Tom shares a few photos from an Amish welding business in the settlement at Clyde, New York.
Tom describes Schmucker Welding as a “Nice new shop with two very long power shafts and more belts that I have ever seen in one place.”
Shafts and belts can be used to operate a variety of shop tools. But welding takes “real” power. Unlike other Amish-engineered tools, which might be able to run off of air or hydraulic means, actual electricity is needed to weld. Amish welders use electric generators for this restricted purpose.
In The Riddle of Amish Culture, Donald Kraybill writes about generators in the Lancaster community. A few generations back Amish began using them to repair equipment and convert farm machinery for horse-drawn use. But they also started to use them for non-essential purposes, such as operating home freezers and even lighting bulbs in barns.
In response Amish leaders came out against the generator in the early 1960s, with the exception of use for welding. This would let Amish supply themselves with necessary farm implements and help preserve horse-drawn farming (See Riddle pp. 201-202).
Today welders are important in Amish businesses working with metal, such as farm equipment manufacturers or makers of horse stall doors. Welding is even a stand-alone business as in the case of Schmucker Welding here.
“Notice the surplus garage doors used for the ceiling,” Tom notes. “It adds insulation and has a finish so no painting is needed. I have seen many shops build with garage doors in the past.”
Who’s running all the equipment here? The answer might surprise you. Says Tom: “I found it interesting that besides the owner Mahlon Schmucker here was only one employee…a young woman working with these huge machines. I am not sure if it was his wife or a young woman from the community.”
Amish females do sometimes take on manual labor tasks in Amish shops. It’s probably more common that wives chip in from time to time, but women sometimes have full-time jobs operating tools side-by-side with the men.
The first thing that comes to mind in this case is women doing furniture finishing. One Amishman I spoke with felt his female finishers had a precision and attention to detail for the task that, I took him to mean, was harder to find with men.
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