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… Visit an Interactive Drop Forge Industrial Museum?

interactive tech workshop

What’s it like to visit an interactive drop forge industrial museum?

The Bergisches Land, literally “hilly country,” where the city of Solingen is located, has a deep industrial history. Today, Lyons Cub, mommy, and grandma visited an ancient “Gesenkschmiede” or drop forge, which functions as a museum nowadays. We were able to participate in an interactive tech workshop where the kids created fun items out of trash metals and plastics (the artworks remained in the facility).

This facility was used for swaging scissors. Swaging is a forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered by the use of dies into which the item is forced. Swaging is usually a cold working process; however, the items may also be hot worked. The term “swage” may apply to both the process and the die or tool used in that process. Solingen is the famous “City of Blades,” so it was just natural that we visited another beacon of industrial history (in addition to the Gasometer in Oberhausen, which we saw last year).

“F.& W. Hendrichs – Scherenschlägerei u. Gesenkschmiede – Gegründet 1886” can be read in large letters on the striking corner facade of the LVR Industrial Museum in Solingen, meaning the forge and scissors manufacturing plant was founded in 1886. Since then, the old factory ensemble with the red brick buildings, the typical sloping shed roofs, and the high chimneys have hardly changed. In front of the building, you can admire different machines of ginormous size.

From 1886 to 1986, scissor blanks were forged in the Hendrichs drop forge. Just imagine, all the machines, the drop hammers, presses and milling machines, all the tools, even the workbenches for the toolmakers are still completely present! Even the changing room with the old lockers, the washroom with the long row of rotating wash bowls, the machine house or the office with the clattering typewriter, can still be found there, including the company villa of the entrepreneurial family. The historical drop forge is a very special museum, because production never stands still there: The drive belts whir, the furnaces glow, and the hammers strike – the museum scissors are forged in the factory. In workshops, the visitors can see how a pair of scissors is made.

Surrounded by blackberry bushes as a remnant of past splendor lies the old mansion that serves as a restaurant later in the summer, but lay forgotten now. A few swings were witness to livelier days. After having walked around in the little park area, we entered the factory hall and purchased our tickets. This opened us the way into a never-before seen world of smelly, greasy machines, camshafts, forges, hammers, steel, scissor molds, etc. The odor was really something else 😉

In March 1999, the LVR Industrial Museum in Solingen was opened in the former Hendrichs drop forge. The term “workshop for the world” refers to the centuries-long production of Solingen cutlery for the European market, which expanded worldwide in the 19th century with the development of overseas trade. And this is the economic background against which the founding of the Hendrichs drop forge in 1886 by the two scissor filers Peter and Friedrich Wilhelm Hendrichs took place. Steadily expanding, Hendrichs company produced scissor blanks, and it counts as was one of the largest drop forges in Solingen with 33 drop hammers.

The entrepreneurial villa built on the factory premises in 1896 is witness of the prosperity that the Hendrichs family had achieved through the flourishing factory. However, after decades of prosperity, severe economic crises led to the closure of the company in 1986. At this time, the Landschaftsverband Rheinland (Rhineland Regional Council) took over the industrial monument to restore it as a museum.

We saw different metal blocks that already showed one half of a pressed pair of scissors.

In this work hall, we found different molds of scissors of many sizes. Cool! There were also some stamped keys among them.

Before we left the forge museum, we even found the hot wire game that Lyons Cub had already tried out at a summer festival at a Schrebergarten colony recently:

Then, we entered the “Mitmachmaschine,” the “participatory machine,” which is a giant tech workshop with endless materials for children’s wildest dreams of creation.

For children aged five to twelve, there is plenty to do in the hands-on machines: Bicycle pedals can be used to set wheels in motion, driving a variety of objects creating by other kids. It rings, rattles, and clicks. And not only that – in the current special exhibition at Gesenkschmiede Hendrichs, young visitors can invent objects in creative workshops for this interactive art and technology object covering around 100 square meters. They only take the colored wheels home they create, but all other items remain in the factory as artifacts for other guests to admire.

We were there on a Sunday, which was our luck, because every Sunday, a special workshop opens in the “participatory machine,” which is supervised by a member of the museum staff. This lady explained to Lyons Cub how mommy had to tread the bike pedals for him to draw a centrifugal picture onto a paper wheel with a paint brush and some splashes:

The wheel Lyons Cub created was really beautiful, like a blue and green iris:

The lady put it in a shelf to dry while we walked around to try out different mechanisms. There were so many colorful disks painted by other children and mounted to rotating bicycle wheels, it was a joy to look at them and make them spin:

There were some fitness machines to work on one’s biceps or leg muscles, too. They made different kinds of wheels spin and the artwork attached to them, which caused many different sounds.

Here, Lyons Cub is riding a stationery bike:

Lyons Cub’s fingers were all sticky with glue after he created an artifact out of egg cartons and some plastic bottle caps 😉 He admired the magical creation of other children. I thought the little turtle and the very fuzzy horse were cute:

After watching for a while, he tried it out, too, but my son was a bit too short to lie down comfortably and reach the pedals with his legs.

It took a while until Lyons Cub and mommy understood the purpose behind the red pedal attached to the drum containing golf balls. The friendly lady operating the “participatory machine” ended up showing us how to do it right:

Finally, we had to leave this crazy place.

On our way out, we passed the biggest pair of scissors, the biggest knife, and the smallest pair of scissors (to be viewed under a magnifying glass):

What a cool tech day!

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