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Portable Forges? Coal preferred...


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Anybody out there ever used a riveters forge or similar setup?
I am considering something on the portable side and nothing with weights that would exceed 100lbs. per piece. Hearth, fire box/pan, legs, skirt & tong rack, hood etc...
Something I can break down by myself and load on a pick-up without injury, well, that's the idea.
The old Buffalo forges, for example. They seem to be on the flimsy side.
Any opinions or experience?

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Hope this helps
I have two portable forges...sort of
One is a Centaur Forge Truck Model B with electric blower
I got it used for $50.00 and while the firepot & tuyere are
worthwhile, the rest is, uh...anemic ? enough that I am glad
I did not pay full price for it. I had intended to use it as my
portable/demo unit but
1) can't count on electricity at demo sites
2) the electric blower is spot welded to the frame/stand
so I couldn't easily mount/dismount the electric motor
as part of the set-up/breakdown without modifying it
something I didn't have time for at the time of acquisition....
3) The tuyere port where you would afix the blower cannot be
aligned to the right or left - it sticks straight out at you or
180 degrees away from you as you stand at the forge
no way to orient it at 90 degrees. This complicates attaching
your portable blower

4) Bought a portable hand cranked blower and it came with a 400
whirlwind firepot & tuyere and all the fire brick I could haul away
Wound up making something like this, only bigger and the firepot
sits flush with the top

Building a Portable - Bellows Fed, Forge

pictures of mine here:

Implements of Destruction... on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

In short - get what you can. I would recommend one, but have
not been able to afford them since they seem to go sky high
at auction around here...

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Ezra, I have used revit forges for demos and they are fairly good IMO, not as good as my shop forge but then I don't do big projects at demos. You got to remember you are doing demos. If the project takes longer than 15-20minutes then you tend to loose people. (kinda like watching paint dry if you ain't the one doing the forgeing) As for the tong rack and /or a hammer rack I just normally take the tongs I KNOW I will need as well as what hammers I will NEED. Plan out you demo and know what you need. At the end of the day you will be glad, (ahh, that was the sound of experience. :) ) Something else yo might want to consider are pictures of you work, and possible a few pieces to show. Unless you are selling stuff limit what you take. Make sure you have enough coal! I was working a demo with several other smiths last year and fortunately a couple of us brought extra coal. Sorry I don't have pictures of my 'demo' forge but it sounds like the one you have explained. I replaces all the bolts with new and it seemed to tighten up the thing, less 'wiggle'.

I am demoing at our historical museum this Sat. and I'm taking the forge, 127# anvil, 4" leg vise, twisting wrenches, some tongs and hammers, Material to make 'purdy things', couple of files, beeswax, coal and water. Also a fire extinguisher, makes the city officials smile when they see that!

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I cut holes in a 55 gal drum and mounted a Centaur 12" round pot in the top end. I also cut out the bottom so the pot could dump, cut the resulting scrap piece in half then tacked each "half-moon" to right and left sides to help keep coal from falling out and help with cross winds. I carry a Tiger blower mounted on a tripod with a piece of 3" flex tubing to connect the pot to the air source.

My anvil is a 100 lb Hay Budden that I clamp to a steel tripod mount, which also weighs about 100 lbs so the whole thing is pretty stable. I carry all my hand tools in two 5 gallon plastic buckets and precut all my steel stock so all I have to do is grab the right one and forge it.

I use another 55 gal drum for a slack tub, which has a leg vise mounted to the side. Fill the barrel with water and you have plenty of weight to offset pulling on the vise or twisting. Dump the water, load up and leave.

I usually do one or two demos a year and make about 15-20 things per hour - mostly hooks, pokers, candle holders, etc. The hard stuff is already built at the shop and out on the table for sale. I also sometimes preforge pieces and assemble the parts for the public - most people seldom notice you didn't actually forge it on the spot, especially if you heat it a bit and apply wax.

More than you asked but I was in a typing mood.

