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I Forge Iron

brake drum forge?

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hey every one i've just started blacksmithing and ive wanted to forge my own hand forged knife for bushcraft and as a hobby. ive got some parts together and made a brake drum forge i have some qwestions on it.

1 what would you use for a grate to keep charcoal or coal from falling into the air duct.

2 what would you rather prefer coal or charcoal?

3 what would be a good metal to start working on as a beginner

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I started with a sheet metal air grate on my forge, peppered with quarter inch holes, and it turned to be a pain, clogging and collecting ash, and warping. I switched to two 3" pieces of 3/8 rod welded crosswise, laying over my 2" air opening. I might drop still-burnable coke through occasionally, but it works fine, and is easy to remove for cleaning.

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I still use my first solid fuel forge. I made a typical "clinker breaker" which keeps the coal in the firepot. I used a piece of 1" thick mild steel and cut a disk smaller than the opening. I drilled through it edgewise and slid it over a 1/2" stainless round bar. I inserted the round bar through two holes in the pipe tee that I used for a tu-pipe. I bent one end of the round bar down then horizontal again for a shaker handle. This has lasted for decades. Of course I do use gas much more than coal these days.

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Check out the brake drum forge I just built for demos. My link

You don't need a grate. Put a piece of plate steel under the drum, bolt the drum to it and drill some 3/8" holes in the plate....lots of them! That is the best route to go and the easiest. Drill 3/16" first, then 1/4," and finish with 3/8."
This is my brake drum firepot!

Coal is better unless you have a nearly unlimitted source of free or SUPER cheep REAL wood charcoal. Coal burns MUCH longer!

Start out with mild steel. You can get this in bar stock (round or square) from a local welding shop. If you have a steel supply warehouse anywhere near, it will be much cheeper to get it there. 3/8" round or square steel is an EXCELLENT starting size. It doesn't take long to heat and it's easy to forge. Keep the knives in the back of you mind but for now work on things like small hooks and leaves. Get used to heating and forging steel.

Here is my youtube channel. Check out my hook making video and I also have a leaf making video under my sister's account. Just type in "blacksmith dave custer" in the youtube search box.

My youtube channel

PS post your location so smiths near you can help you get started. I'm a fellow "kidsmith" at 18 years old. Been doing this for five years now! :D Welcome aboard!

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I found that more air getting to the fire is better. I use one 1/4 or 3/8 piece of bar across an opening up to about 2-1/2 inches, and two pieces across a 3 inch opening. See attached photos (old design). The coal, once coked does not fall down into the hole. I have burned fines or coal dust with the same set up.

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I just use a piece of expanded metal and replace it every 40 hours or so. I get it free scrounged bits from dump sites or pay a pittance for it at scrap yards. If I do a lot of welding I will take it out and hammer the cruft off it before starting the fire the next day. I used to use old cast iron drain grates but found that the cost/lifespan/utility of them was worse than with an expanded metal grate.

Fiery Furnace you say you don't need a grate and then provide instructions to make one---very odd. Did you not realize that a plate with holes in it is a grate?

As for Coal vs Charcoal: it depends a lot on what you have access to and what you plan to do. Charcoal is easier to start with if you don't have someone to show you how to manage a coal fire. Real charcoal *not* briquettes! (I was reading a 19th century book on industrial blacksmithing yesterday that mentioned that charcoal was a better fuel than coal due to the lack of sulfur in it. [it didn't mention positioning the anvil save that they mention the hardy hole to the right when using the anvil...])

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Mr. Thomas

Bad wording sorry!
What I meant by a "grate" is a separate piece tacked just over the air inlet hole. I've seen a ton of forges that have a little disk or something placed over the hole and they burn out rather quickly. Like you said, expanded mesh lasts you about 40 hours. By "grate" I was referring to a piece placed over the hole by itself.

As you pointed out, what I'm suggesting is really just a grate to.
I was just thinking of it as a "base" to the firepot. The first drum forge I had had a base type grate, similar to the one I posted pictures of and it lasted me for over a year of 4-5 days a week work. Beats the tar out of 40 hours! LOL

Sorry for the miscomunication on my part!

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