Irish Folklore - Tinsmithing (Part 2), Mayo Abbey in Co. Mayo

How they made the objects and sold them

From new sheets of tin or empty biscuit containers from the shops, the tinker could make a wide variety of articles including cups, kettles, milk pails, lanterns, and buckets. Local hardware stores sometimes placed orders but most items were hawked door-to-door.

Among the specialised equipment made and repaired by tinkers were the various parts needed for poteen stills. The following are the tools the Tinsmith used in making the various items and utensils.

Anvil or Stake

A T-shaped Iron Anvil which measures 25" across #across and 17"long. One arm is rectangular and is open from top to bottom by a rectangular hole. The other arm is convex on top, concave below and tapers towards the end-there are three grooves in the middle.

Hand Stake

Is Iron and measures 3"long, five eights thick and 2½"in width. It is held with one hand inside a vessel as a support while the vessel is being beaten on the outside with a hammer

Marking Stick

Is a strip of galvanized Iron about 20″ long which is slightly bent, both ends are fishtailed, each side has a number of steps along each side, each marking indicates and measures the depth or width of an object (pot or saucepan)

Clips

Used for cutting the tin and turning in the edge, its factory made, about 10"in length.

Compass

Consists of two curved steel members hinged together with a Rivet, each piece measures 7¼"

Hammer

Relatively small chisel-peined hammer, the head is about 4"long and the handle about 7½"long.

Mallet

The head measures about 4"x 3"thick, the handle about 7"long.

Scrutcher

For flattening light tin, it's a length of wood about 15½"long, 1½wide and ¾" thick-one end is pared down and rounded to form a handle.

Nail Tool

Used for making rivets. It's a flat iron bar 6 ¾long, 1" wide and ¼ thick, pierced by three circular holes.

Awl

About 7" in length.

File

The blade of a file is about 10" long including tang.

Soldering Board

About 15" in length With the exception of the Anvil, the tools with a supply of Rosin Solder and Rivets were carried in the case. It measures about 14"high,18"long and 4¾ high. The upper half of one of its broad sides is open to allow access to the inside. The carry on strap is made of leather. These cases were sometimes elaborately decorated with patterns of Brass Studs.

Case Soldering Board The Tinsmith brought his tools and supply of tin from his Caravan, he would choose a suitable grassy spot at the side of the road, the other members of the group in the encampment would light a fire with turf and sticks they'd collect from nearby and the Tinsmith would put his soldering iron in this fire to heat

See also Tinsmithing (Part 1) and Tinsmithing (Part 3)