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After hauling around a cast iron forge for demos for a decade I finally build my own demo set.

Used an axle cover from a banjo rear end (1937?) for the firepot. Bougt two of them for US$5 at a fleamarket that had been made into jackstands. Ground out the bearing and dropped in a grate.

The table was a door off a WWII jig borer that had been roilled into a ditch near some abandoned RR tracks. Nice sheet metal with a lip on the long sides. Welded pipe to the lip near the corners and bent some more pipe to fit up into that for the legs---used christmas tree "screws" through nuts welded on the larger pipe to make the legs adjustable/removable. Welded some sq stock to make channels that I can drop in cross pieces of sheetmetal to make the firepot deeper of keep coal from falling out the open ends of the table.

I bent some 3/8" round stock to drop into the tops of the pipe legs on one end and make a tong/hammer rack (bent a few loops into it for hammers)

Total materials cost was US$2.50 + welding rod and electricity.

It breaks down for storage/travel, easy to carry, won't crack if dropped or "quenched" for quick loading after a long day.

I've used it for over 10 years now and am about to make version 2---the firepot is going on 20 years of use and shows little signs of wear---I still have the other one as backup too...


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Thanks for all the helpful hints, tips, and info...
There is nothing like the voice of experience. You guys have given me a ton of angles to think about!:)
I think I'll be foregoing the riveters forge and try to track down a Champ. 400 or comparable blower and some kind of "big" firepot. Thinking about hearth & hood designs...hmmm.
I am going to err on the side of versitility and durability. I hate to leave things to chance.
Thanks Again!

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Big cast iron firepots get heavy fast and hold heat a long time at the end of the day when you want to load up and go home.

My scrounged fireput was much deeper than a rivit forge but lighter than a cast iron one.

Try to size your portable forge to the work you do and not haul around way too much forge for simple little stuff. (I have welded billets in mine both with a hand crank blower and with a double lunged bellows)


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Thomas, thanks again...
My forge welding is at the bottom of the rung right now so welding billets in a shallow forge is a little intimidating for demo. purposes. Practice will fix it.
The issue of long cool down is a very good point, don't want the pot eating through my truck bed at the end of the day.;)

Of course I'm also considering a gas forge, but have no experience with them beyond observation.
Like all blacksmith wannabe's I am fascinated with knife making and want to learn about wootz and the Japanese methods...boy, growing up is hard.
Thanks for making the point about the forge matching its purpose; little forge, little things.
I'll have more questions later.

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Ezra, If the reason for a portable forge is to do some demonstrating at shows or events I wouldn't give up to quickly on the rivet forge. I did art and craft shows for almost 25 years between 15 and 20 shows a season and I did demo's at most of those for all but the last few years. I can tell you from experiance that you want to keep everything as light and portable as possible. My rivet forge served me well all those years. I did add a hood that I made out of one of those conical freestanding fireplaces that used to be popular to help get rid of some of the smoke and ash....ken

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I won't try to discourage you from getting a rivet forge, I got a similar one myself recentely and also picked up a Champion 400 blower to use with it.

I will caution you that these 2 items are not light, and I'm not sure I would want to lug it around too much myself, I plan to keep it in my backyard mostly, and possibly take it to some property I own. The forge by itself weighs about 100 lbs., and the blower weighs about another 50-75 lbs I guess.

Remember, what was portable 100 years ago is not considered portable today, in the same sense.

Glenn's 55 ain't a bad option, it's way lighter than an old rivet forge, at least the one I have. If I was haulin' it around for demos, I would think the 55 would be much easier on you.

Another option would be to build one out of motar cement packed on a steel frame, if done right they're not very heavy. I can see why folks use gas forges for demos, in many ways it's easier, and you don't really need a blower for many of them. They sure aren't like using solid fuel though. You could do a lot with a box of firebrick also. I like what Seamus (coalandice) did with that forge in the pics on flicker.

Good luck with your decision, lots of ways to skin that cat...

