Antique Fire Pot Restoration by Tim LeMien

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Tim LemeirThe fire pot was donated to Joe Rolfe and his Starr Homeplace Pandemonia Foundation by D’everaux Coleman. The Foundation promotes the arts and old time crafts at his folk village in Oak Ridge, La.

Fire pot before the restoration

I saw the old fire pot just outside the blacksmith shop laying along side the scrap metal. It seemed to me to be begging to be brought back to life. I asked Joe for permission to try and do just that.

Timber supports in place

I wanted to make it portable (Ha! It weighs aprox. 150 lbs). I eventually decided to put it in an old steel drum that I found in a briar patch. I used four pieces of landscape timber as support in the drum. The edges were already rounded to the contour of the inside of the drum. I hewed them halfway down to a smaller dimension for the ash bucket to fit, and also a little at the top to allow for the contour of the fire pot. I then cut a piece of plywood with a tapered hole to fit. I also used the cut off drum lid to sheath the wood. As an extra precaution, I cut out a disk blade for additional support and as a heat shield.

Success! Norton patent found.

The old fire pot was missing its ash dump. It wasn’t readily apparent to me how it worked. While searching the archives, a Southern Hardware Co. catalog of about 1910 showed that the heart of the old fire pot was a Norton’s patent.

Buggy spring modifications

The patent showed the ash dump as being slide-mounted on a spring. I reformed an old buggy spring, and used an old partially-threaded pipe hanger rod salvaged from the restoration of old Biloxi City Hall circa 1910. I cut the sides to fit the air pipe, clinker breaker, ash slide and bottom clean-out door. I used muffler pipe fittings to couple it to a champion pedestal blower.

Fire pot assembled

The rebuild was completed just in time to take it to Joe’s hammer-in, dedicated to the memory of D’everaux Coleman who had donated a good part of himself to the Starr Homeplace before his untimely death. The forge was honestly a bit hard to load and unload out of the back of my pickup truck. Once set up, it worked beautifully.

Forge completed

We used the forge for two days. All that time, it made no clincker — all the more impressive considering that we had only dirty Power Co. coal. I think the thickness of the fire pot (3 in) kept the slag cool enough that it didn’t clump together. It just ran out like BBs. The fire heated the iron very well.

Tom Walker in action

We made chain, small demo items and a leaf decoration to join with other blacksmith’s efforts to adorn a garden bench that Tom Walker made, to present to Belinda Coleman, D’everaux’s wife. It was a pleasure to at least share in a small way in their efforts.

The following slideshow illustrates the restoration process. Mouse over the slideshow to display controls to pause or manually sequence through the slideshow. To restart the slideshow from the beginning, click your browser’s Page Reload button.


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