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I Forge Iron

Determination-fueled forge


Ridgewayforge

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What's in a name? Especially the name "blacksmith"?

Does it mean actually pounding on hot metal, or trying to do your best at it?


Being low on cash I have no real forge. Nor do I have a brake-drum forge with a hairdryer, (which I would consider real, but just for now let's pretend its not.)
I have a fire.

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Many times I have gone out to my fire ring, lit up a fire and labored intensively on it, trying to make it hot enough. I wait a minimum of one hour before I try to smith on it, letting a good bed of coals gather. Then, armed with nothing but a 5-gallon drum lid and a fireplace bellows, I fan the flames. And I keep at it, until my arms nearly fall off. I alternate the two, depending on whether I need a concentrated heat or a hotter fire. I call it my Determination-fueled forge.
I am saving now for a rivet forge with a nice hand-cranked blower (oh how I pine for it!!!!), yet I know that I'll always carry with me the knowledge of "if you set your mind to it, you can do almost anything!

After a terrible day today at the forge, its helpful to remember to never get discouraged. Its a good excercise, forging over a campfire. If you get a chance, try it! At the very least you'll appreciate the "modern" technology of blowers!

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My suggestion is to build your fire deeper and add some type of chimney to get the air moving by natural convection. The 55 Forge and the pan forge do about the same job, one costing a bit of scrounging and the other costs about $125 of your money.

Personally I would go for a blower and an anvil before the forge. After all a forge is just something to hold the fire. My suggestion would be to save your money and find a gathering of blacksmiths. Be honest and ask then to suggest a good blower to purchase. If you take enough money you can outfit a full blacksmith shop at one of those gatherings.

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Something to consider is Weygers flue blasted forge.

He made it from a coffee can with a hole in the bottom side for access and a bunch of small holes punched in the bottom for air to get to the fuel.

The flue was made from 12 feet of 5" diameter irrigation pipe gotten from a farmer.

He punched some holes in the sides of the top of the flue and hung it from a tree with wire.

He punched some holes in the sides of the bottom of the flue and corresponding holes in the sides of the top of the coffee can and used a pin to attach the coffee can to the bottom of the flue.

He packed the coffee tin with charcoal taken from a camp fire.

The natural draft of the flue gave the charcoal enough of a draft to be able to make some wood carving chisels. I don't think this setup would get 1" diameter steel up to heat in a hurry, but it would be enough to do something at least!

Keep it up man, it is doing such as you have that proves what determination can really accomplish in this crazy world!

Caleb Ramsby

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I'm not real intent on getting the forge itself, I just want to be able to heat metal without waiting eons until its hot enough between heats. (that fire gets darn hot, too, and the radiant heat is a killer!)
A forge blower is what I'm after. I met a man who owns an antique store, he smiths himself and he'll let me know when a blower comes in.

I've thought of the 55 forge, and if I can make some time I might try it.

Thanks Caleb for the encouragement!

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Funny I've built smithing bellows for under US$5 that will get a charcoal fire to forge welding temps---seems you are going out of your way to do it the HARD way.

I build an adobe forge on a fireproof table and transfer coals from a wood fire so I get the forging heat and not the radiant heat and smoke. I even forged and fabbed a shovel from gravel screen so I can separate the ash and fines from the coals and only move the good stuff into the forge.

Think about working *smarter* not harder!

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You can draft your fire with a paper shopping bag and a little pipe, a feed bag works better it's larger. I've done plenty of campfire forging and almost never had a forced draft. I did get a Coleman Inflate All some years back and it's de bomb. A 12v blower for inflating rafts, matresses, etc. and works a treat. The Resurection River forge was one of my most ambitious camp smithies and featured a draft provided by the prevailing wind down the river from Exit Glacier.

Another good method is to build a "hill" forge. This is a trench leading up a slope and covered with something non-flamable, sandstone works well provided it's seriously dry. It works best if it's steep enough the fuel can roll or slide down the slope to an obstruction at the bottom. You load wood in the top and it feeds the fire, pyrolizing as it slides down the trench. When it reaches the bottom it's coals and hot enough to weld or even found iron/steel. What I like about a hill forge is the fire is mostly covered, first to prevent it from just burning up before it charcoals but being covered I'm subjected to much less roasting heat.

Frosty The Lucky.

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My first coal forge was made entirly of junk. A old wheel barrow made the table. The pot was an old brake drum from a Ford p/u with a pipe welded to the bottom. The air was supplied by a hair dryer or small shop vac depending on how much heat I needed. I could forge weld with the set up, though I had to squat down to use it. After over a year of use it finally rusted through. The reincarnation isn't much better, the table is a metal shipping pallet used for welding cylinders but hey, I don't have to squat down to use it. The only cost I have in these was the electricity I used to weld them up. The point is, you don't have to spend a lot of money to do this. They've been smithing with much less for thousands of years.

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Thomas, my mistake! I meant the bellows! I'd be quite interested in building one of those, with an adobe forge. I figure It'll combine two hobbies: working out and forging!!! :D

Frosty, I like that style, using a river as a draft! I'm hoping to come across some better equiptment soon, but for now I'll use what I can and I'll force it to make do!

Jm, How does a wheelbarrow work for the table? Was it a shallow one or was it deeper? I've considered that...seems to be a low cost alternative to scrounging some sheet steel.

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It was a shallow barrow. I had to notch the backside to access the fire better. The biggest drawback with that setup was I couldn't do anything that would stick 8" past the pot. Low cost is my middle name, accually our family motto is "Cheap or Free". A little know how and a lot of "determination" is all one needs.

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Well my twin bellows were based on instructions give in "Divers Arts" a studio crafts book written around 1120 A.D. I used plywood from a junked 70's line printer enclosure and pretty much everything else was from dumpsters and fleamarkets.

If you were making a set I would advise changing it to include a check valve. (Something Theophilus mentions

Actually I also built a double lunged bellows that was beautiful to use and a lot easier to use; it was based on a 100+ year old commercial one from a museum in Oklahoma City)

There are a lot of posts already on this subject, I'd suggest searching.

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http://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/8690-bellows-plans/

have a read, lots of links.

You can skin your bellows with the skin from old leather or vinyl furniture. You can use feed bags, or plastic tarp, or heavy canvas, or you can coat light canvas in PVA or a similar product to make it air tight. There is even a suggestion using old car or truck inner tubes!

Phil
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I once saw a video of some African smiths who were using two old cement bags for bellows. They had the tops sliced open with two straight sticks rolled around the flaps. The man working the bellows would open and close the top of the bag as the intake valve. He would lift one bag and squeeze down the other to provide a draft. They had a small block of steel as a anvil and pliers as tongs. It worked.

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I saw that same video Timothy. Another one that impressed me was of a smith in Cambodia. He was using an empty shell casing from a 155 mm as his anvil. The blower was a fabbed up bicycle and all his top tools were handled with pieces of bamboo. You don't need alot of fancy gear to get stuff done. But it don't hurt none to have. :D

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