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Ezra, you can do alot of work with a rivet forge and also hook up a Champion 400 or such blower as Alan pointed out. When we do off-site demos (away from historic Ft. Vamncouver set in the 1840's) that's what we use. Not period correct for us but most people don't notice. You didn't say whether you were doing period demos or just wanted portability for your own convenience. I have a pump handle forge that usually gets favorable attention. I understand it was a transitional tool to wean farmers off the bellows to the crank style.

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Ken, Glenn, Alan, and Gary...(sorry if I missed anyone)
Wow, thanks for furthur insights to my dilemma...
I'm going to start researching crank blowers in a little more depth. Any furthur suggestions on that front?
I've heard good things about the Champ. 400 since I became interested in this, and was wondering if there are other models I should be on the lookout for?
Don't want to spend more time on the crank than anything else. Is that possible?
Whats a good price range on Champ. 400s?
Thanks Again!

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Ezra, I can't give you a good price range for a Champion 400, but can only offer what I see them go for. We pay much higher for them on the west coast. I see them go for about $50-$150 on ebay, but shipping is about $40 for a blower, so there's incentive to buy local. I paid $125 for mine, as it was local. I think I paid on the high end, considering mine has some type of make shift stand. I'm still sorting that out, may look at that this weekend.

As to why one would use hand powered when there is electricity? For me I wouldn't plan to have electricity if I wanted a truely portable forge. Many events happen in areas where there isn't electricity. There is certainly nothing wrong with electrical blowers, and I only have experience with hand blowers so far, but I like them. The Champion seems messy to transport, also, in the little experience I have with it.

For portability, the angle iron frame with firebrick looks like a pretty good way to go (as pic'd in the Seamus link to flicker). Bellows are a good consideration for muscle powered air. Looks easier to transport, weight wise.

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I personally prefer a hand crank blower and the champion 400 is my favorite
I have some buffalos, and a tiger but still like the 400 better.
My all time favorite is a champion 400 sixteen inch blower
I can actually blow the coal out of the firepot if I really get down on it or I can have just a wisper if I want to just kiss the fire when I am welding.
I believe that I have a whole lot more control over my fire with a hand crank than with an electric blower
I also feel that I consume less coal with one.
I have three good size forges in my forge and they all have hand crank blowers on them
One is the 16" and the other two are 12 or 14"
Ive never seen another champion 16" blower before so I snatched this one up when I found it.
I still have the electric blowers that I started out with but doubt that I will ever use them.
My portable forges have champion 400 also but are 8"


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I have used one of yesteryearforge's portables numerous times, and I guess it would be considered a rivet forge. It has a champion blower on it and I really liked using it. I could control my fire, and weld if I wanted to(never did though, but did burn up some stuff!). It did everything that I needed it to do. I also like a hand crank. One of my big problems is controlling the size of the fire, and the hand crank I feel really gives me a better sense of control.

Good luck finding what works for you!

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The rule at places where I demo and therefor need a portable setup is that you can't use electricity. (Save all the backlash, I've heard it all before and can't be bothered with the argument but try it anyway if you like) One of the reasons for making this rule was to discourage the display of carp that came with the squirrel cages and the generators etc. Not that I'm saying all squirrel cage blowers etc produce carp but in my experience the two go together like bread and jam (jelly).

Another advantage of the hand cranked blower is it occupies the hand which would otherwise light up a ghasper :mad:

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Alan's link to his similar rivet forge

With all due repect, I don't think you have a rivet forge, or a similar looking forge.

1896 Illustrated General Catalogue of the Buffalo Horizontal and Upright Steam Engines,... By Buffalo Forge Company
Rivet forge on pae 301

Ron Reil: I have four coal forges, two rivet forges, a full sized Buffalo #660 shop forge, shown here the day I brought it home.
Ron Reil: rivet forge

I would suggest that you have a shop forge or something similar to a shop forge.
Ron Reil: Buffalo #660 shop forge
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I agree with Mike that a hand blower is better with coal for welding. Even if you are quite skilled, an electric blower has to be watched like a hawk. The hand blower will bring the fire up to just the perfect color while letting the material soak a bit without burning. A centrifugal or paddle-type blower (or two-lung bellows) does a better job for all-around work than a motor driven squirrel cage. I don't want to move the whole shop for a one or two day demo but I'd rather have a decent sized forge than something which doesn't work properly.

