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I Forge Iron

Advise on School Forge

Shop Teacher

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Greetings from Salem Oregon and the Leslie Middle School's Shop program.

I am creating a new program in my middle school shop where the advanced students can create some basic iron work/blacksmith projects. I currently offer an intro to welding/metal craft where the kids can make a sculpture out of scrap iron that I salvage from local fabricators dumpsters. My advanced 8th graders can also come in after school and work on projects. We have a plasma cutter and a MIG welder, a 200+ lbs Trenton anvil and some other basic hand tools for sheet metal projects. However, to get the blacksmithing program up and running, we need to make a forge that can be wheeled outside and fired up. I have been researching and looking over several YouTube postings on brake drum forges and other homemade variations. I am seeking your seasoned mentorship on what you would advise for a basic and inexpensive forge we could build and use with safety in our school's shop. I would love the forge to be able to be made by individual students who want to make one for themselves as a project.

I recently had an at risk kid, who has not been doing well on anything in school, just light up like a Christmas tree when I wheeled in the Trenton anvil last week and gave him the wire brush and air grinder with a Scotch bright pad to clean it up. He looked like the Peanut's character "Pig Pen" in a cloud of dust. He worked on that thing for an hour and then I gave him the 3lb hammer and a chunk of ½” round rod to bang away on it outside. It was like he was full of lightning and I told him maybe he was a blacksmith in a previous lifetime. He said it was better than a video game. I told him that the feeling he was having was his internal voice that was letting him know his passion. He really wants to make a project with fire and steel. What kid wouldn’t want to do this?

So we need to build a forge. I don't want to use gas (LPG) due to our district's and fire marshal's issues with the fuels. Charcoal or Coal is what I would like to start with. Lord knows we have enough wood scrap to start the forge up with and even to use as fuel if that's possible.

Also, if there are any Willamette Valley smiths out there who are willing to come in and present their knowledge or help that would be greatly appreciated. I am a highly creative guy who can figure things out quickly, but a good lesson on the basics will be a wonderful boost to getting the program up and running.

Bryan "Shop Teacher"

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I am glad to hear what you are doing. I work and live on a school campus myself. Beginning 2011-2012 school year I will be doing some classes with the middle school kids here also. I will post a couple of pictures of the area were I plan to hold class. I have 3 forging stations 2 propane forges and 2 coal forges. I plan on using the coal forges. All of these I built. The side draft forge I built with plans from the Blacksmiths Journal. The side blast forge I built after looking at a friends and the water tuyre side blast plans came from a news letter from the California Blacksmiths Assocation. I have seen some much more simple ones others have built. Good Luck!



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Click on the pages tab top of the forum page. Then click on pages again on the right hand column. Look for Blueprint BP0133 the now famous 55 Forge. Also find the BP0238 Simple Side Blast Forge. Both forges can be built at little or no cost using a jig saw. Both can use wood as fuel. Cut the wood into sections 2 x 4 x 4 inches or smaller as I found that size works best.

Suggest to the students that they join IForgeIron and use the site as a blacksmithing and metalworking resource for additional study.

IF you provide your location we can suggest a blacksmithing group or blacksmith in your area for additional information.

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Get ahold of Marty at Countryside Fabrication, Aumsville. I toured his shop last year, he's been smithing a couple years, and has a brilliant mechanical mind. I don't want to give his phone # over the web, but if you can't find him, leave me a personal message by clicking on my name.

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Hey Shop Teacher,

One option is to build a firepot bottom blast type forge with a hand cranked fan or motor driven fan as a blower.

The firepot would be shaped like a pyramid with the top choped off and used upside down.

The dimensions for the large top should have sides 10" long, the bottom sides 3" to 4" long and the depth 4". It is pretty easy to draw one up and produce templates for various perspective drawings of the firepot. I have made them out of metal as thin as 1/8", although 1/4" to 1/2" thick metal will stand up for much longer. In your case though it may be adventageous to make it out of thin metal that will be used up after one class has graduated from your shop so then the next class would learn how to make one to replace the old one!

