Tin Cans

Most of us have done the experiment of putting a nail in water or vinegar. We saw that at the Jefferson place, Isaac Granger was already making nails back there. Why was the nail forge in a separate building from the iron forge? Over with the tin smith.

This was a tough one, but in the end, I think it was to coat the nails. Iron, we know, rusts pretty quickly if it gets wet, and this rusting requires oxygen. A tin coating on the iron will help to prevent rust of the iron.  Tin, like silver, will also eventually tarnish with oxygen, requiring a polish to remain shiny.

Tin, although noted since the bronze age, was pretty rare, but there were significant deposits in England, Northern France, and Spain – all active colonizers of America. The colonizers and colonists were probably looking for tin, but in any event, they were importing it while they looked. The Jefferson estate probably got their ideas about working with tin from Williamsburg, where there was another tin forge.

So, I had an opportunity to volunteer at the Little Bennett park Cultural Resources Stewardship tin smithing booth.


It was one of a few set up with dog rescue, and other environmental booths on a Saturday at the park.

The kids would come by the booth, pick out a pattern,


and diligently pursue nailing their patterns into a sheet of metal, while we talked about the little school house on the property, and how everyone had to sit in one room for all grades, and no one really had to go.  The school house was built before the turn of the 19th century, and there is one woman who was a student there who attends the annual reenactments of the school.

A 3rd grader came by. I pulled out the 6th primer from the one-room school house kind of wondering about relative levels. My thought was that kids were getting smarter with time as educational methods improved, and attendance became more consistent. He read the words, but struggled with their abstract meaning. It was a poem, along the lines of:

“As I wander past the paintings of memory’s hall,
The forest’s winding trails is the image I like best of all.”

Ok.  In all fairness, he was probably still working on what would become his first painting…

The boy scouts came by, and as we talked about their Eagle Scout projects, we tried to figure out if the metal sheet could be used to start a fire.  It would require something to make the electrons move (sun, heat, friction), and maybe some kind of gradient or difference in metals to give the electrons a direction…

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