Sheffield grinders and grinding wheels

It is difficult today to comprehend just how vast the Sheffield metalworking industries were, but whenever I am in town I see the evidence everywhere.

Today I was collecting wood for a spoon carving course next week. Anderson Tree Care are cutting trees from the banks of all Sheffield’s rivers after the big floods in 2008. This is the worksite, trees are cut on the riverbank, winched 100 yards downstream by tractor then hoisted 100 feet into the air and dropped by the chipper with a big crane. I have a few seconds to spot the bits I want and cut them out before they disappear into the chipper. The cost of an operation like this prohibits any delay to save a spoon blank or two.

Anyway whilst I was waiting for the next tree to arrive I noticed the wall, not unlike many others built of local gritstone.

Looking from the other side though I noticed many of the coping stones were made from old grindstones.

 Where they appeared they were normally in groups of 4 showing that the stone had been rolled to the spot from a nearby mill then quartered.

 A friend lives in Hathersage next door to an old mill where they made needles, now you would not think that needles would wear out grindstones very fast, not like a scythe works say but this is their garden wall.

And a closer look at a few spares. Anyone who has done a serious amount of grinding will know that each of these stones has done many thousands of hours work. The fact that they are everywhere shows just how much a part of the fabric literally of the city grinders were.

Today there is as far as I know only one full time self employed grinder left in the city, a lovely bloke called Brian Alcock.

This is a short film Nicola made a couple of years ago when Brian was teaching our friend Grace how to grind pen knife blades with a suitably Sheffield soundtrack.

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5 Responses to Sheffield grinders and grinding wheels

  1. Tom September 22, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Robin,Lovely post, I always enjoy the pictures so much.This example of reuse is just one of thousands of examples that exist in the world. It was a better time back then in many respects, when the world wasn't viewed as one colossal trash can. It makes my heart glad to know that people like you and your wife, and many many others are doing their part to not let these skills fade into history. We need more people like the man in the video.Oh, and good work saving some wood from the chipper. From the very jaws of destruction something beautiful will be created.

  2. mike September 22, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Robin,Grindstones were put to use here in the US as Well http://www.workshopoftheworld.com/tacony/tacony_baptist.html will take you to a photo of a church built from grindstones from the Disston Saw works.Mike

  3. Le Loup September 23, 2010 at 12:11 am #

    Great, love it. Very interesting.Thank you.Regards.

  4. Tico September 23, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi Robin,Your posts are enjoyed by all the folks I forward them to. Very refreshing.Thanks,Tico

  5. Murphyfish September 24, 2010 at 11:58 am #

    Hello Robin,Interesting post highlighted by some great photos, thanks for sharing.Regards,John

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