The grate can be made from anything ranging from 1/4" round stock to 1/2" round stock, it just needs to keep too much material from falling down through the grate, or one can drill a bunch of 1/4" to 1/2" holes in a sheet of metal to use as a grate. One can also make a clinker breaker, which is a bit of steel on a rod which acts as a grate to keep the fuel from falling though the bottom of the firepot and can rotate to break up the clinkers. Clinkers are composed of the silica, ash and other bits left after the coal burns and forms into a glass like substance which can clog the grate, these can be picked out with a fire iron, no problem.

For the air delivery I would great suggest that you get a copy of "How to Design and Build Centrigugal Fans for teh Home Shop" by David Gingery from http://www.lindsaybks.com/ . That would be a nice project for the kids in your class. They also have a booklet which has plans for a full sized portable forge which looks to be exactly what you are after, here is the link, http://www.lindsaybks.com/bks8/meador/index.html

For the fans output I would suggest that it be able to produce at least 5" of water pressure and at that back pressure move at least 12 cubic feet of air per minute. For a hand cranked blower the alrger and more powerfull it is the better, then just turn it slower. A system of belts, gears or sprockets and chains can convert a slow hand crank to the thousands of rpm that the fan requires, yet another good project for the young metal workers!

As to the fuel equation, charcoal, that is true charcoal made from solid wood, not the briquette grill stuff, is the "traditional" fuel and it works very well but requires a deeper firepot, which can be acheived by stacking firebricks up around the firepot to increase its usefull depth. The charcoal will send off "fire fleas" which are little sparky bits that will try and leap into your arms, it also burns up fast. Charcoal can be made with a variety of cooking schemes, I don't know how your school would look upon your producing charcoal there, but it could be an option with all of your scrap wood. Good smithing coal can be hard to come by but I believe that there is a healthy ABANA chapter up in Oregon where you are and they would probably be very happy to point you to a blacksmithing coal supplier in your area.

If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask them, that is what this place is for!

Caleb Ramsby

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You spoke of not wanting to use gas due to concerns of the school and fire marshall with the fuel. Have you asked about a solid fuel forge running at 3000 F? They may think the propane is safer.

I assume you have already started talking to the district and fire marshall and have approval to create a proposal with forge designs, fuel (including storage and acquisition), safety procedures, curriculum and all that? If not you may be putting the cart ahead of the horse with your question.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Changed my mind after talking to a couple of local smiths. I am now in the process of building a propane forge. It's a tank and I'll be posting the process up on this board as soon as it is finished. Looks great and built like a battleship.

Thanks for all your input on the solid fuel forge. I would love to have the ability to have both, but the gas one should do the trick. As long as I don't store the propane in the classroom, I can bring it to work on the days we forge and take it home.



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In 1964, I attended a 12 week farrier class on the OSU campus in Corvallis, and I shod horses in Salem for three years before moving away. The class is no longer, but there is a Farrier Science class at Linn Benton Community College near you. It would be worth your while to visit and get acquainted with how they work their forges and to learn what their setup is like.

http://www.turleyforge.com Granddaddy of Blacksmith Schools

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John Turkington in Monroe is a good supplier of coal. I've bought coal from him for thirty years: Farrier Supplies,26799Highway 99 North, Monroe ,Oregon. Phone 541 847-5854. John is getting up in years and some folks complain about his crankiness,but when I showed up in Eugene broke in 1982 he treated me as kindly as a man could and I'll always be indebted to him. I'm not one to forget favors.
It was even harder times in Oregon then than it is now and everybody who thought they could shoe a horse was hanging out their sign. I went and bought some supplies from John and he asked to see my rig. At the time I was still shoeing with and old Ft. Riley Cavalry forge. He looked at my tools and said "Oh you ARE a horseshoer" and that was the start of a long friendship and professional relationship. He also told me something that I still value today: When I said something about all the horseshoers already in the area he replied " There's always room at the top"!!!!! True then and true today.. Sorry for my rambling.It gets in the way of my good sense sometimes. Eric Sprado, Deadwood, Oregon.

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Sounds like you've resolved your original question, so I just want to say how cool I think it is that you're doing this. What a great opportunity for those kids. One of my great regrets is not discovering smithing until I was about 35. Imagine how much better I might be now if I'd been at it an extra 20 years! ;)

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