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You're probably right that it's not a rivet forge, but it's not as hefty as Reil's shop forge.

Per the Buffalo catlog you linked to, Scott Thomas drew out on paper something like a No 8 in the series below on page 303. Or No 13 on page 305, but it looks most

All of these are very similar when I look at them, but I suspect I'm missing something. Are you saying because of the hood/dash that mine is not a rivet style forge? All of those rivet, portable, blast forge (page 270) all look pretty similar to me, a shallow cast iron forge with a tuyere in the bottom. Of all of them, mine seems to most resemble what they classify as "portable forges". What's the difference between those and rivet forges aside from hood/dash?

They're all very shallow and were intended for portable forging, but I just don't consider it to be very portable on today's standards.

What I would like to see is something about the size of a Weber Smokey Joe (14"), and to make a small 55 forge, by putting a brake drum in it. If you could find a 14" brake drum, you're in biz, just secure it in the smokey joe. I guess your 55 Forge doesn't weigh that much, but it's the size. There are several ways you could modify a weber smokey joe to be a fine portable forge, maybe even utilize the cover as a hood by cutting an arched door to act as a hood. You could also just create a firepot out of brick in it I 'spose...but when I think of portable, I think of smaller and lighter than what my forge is. If it can't fit in my porsche, it's not portable.:rolleyes: The portable forge I have is just too heavy to haul around, IMO. With a hood, or even a lean to on the back fence, it will be fine for my backyard.

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Now the question of weight is becomming more interesting to me.
What about some of these lighter weight rivet type forges. How durable are they?
The reason I ask is that I haven't been doing this much and do not want to burn out the bottom of one.
Is there a great chance for that sort of mistake, or if you are paying close attention is it not an issue?
How safe/reliable are they? How well do they stand up to forge welding...depending on model and "gauge" of the pan, and stock being welded?
What would be considered "too" light?

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The rivet forge from Buffalo Forge Catalog

The 55 Forge on Grandma's potty chair stand

The pan forge Old Moose had for sale

The pan forge size vs the shop forge.

This is to show the side differences between the rivet forge, pan forge and 55 Forge vs a shop forge. As you can see, the shop forge is almost twice the size.

Anybody out there ever used a riveters forge or similar setup?

The rivet forge was designed to be portable and easy to set up and move and to be used for a specific task. The shop forge was more versatile but less portable.

As to weight, the 55 Forge can be easily broken down into 3 sections, the stand (grandma's aluminum potty chair), the forge (9#), and the fire pot/air tube(16#) for a total of maybe 35-40#.

Now the question of weight is becomming more interesting to me. What about some of these lighter weight rivet type forges. How durable are they?

The rivet forges are still being used today. I can not say they are the original ones from 1896, but many are older than the blacksmiths using them.

The 55 Forge has been used and stored outside (in the rain) all its life (no shelter and exposed to the elements). It has had 3 years of hard use and forge welding temperatures. This summer saw many days of 8 hour fires the most of which were at close to welding heat. The 55 Forge is still in good condition, with surface rust.

Rather than spending a lot of time looking for the perfect forge, the perfect blower and the perfect system, look at Blueprint BP0238 Simple Side Blast Forge. This should get you started as quickly as possible. Cost should be close to nothing for parts, and it can easily be converted to a 55 Forge. In fact, you can operate it as both a side blast and a bottom blast if you wish to compare the two styles.

Please continue to ask questions. We will continue to try to supply answers.

HWooldridge is right on target with the blower information. Hand cranked has the greatest control to get the fire to do exactly what you need.
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