Travel Bellows


Based on this woodcut dating from 1580 I have a good idea of the stand style I will be using.

Zusammengesetzter Blasebalg: Crosscut of double bellows of unknown timeperiod

Civil War Bellows

There were some excellent images shared on facebook from the author of Civil War Blacksmithing

NCABANA article on Bellows contruction

After seeing the bellows being used by Richard Wright, Smith River Smithy I had to make a set myself.

Some notes on my philosophy.

Many times I find I spend too much time trying to make each part "perfect" and planning like crazy.

1)I wanted bellows I could lift and mount by myself which means under 75lbs

2)I decided to use a colonial construction philosophy to fit each part to the next part and it will work just fine.

Planning and layout.

Based on the dimensions I saw being used in portable forges I made a 28 inch wide bellows.

Make a stencil

I wish I had a bigger piece of scrap for this but I took a thin piece of plywood and laid out my top arc on it. and had a second piece for the nose.

This can easily be done on cardboard or paper but wood holds it's shape better.

Mark a center line This will be very important later. .

I drilled a hole in a piece of square wood and cut it so that the length from the center of the hole to the mark of the pencil I was going to hold against the end was 14 inches.

I then put a screw onto the center line of the plywood about 15 inches from the edge and drew an arc.

At the nose end I made a perpendicular line where I liked the nose and made 2 lines on the template that were tangential to the arc and went to the nose.


I marked a center line on all of the 1x12's

Based on the stencil I cut the valve holes in the 1x12. I used a circular saw blade with the wrapper on it as my hole template.

Once I had made the top board and cut it with the stencil I use this top board as the stencil to cut the other two boards

This works since the ribs holding those pieces together will be on the underside.

I decided to glue and peg the cross boards to the board to give a nice historic look.

I am not a historic woodworker so I will also screw the crossbars from the underside once I have put in 2 pegs so that the cross boards do not come up when I am drilling and pounding the wooden pegs.


I laid out the 2 door hinges and found a good spot to cut the nose off for the head block.

I then made 2 copies of the trapezoidal "nose" and cut the fourth and final nose off the top piece.


I added the hinges to the bottom board

I clamped and screwed together the bottom block for the head/nose piece. .

This piece is solid so it really does not matter.


I screwed in the bottom four nose boards and drilled a pilot hole into the front of the bellows then I used a spade bit to ore the hole.

The pilot hole helps keep this hole straight.

I then removed the top nose board and trimmed the back of the hole with a pocket knife. and cut a rough V with a jigsaw.


I added a piece to hole the 3/4 bar just off center of the centerline of the bellows vent.

Just felt right.

I then Drilled the hole as a pilot following the groove I cut with a table saw.

I then cut a 3/4 inch hole with a spade bit following this hole.

Half of my fancy schmancy stand

Here it is pinned an mounted.


These valves are leather a board and some tacks.

I found round item (flowepot a little bigger than my hole and made 2 D shaped boards

I then added 2 inches (ish) on each side and made 4 bigger D's out of leather. and 2 strapish things about 6 inches long. This will be invisible once done

I tacked one of the D's to the top of the bottom and center boards skin side up.

I then tacked the other D shaped boards to other leather D so that skin will touch skin.

I tacked around the perimeter of the hole and the board then tacked them together with a row of tacks as close to the board as possible making valve hinge.

The restraining strap is to keep the valve from blowing over into a way that it cannot close due to gravity.

Doing the restraingin strap this way will keep the strap from becoming a problem.




yakity yakity

20 inches

60 inches

3 to one ratio

48 inch pump

16 inch raise

Patterning and skinning.

Since I want it to open 16 inches I measured that the bottom two boards are 2 3/4 inches when closed

Using the square I tacked a strap so that the boards stayed at 18 3/4 inches.

I precut the whole roll to 20 inches.

Using thumbtacks I started at the back center and worked around both ways. to the point.



It looks pretty OH SOOOO PRETTY

1)Take a second and mark the top and bottom dead center on the paper template and a corresponding mark on the wooden frame.

2)mark the paper as outside bottom. This will help you get it right when you go to pattern the leather.


If you don't do this you will be guessing when it comes time to put the leather on the frame and if you are more than an inch off the pattern will not work.

Take the paper pattern and lay it out across the hide and add 2 inches either side of the leather piece,

Transfer your center marks to the inside of the leather. and add some extra floppy bits to the points for wrapping around the bellows.





Bellows arm.

I went with an Oar lock pivot and a 3 to 1 ratio for the pump arm.

22inches behind the pivot and 66 inches in front.


After seeing the bellows being used by Richard Wright, Smith River Smithy