Peter Ross is recognized as one of the finest traditional metalworkers in America. He spent over 20 years as the head blacksmith and whitesmith for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia where he learned, and taught others, the use of traditional metalworking tools and techniques in the creation of reproductions of antique hardware including locks, hinges, fireplace tools, kitchen tools, and many other once-common pieces of handmade ironwork. His reproductions involve the exclusive use of period tools or reproductions thereof, and techniques and materials that would have been used in the production of the original.
What you see here is what is known as a spit jack. It is a device that would have been found in the kitchen of a well-to-do colonial American. It would have been attached to the masonry of a fireplace, where a pulley would connect it to a spit. The spit jack itself includes a spool for winding up chains which held weights, and reduction gears and flywheel. When wound up, the weights slowly turned the mechanism, with the speed regulated by the flywheel. The mechanism turned the pulley, which turned the spit in the fireplace on which would be a large piece of meat for roasting. It would run for several hours on a wind, allowing the cook to tend to other items while the meat slowly turned and cooked.
Everything you see here was made by hand, including cutting and grinding all of the gears, including the helical teeth on the spindle and the main gear. You can see more of Peter’s work at peterrossblacksmith.com.