one. Working with worn parts when playing mix-n-match is a bit of a challenge sometimes. Making a few parts is inevitable.

I had the Champion 400 blower on my forge (salvaged from that same junkyard where it sat outdoors, partially sunk into the ground) rebuilt and as a final touch, I painted it black. I highlighted the lettering in gold. Once the blower and forge went into regular use in my blacksmith shop, the blower leaked oil and attracted a coating of coal dust and soot. If it ever was a cleaned up blower with paint on it, you'd never know it under the grunge. I burn smithing coal in my forge, and pump a few shots of oil into the blower before each use and sometimes during longer times at the forge. The Champion 400 series blowers (and the rest of their line) never had oil seals on the gear cases. The 400 series blowers have the worm/fan shaft at the bottom of the gearcase. Originally, I believe Champion used a leather washer on the fan shaft as a kind of oil/dust seal. With all the oil I've pumped into the top (oil fitting) of the gearcase, plenty migrates out the bottom and into the fan case or onto the floor (compacted crushed stone/stone dust/cinder and clinker). I daresay the only time forge blowers ever looked as good as the OP's was when people like the OP restored and gave them the cosmetic 'works'. Even new blowers from the factory never looked so good. A quick coat of black paint (Japanning ?) was about it.

My 400 series blower was missing the bolt and crank handle. I made a crank handle out of round bar, turned with a shoulder for the wood handle to run against, and threaded in the lathe. Not having a chunk of hardwood nor wanting to do wood turning on an engine lathe, I took a chunk of cutoff sledge hammer handle and drilled it thru with a 1/2" aircraft length drill. Blacksmiths and mechanics often cut sledge handles a bit shorter. The cutoff pieces come in handy for shorter tool handles. I find the obround ('oval') cross section of the sledge handle is comfortable on the blower crank. My spare Champion 400 blower has a crank handle (as usual, when I got this blower, the crank bolt and handle were MIA) with a turned bolt and shop made handle. I used a chunk of scrap "Micarta" for that handle.

I like using a hand blower. I am not in business as a blacksmith and forge for fun as well as necessity when I need to make handrails, ornamental work, or tools. I also use my forge for hot bending jobs as it is way less costly and better heat than using a rosebud (oxyacetylene torch with heating tip). The sound of a geared hand cranked blower is nice (at least to my ears). A good use for a hand cranked blower, if not used on a forge, is to provide forced draft for a barbecue fire. A barbecue fired on hardwood or lump charcoal gets going and ready for grilling a whole lot quicker when blown with forced draft. Champion went so far as to offer a grill along the lines of a 'kettle' style barbecue with a Lancaster blower for draft. This was in the 1960's. Pardon the pun, but it was likely a last gasp on the part of Champion to keep the forge blower line alive a bit longer.
 
A side note on these handcrank blowers and sales after blacksmithing use was declining. An old brick building in a nearby town has an old blower mounted in it, this was originally a bank or some such use, NOT a blacksmith shop. It is piped into a collection of pipes and when I asked about it was told it was to provide fresh air in the event that everyone had to close all the doors and windows in case of a nuke attack (cold war stuff). I didnt see if there were still some sort of air filters in place.
 
At blacksmith events, there are often 'tailgate sales' of blacksmithing equipment & supplies. Every so often, a hand cranked blower painted yellow on a sheet steel base will appear. These are blowers that were made for use in fallout shelters during the Cold War era. The yellow color was from the "Civil Defense" agencies which provided the blowers. By the time these blowers make it to the blacksmith tailgate sales, there is no hint of whether any filters were used with them. On eBay, there are usually dual drive blowers. These are hand crank/electric motor. These blowers are sold by people in Ukraine and are Soviet era. I doubt if there was a widespread need for hand/electric drive forge blowers in the USSR. Chances are these were also fallout shelter ventilation blowers.

I am old enough to remember the signs posted on building walls indicating there were fallout shelters in the basements. Apartment and office buildings had these signs. Yellow background with the 'nuclear symbol' and the word "shelter". In the basements of these buildings, the Civil Defense agency stocked OD (olive drab) steel drums of survival supplies. Some drums held potable water, some held crackers and preserved foods. I have never seen what sort of filter was used with the blowers. Possibly, a HEPA type filter to screen out airborne particulates that would be radioactive.

I believe it was Buffalo Forge who furnished the fallout shelter blowers. These used stamped steel fan cases rather than cast iron, and used a lighter gearcase than the heavy cast iron used on the forge blowers. Otherwise, these were forge blowers in that they have the same fan runner (impeller) as the forge blowers.
 








 
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