Working with tinplate that is both relatively light-weight and flexible at room temperature, the tinsmith uses hand tools and special machines to fabricate a wide variety of objects for household use. He uses some of the same skills to roof buildings with tin.
VILLAGE BUILDINGS
Blacksmith's Workshop
Blacksmith's Workshop

 
Church
Church

 
General Store
General Store

 
Weaver's Home
Weaver's Home

 
Shoemaker's Workshop
Shoemaker's Workshop


Post Office
Post Office

 
Tinsmith's Workshop
Tinsmith's Workshop

 
Farmhouse
Farmhouse

 
Joiner's Workshop
Joiner's Workshop

 
Schoolhouse
Schoolhouse

 
IN THE TINSMITH'S WORKSHOP

The tinsmith purchases his tinplate from the local general store or directly from importers in Montréal or Québec City. The plate itself is manufactured in Great Britain and consists of iron rolled into thin sheets and then coated with tin. Since the tin does not rust, it acts as a protective covering. Owing to the flexibility of the tinplate, it does not need to be heated to be worked. It can be cut with heavy shears and then be shaped and folded with hammers, mallets and even the hands over small anvils.

The fabrication of tinplate objects underwent a major transformation in the first quarter of the 19th century. At that time, two American inventors devised hand-powered machines that simplified certain tasks and allowed for much faster production. These machines became available in Canada from the 1830s and, with later improvements, dominate production into the early 20th century. An investment in these machines soon repays the initial costs. For example, a village tinsmith can quickly turn out a pail: the circular shears cut out a pail bottom, the beading machine grooves the side walls to give them strength, the turning machine rolls the rims of the metal outwards in order to receive a wire that will further strengthen the pail and give it shape, and the wiring machine inserts the wire and then presses the metal over it. To complete the pail, the tinsmith seals the joints with solder (a mixture of tin and lead that is heated until it is liquid) and attaches a wire handle.

    Date created: May 13, 2008 | Last updated: June 30, 2010