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I have a huge blacksmith billows I picked up last year at an estate sale - they had been a coffee table...

I am looking to repair them and get them useable as my main air source in the new shop. Any helpful info any of you have would be great!

What is the best and most cost effective material to skin them with?

how to seal the working joints?

how to hang them and the mechanism to get them to work?


any info or links or where to look would be great

july 2012 030.jpg

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Good work rescuing those from a lifetime of lame books and spilled drinks! I'm sorry I can't be of too much help with the repair. A friend of mine restored some and used very thin leather, is that canvas?

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That was a heck of a coffee table!

I have a [much] smaller pair of bellows, skinned with what appears to be a very fine, thinner than furniture grade leather. I can't tell for sure, but I think it is goat. There isn't any adhesive holding them on, just tacks, although a resin of sorts would do well to seal the few leaks they have. The hide is folded once so the edge is inside the bellows and stretched tightly over the wood frame. For the joints, there are a few more layers of the skin, but nothing more. They overlap with the wood near the throat quite a bit though. Hope this helps, although I'm not sure how applicable it would be on that scale!



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Study the above picture.


The center section is fixed fast to your uprights. At rest the bottom chamber will be filled with air. The rope or chain from the lever is attached to the end of the bottom panel (I see yours has a nice iron loop for that purpose). When the lever is pulled down, the air from the bottom is pushed through the valves in the middle panel into the top chamber. When the lever is released, the middle valves close and the weight of the top panel forces the air through the nozzle. This is the beauty of the double-lung bellows; the air flow is always positive... it never pulls air back into the nozzel unless it is used incorrectly.


To re-skin your bellows, leather is traditionally used... something thin and pliable. We have used pig suede or splits. If aesthetics and period correctness are not a concern, any kind of pliable fake leather will work. Canvas is good, but remember that untreated cotton canvas is going to be extremely flammable.


Also, your valves will need to be in good working order. There should be one or two in the bottom panel as well as the middle panel. The top, of course, is solid. They need to move freely and seal well. Felt or leather gaskets can make a good seal.






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