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  1. When our beloved propane grill finally died broke, I decided to take all the inspiration I'd gotten reading about the JABOD Mark III (thanks, Charles R. Stevens) and make Just a Grill of Dirt. A JAGOD, if you will. I had two goals: Spend as little money as possible Forge using charcoal I'll just admit now that I am way better at spending money than not spending money. I scrounged up some thin firebrick I'd stashed and since I had to dig footings for some pier blocks, I rough-screened a couple of 5-gallon buckets of that dirt. I put the grill in a level area always in the shade. I had to snip some of the sheet metal to get a length of pipe thru. The pipe isn't sched 40, but similar, with an ID of 1". I got it from my neighbor, who is a blacksmith and thinks I'm insane using charcoal (then he admits it's kind of neat, which is how our friendship usually goes---Me: "I have an idea!" Him: "You crazy. Can I try?") I used the firebrick to build a little chamber for holding the charcoal and pipe, and then filled in with dirt. I mixed a pound of powdered Lincoln fire clay I've had forever in with a bit of water for the are around the pipe, then added a little water to the rest of the dirt, screeded it, and compacted with a firebrick. I think I have some first-rate dirtmanship going on here. The next afternoon, I grabbed my bag of blacksmithing tools, a RR track anvil my neighbor gave me, a piece of mild steel I had smithed into the Worst Leaf Ever Made in the History of FireTM, and a bag of lump charcoal I bought at the store. Ok, yeah, I spent some money. But I already cheated on Goal #1 because I didn't think my blower plan would work. I had an old beekeeping smoker that uses a small bellows and I was tempted to try it as my air source just for fun. Then I realized that was taking the No Spending Money goal a bridge too far and got an Intex air mattress pump (a la the Mark III) that cost less than the bag of charcoal. We spent almost twenty year heating houses with wood, so I know how to build a fire. That charcoal started glowing quickly and I realized maybe playing with fire on the hottest day of the year was again the mark the slightly insane. Oh, well. Once the coals were glowing, I slipped in the mild steel with the Worst Leaf Ever Made in the History of Fire. The leaf was so thin it got to temp really fast and I tapped it over into a loop with half a tap of my totally undressed Harbor Freight hammer. Yes, I have to dress those hammers and I will---I even know how because there's a thread here with how to do it, which is awesome. But today I was just seeing if the JAGOD was a cromulent idea. I quenched the end of the mild steel and slid the opposite end into the fire. Gave it some puffs with the Intex pump and when it was bright red, took it out and gave it two taps to bend into a little coal rake. Two taps. With a cheapo HF ball peen hammer. And I had a tool. I immediately put it to work raking the charcoal into a mountain for the next piece. I also had a 12" length of cold roll steel my blacksmith neighbor had given me (he also gave me two pairs of tongs because he's a great guy and he treats me like the son he never had). He didn't tell me what kind of steel it was, but that I should try working with it for experience. (FYI, that's the fire rake I just made on the left. I am stupidly proud.) I got it to temp and whaled on it and it hardly moved. Back into the fire. Whack whack whack. Hardly moved. Not at all like the mild steel. Back into the fire... I managed to square up the end and draw a taper, but man, it took forever. I'm going to bet he gave me a piece of something he knew would teach me a lesson. IOW, I believe I was the object of a blacksmith version of a snipe hunt. High. Larious. I used less than 1/4 of the bag of charcoal I bought. I'm already re-designing the JAGOD to make it easier to work with---probably more like a Japanese-style forge. I got a taste of smithing with charcoal, which I really liked. I need to dress those hammers, get my anvil at a better height (either lower the forge a la Tim Lively so I can sit or raise the anvil), and buy some mild steel stock I can practice making simple things with-----hooks, leaf key chains, etc. Build a charcoal retort because man oh man have I source material for charcoal. Then I'll focus on fire management and hammer control. I want to say thanks to the knowledge and inspiration here and I wanted to give you all an opportunity to point and laugh. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go teach my neighbor a lesson.
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