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BP0133 55 Forge ©
by Glenn Conner
The name "55 Forge" is copyrighted, Glenn Conner 2004
This is NOT a heavy duty forge. It is NOT expected to last a lifetime. But, it is quick to built, works well, and is cheap to produce.
Locate a 55 gallon drum that contained motor oil, or a known substance. No use killing your self by getting a drum that has contained poisons, toxic substances or other unknowns.
There is a very real danger of explosion at this point.. If you picked up a drum that was reused and filled with a highly volital substance, you will not hear the BOOM. Even an original drum only containing only oil can be dangerous. If you have any concerns, or have never cut into a closed container before, pay to have these cuts made by someone else. Read and understand the disclaimer at the bottom of the page before you go any further.
Mark and cut the drum 6" from one end.
Locate and mark the center of the head. Place the air tube over the head and trace around it. Cut out the hole for the air tube. Either end will do, but the one with the bung hole has a "drain hole" installed already.
I wanted to make the 55 forge last a bit longer, so I made a heat shield for the air tube. You can see that there are no measurements involved other than trying to get the tube in the center. Cuts were made on the lines shown. This is a scrap piece of 1/8" plate or 11ga.
Yes it will fit through the hole.
Update: I found this was not needed as the ash from the fire protected the bottom of the forge from over heating.
Flair the air tube.
This is done cold as it is thin material and I do not have a working forge - yet.
Now it will not slide through the plate.
With a chisel, cut a piece of 1/4" round stock about 1" to 1-1/2" larger than the diameter of the air tube. If you use a cold chisel, you only need to cut about 1/2 way through the metal.
Then you can just bend and break it into two pieces.
Flatten one end only. Not much just to about 1-1/2 the original diameter. Make two of these pieces.
Drill 2 each 1/4" holes in the air tube just below the flange. Insert one of the pieces of 1/4" round stock and mark where you think the other piece of round stock could pass under it. Drill two more 1/4" holes as to not interfeer with the round stock.
Insert the first piece of round stock and flatten the "other" end. Repeat for the second piece of round stock.
Slip the air tube into the heat shield plate. This will form the grate for the fire.
Update: I found flaring the end of the pipe was not needed. The round bar held the pipe in place without the flair.
Remember if you put a "T" in the air tube that you should cut a hole for the air to enter the vertical pipe. As you can see, I chose to do this step AFTER the "T" section was welded in place and could get no air into the versicle tube. Cut the hole first, and everything works well.
Air tube and hear shield plate in place. The edge of the drum may be sharp. You may wish to roll or fold the edge over to prevent injury from the sharp edge.
Update: You MUST protect the edge of the drum. You can cut a 2 or 3 inch wide section from the drum. It will look like a hoop. Cut the hoop and fold it in half the long way so you now have a 6 foot long piece of metal that has a U shape. Place this over and around the edge of the drum to protect you from being injured. Drill several small holes in the drum and lash it down with wire.
If you wanted to use a brake drum as a fire pot, it could either be just put in the 55 forge or a hole cut in the pan to accept the drum.
Update: The brake drum is NOT necessary, it was a modification to see if the forge could be improved.
I found a hole could be cut in the bottom of the drum just large enough for the brake drum to fit into but catch on the rim of the brake drum and hold it in place. This allows the fire ball to be contained to the size of the brake drum diameter. It also keeps you from having to fill the 55 Forge with material (ash) to the top of the brake drum. In a later design I found a single disk rotor works just as well.
The 55 Forge at operating temperature, in fact welding heat.
Air tube after 3 hours of forging. I did find that the "grate" was large enough for a good supply of air while small enough to hold the clinkers, ash etc in the pan.
Update: I have used this same grate and burned fines, or coal dust as fuel. The grate works.
This is an inexpensive set up that is quick to build.
You can line the bottom of the 55 gallon pan forge to make it last longer. Use clay, firebrick, or 3 parts sand to 1 part Portland cement (source for the recipe is Frank Turley) as a liner.
Do not try to over engineer simple. Do not try to complicate simple. A forge is nothing more than a container to hold a fire with air added to increase the heat of the fuel. For those that scoff at the idea of a 55 Forge, compare it to a rivet forge made from thin tin, or a pan forge. Be sure to measure the thickness of the pans, diameter of the pans, and all the other "stuff", and be sure to write it all down for reference. When you finish, just follow the smoke as I'll be forging using the 55 Forge.
This is the basic 55 Forge. Several modifications to the 55 Forge that will be shown in other Blueprints.
Update: I found the bare 55 gallon drum with the auto exhaust pipe for an air pipe was all that was needed. The inch or so of ash that would naturally build up is all that is needed to protect the bottom of the drum from heat. This forge was run hard at welding heat for 8 hours and worked very well. It was left outside in the weather, rain, snow, summer and winter. The end of the air pipe burned off after about a year, and a new hole was drilled for the rod. It took maybe 20 minutes. After a couple of years the pan started to show signs of needing replaced. The pan was replaced as I recall in the third year.
I have used the 55 Forge © with many modifications. I keep coming back to the original design because it works. Later designs eliminate the need to weld the air pipe which makes things even simpler. As stated earlier, this is NOT a heavy duty forge. It is NOT expected to last a lifetime, It costs little or nothing, and takes under an hour to build and works well. The 55 Forge © is a great forge to play with while you look for, or build your perfect forge.
*** Disclaimer ***Life is dangerous. Use good sense in everything you do. Research and understand the dangers of each action before you start, and protect yourself and others. If you get hurt, you have only yourself to blame. The use of any electronic or printed information is solely at the user's risk.
BP0133 The 55 Forge