Not for KOOKS Only

A mix of hearth, and home forge

| May 2005

I was marveling over Dave and Janet Tempest's wonderful display of more than 150 apple peelers and more than 50 sets of egg scales at last summer's Rushville (Ind.) Pioneer Engineers show, when Dave asked if I had ever seen a raisin seeder. I didn't want to admit that I had never even heard of a raisin seeder! Dave, who lives at Scipio, Ind., has a large collection of these early wonders. Most are rare, unusual and, because of their scarcity, quite pricey. They're less rare, perhaps, to KOOKS: Kollectors of Old Kitchen Stuff.

I got a closer look at raisin seeders (and a lot more!) when I visited the Jennings County Historical Society's North American House Museum at Vernon, Ind. Dave and Janet Tempest are strong supporters of the historical society, and many of the couple's collectibles are displayed at the museum.

The collection there is so vast that at first I was overwhelmed by the quantity of items. Dave helped me get my focus back by showing me his collection of blacksmith-made, wrought iron items. "If a blacksmith made it, and it is original," he says, "I am attracted to it. I like things that are very old and unusual."

His criteria of "very old and unusual" is an understatement. His collection includes a wrought iron mole trap, sawtooth and chain fireplace trammels (used to raise and lower cooking pots in the old walk-in fire-places), clay pipe drier, pot pusher, crown hooks (to use in hanging meat), a kettle tipper (to trip the pot hanging in the fireplace), fat lamps, coffee grinders, tobacco cutters, sugar cutters, game roaster, waffle irons, tin kitchen (a set of skewers used to cook meat, rotisserie-style, in a fireplace) and a gate lock dating to the early 1700s.

Among Dave's favorite pieces is an 1890 double two-quart butter churn made by a blacksmith for his wife. The churn actually hammered down on the floor with every revolution of the handle. "What a peaceful gift for a blacksmith's wife," Dave says with a smile.

Early blacksmiths apparently tried their hand at almost anything. "Years ago, in rural areas, when you couldn't afford to buy something, you'd go to the blacksmith," Dave explains. "You'd tell him what you wanted, and he'd make it, and it would cost less than buying it at a store." Pride played into it as well. "Back then, a lot of it was art," he adds. "Part of being a good blacksmith was that you wanted people to talk about your work, how good it was."