The last iron-hammer-mill in the Spessart forest

( Living history between forge and water-wheel )

Eisenhammer If you wander (the German words "wander" is meaning a faster pace than strolling and less intense effort than hiking; it is more for serious pleasure) from the village of Hasloch into the Spessart, then soon you will hear the metallic knocking of the iron-hammer-mill.  It is the last iron-hammer-mill in the Spessart that still operates today as a »hydro-power station« with its hardware dating back to the time it was originally built in the year 1779.  This hammer-mill is the beginning of the iron factory Kurtz in Hasloch am Main.   It owes its success to the abundance of trees found in the nearby forests and the waterpower supplied by the Haselbach (hazel creek), which originates in the Spessart at the village of Rohrbrunn.  This area formerly belonged to the Electors of Mainz, who had planned some sort of industrializing of the remote areas of the Spessart and the Odenwald. Initially, they developed the glassworks that required an immense quantity of timber and charcoal to operate.  The massive consumption of wood depleted the forests very quickly and caused the glassworks to go out of business.  The ruling landowners now established the hammer-mills that mushroomed at each suitable watercourse (brooks and creeks).  (Additional water-mills also could be found in Wintersbach, Lichtenau, Waldaschaff and Laufach.)

The foundation day of the Hasloch "iron-hammer-mill" is March 24, 1779.  On this day, the three earls of Loewenstein-Wertheim signed an inheritance document to guarantee continuity for the brothers Tobias and Johann Heinrich Wenzel from Neulautern for the building of an iron-hammer-mill.

The building for housing the iron-hammer-mill was constructed about 3 km north of the village Hasloch on the Haselbach; about a hundred meters further uphill a sluice way was dug in which the water was to be stored and funneled to the water-wheel.  At the end of the factory building are the »overshot water wheels«, which drive the iron-hammers.  Originally four iron-hammers were operated, of which two are still preserved: an up-throw-hammer and a so-called tail-hammer.

When the smith pulled the "sluice gate" by means of an iron-rod, a slide-valve opened in the water building which allowed the water to fall freely into the buckets and the water-wheel turned on the drive shaft (an oak trunk of approx. 9 m of length and 80-90 cm of diameter).  At the other end of the drive shaft, inside of the hammer-mill building the water wheel turned and then the rotation transferred the power generated into the lifting of the hammer-handle which by its own weight of 170 kg dropped down onto the anvil shaping the red-hot iron.   This process repeated itself by each contact with a cam.  The smith can readily adjust the rate of the successive hammer blows by regulating the flow of the quantity of water.  When he closes the sluice gate, the operation will terminate.  The up-thrower-hammer has been in operation for 200 years and is still working today with all the original mechanisms.

Aufwerferhammer Under this up-thrower-hammer in former times the so-called balls were out-forged. This were iron lumps of approximately 150 pound, which were melted from scrap-irons in a puddel-oven with charcoal. From the out-forged ball-iron were made agricultural commodities: carriage hoops, carriage axles, wheel shoes, plowshares, lifting-irons and other forgings.
The up-thrower-hammer (Aufwerferhammer) is already in operation for 200 years.

Schwanzhammer The smaller hammer is called "tail-hammer" because the cams press the tail of the hammer-shaft, and as a result, cause the lifting of the hammer.  This smaller hammer also has a cast-iron ring with 15 cams on the drive shaft, which cause a much faster impact sequence of the hammer.  The hammer-head (135 kg) is lighter than the large up-thrower-hammer.  This hammer was used to forge about 40,000 to 50,000 plowshares annually. Here the smith sits on a hanging, portable stool making his work substantially easier.

The pieces of iron are heated up in the opposite furnaces until white-hot.  The required high degree of heat is produced with the help achieved of a blower; that is also operated by waterpower.  The mechanism is more than 100 years old.  Two more hammers ran in former times at a common main shaft.  Here they forged hoes and picks, which were sharpened and polished in the neighboring Barthels mill.  In the earlier years the above-mentioned self-melted puddel-iron was processed.  When the blast furnaces appeared, bar iron or wrought iron and billet-iron were procured.

The accommodations for the hammer-smiths were above the hammer factory.  In the heyday of the iron- hammer-mills industry 16 hammer-smiths were kept busy in shift work.  Under their leather-loincloth they wore only a light shirt, on their feet wooden clogs and on their head a large floppy hat.

The iron-hammer-mills in the Odenwald and Spessart slowly were silenced one after another in the 19th Century due to outside influence.  In essence, they had to yield more modern production methods and technical advances and consequently were displaced by the new blast furnaces of the Ruhr district.

More than 100 years ago the ancestors of the Kurtz family added with prudent foresight an iron foundry and an engine factory and thereby broadened the operations for a better survival of the factory.   Six generations of the Kurtz family kept the factory going.  For economic reasons they contemplated closing down the iron-hammer-mill.

But for reasons of tradition the firm Philip Kurtz dropped the plans and continues to keep the Hasloch iron-hammer-mills operational.  However, only one hammer smith is still active.  The only products that were still produced were bell-clappers for church-bells, which are supplied to bell foundries domestically and abroad.   Now, they expanded the product range for the manufacture of wrought iron art objects and restoration work.

So, Armin Hock, an longtime smith, was offered a lease and started to manage and operate the iron-hammer-mill on May 1, 1991.  Because of his longtime association with the Kutz family, Armin Hock set out with utmost dedication to operate and maintain the last hammer smithy in the tradition of his predecessor for as many years as possible.

Do you want to experience how bell clappers become forged?
Then it is worth a visit !

Monday - Friday 9:00 - 15.00 o'clock
Saturday from 9:00 - 13.00 o'clock
or appointments by telephone.
Groups by arrangement / accord!
Phone 0049 9392 18 52
Fax 0049 9392 93 51 12

See Youtoube-Video: The iron-hammer-mill in Hasloch - a living industry monument

Welcome in the beautiful Hasloch-valley

Yours Armin Hock, blacksmith in the iron-hammer-mill

handr.gif      The historical water-driven iron-hammer-mill of the year 1779