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I Forge Iron

Initial Impressions After Using 55 Forge


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Using the bottom-draft design stickied at the top, I fabricated myself a bottom-draft 55 forge. For fuel, I used simple Juniper firewood. It got very hot, but it took close to an hour to get it going that way. Even then, my friend's railroad spike was only starting to glow red, and was not hot enough to shape. I'm wondering if I should insulate the interior. I've seen the recipe of portland cement, clay, and sand used here on the forums. I do not have access to (free) cement, and was wondering if an adobe mixture would work, using clay and straw. There also is not an ash buildup. Would this ash buildup insulate it as well?

I have never used coal or seen it used, so I do not have a reference to judge the performance of my wood coals. I think my wood coals will work, but I'm wondering if it would be worth my while to buy real coal.

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There is a problem with using fresh wood in a forge. You end up with a lot of ash by the time you get the wood burned down. Using a separate fire pit to burn the wood down is one choice, using lump charcoal is another. Wood charcoal was the only fuel for centuries before coal was discovered, so making it before or as you need it, or buying it, will perform. There is a learning curve any way you look at it.


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I've only used fresh wood and charcoal in my forge, which is a lot like the 55 design. It does take an hour or more to get the fire going well, this is normal. Perhaps switch to hardwoods and use a mixture of fresh wood and charcoal to get the fire hot enough. Glowing red is hot enough, but orange I've found works better for me. To get that you might need to either use better seasoned hardwood, construct your fire a bit differently, use charcoal or increase airflow. I've always put a log on top of my fire, supported by some fire bricks to make a chamber of sorts for the fire. It burns a lot hotter, I've found.

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Think about driving a Fred Flintsone car, Feet out the bottom and your legs pushing the weight of you and the vehicle. You can get there but you are not really driving something that is efficient. Buy somecoal and then see if it is wot you like. Lump hardwood sharcoal is usable also. Be carfull with coal or you will melt your steel!

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If you will note, there is about 4 inches of fuel in the 55 Forge as shown. This forge is set up for coal and not wood. The wood version is cut at the first ring up, minimum height for wood.

The wood fire needs to have the side wall of the forge much deeper, maybe 16 inches or so, in order to have a good fire making charcoal and the right amount of hot coals on the bottom of the fire. The fuel size that worked best for me was 2x2 or 2x4 about 4 inches long. It lights easily, burns well, forms charcoal quickly and burns leaving HOT coals, depending on your air flow.

To test the raw wood forging, I put a whole 16 inch tree through the forge as fuel, Started with the limbs and moved on up to the sizes and pieces that needed split. Took several days of forging but yellow and white hot were easy to achieve. It did EAT FUEL to make the heat, and the radiant heat from the fire was an issue.

Next I gathered a stack of pallets about 6-7 feet tall and used a circular saw to reduce the stack to a pile of 2x4 pieces about 4 inches long. Seemed I was feeding it more fuel than forging until I built up a bed of coals 6-8 inches deep then it was just replacing the wood as needed to keep the coals at the depth I needed. You will have to figure out the difference between the sparks from too hot iron (nails) and too hot iron (your project) as they look very much alike. (grin)

I suspect that you are trying to run the fire too shallow, and not building a deep bed of coals. Photos always help.

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Glowing red is hot enough, but orange I've found works better for me. ~RidgewayForge

with all due respect "glowing red" is not "hot enough". You'll beat yourself to death trying to move something the size of a railroad spike if it's only glowing red.

My forge is similar to the "55" design and I've used both coal and charcoal and found them both to work great. I don't know if it's the same in AZ but in SC I can buy real lump charcoal at Lowes, Wal-mart, etc...NOT BBQ briquettes. If you must use wood then follow Glenn's instructions and you should be fine.
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with all due respect "glowing red" is not "hot enough". You'll beat yourself to death trying to move something the size of a railroad spike if it's only glowing red.

I suppose this all depends though on how we veiw glowing red. I mean on the upper end, like a mostly ripe tomato. But you are right, my mistake.
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Let us define color. (for mild steel)
low medium and high red
low medium and high orange
low medium and high yellow
throwing sparks

Forge at orange and yellows, the metal moving better in the yellow range.
When you get into the reds you need to take another heat and warm the metal back up to forging temp.

Your eyes, your forge, your lighting conditions, etc are different from any other set of conditions. With the chart above you can set your temperatures according to color and come very close to repeating that temp each time. If you change from inside a building to outside you shift colors up or down the scale, sometimes 1, 2, 3, or more levels. But once you re-establish your color system you can again come very close to repeating that temperature each time.

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I use charcoal only and if I wasn't careful when I first started I burned and melted the steel. I started with a smaller forge and now I have a larger one based off the 55 forge design. I started by chipping the wood and burning it that worked , but as said before there was to much ash. Make your own charcoal, I do it in 55 and 45 gal drums. I like the smaller drums better. I seive the charcoal to remove the fines and brake up the bigger chunks and reburn the few unburned chuncks in the next batch.
The old small forge
air turn down low
P3131208.jpg air up higher
all on charcoal

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