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English water cooled forge


Ferrous Beuler

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I have seen in print from the U.K. several mentions and photos of forges (coal/coke) configured with a water tank on the end through which passes the nozzle/tuyere extending into a rather deep table or "bin" which contains a large amount of fuel. No "firepot" seems to be present. The nozzle itself resembles an antique style fire hose nozzle which extends through the wall separating the water reservior and the forge table which has rather high sides and is in all photos I've seen, deeply loaded with coal. This nozzle enters a few inches above the floor of the table and extends into it about 8" or so.
I have a few questions about this arrangement.

Being in the U.S. I have not seen any such forges in use here, yet I have the impression that this is the norm in the U.K. (?)

How does the water play a part here, does it circulate in some way?

Please could someone in the U.K or commonwealth who actually has/uses one of these style forges show some pictures and explain its configuration and operation?

THANK YOU!!! Dan:)

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Bruce Wilcock occasionally visits here and may be able to expand on your question as I believe he is in the Shetland islands. I traded emails with him a while back regarding side blasts because I was thinking about building one. He said water-cooled side blasts were quite common in the UK years ago but now, smiths often just use a piece of black or stainless pipe and let the end burn off since it is simple enough to replace when necessary. The old cast iron tuyere would eventually burn through and start leaking.

It's pretty simple to weld a pipe inside a pipe to create a jacket if you wanted to try the design. I built one this way but never put it into a forge - I recall it was a piece of 3/4 pipe inside a 2" pipe - about 12" long, which was also capped on both ends. The 2" had two 1/2" pipe nipples - one at the back end and one a little farther forward to allow water circulation from a separate tank. The 3/4" went thru and out the back cap to the blower. However, after talking to Bruce, I figured I'd just use a piece of 1" stainless with an adapter on the rear end for air blast if I ever decided to build one.

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My forge at home is a side blast. A good friend of mine who is an Englishman built it. He welded up the tureye by rolling sheet to get a cone. The center is a pipe and a large washer connects the end of the cone to the pipe.

I love it.

Seriously..

It is so much easier to heat a specific section of metal then any other forge I have used. No more worries about building the fire up huge to pass a bar through, or bending a piece so it fits down in the pot. It is awesome. I just stick the metal where the hot spot should be and make sure the part I want to heat is right there, then pack the coals around it, then pack the coke around the coals, and its hot in no time. It is seriously easier then every bottom draft or gasser I have used (I've only been smithing for a year and a half or so tho, so I'm not an expert..).

My friend the Englishman was always ranting to people about how much better a side blast is, and everyone thought it was funny he would rant so much. Now that I've been using it for a while, I've started ranting too!

Build one, you won't be sorry :)

Now I just wish I could get a local source for metallurgical coke...

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Have a look here; http://www.markaspery.net/Articles_files/Side%20Blast%20forge.pdfe
My tue is not tapered as it is shown in the link. It is just a straight length of pipe (around 5" diameter, I think). I didn't really bother to read the article, but I would note is that it is very important, should you want to build one, that the tue does not point upwards at all! The result would be a bubble in the water jacket, a flurry of sparks as the tue burns through, and a lot of steam as the water tank (or "back bosh") empties itself into your fire!
British (and Irish?) smiths, of which I am one, do, in my experience, almost exclusively use side blast, water cooled tues. I'm sure there are some who use just bits of pipe, I have only seen this once, but it's not a very efficient system for a professional or serious smith. I do know a smith who uses a very massive solid side blast tue, but that's very rare, and I'm pretty sure solid (aka "dry") tues of that size are no longer produced. Smaller ones are produced for portable forges.

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My forge at home is a side blast. A good friend of mine who is an Englishman built it. He welded up the tureye by rolling sheet to get a cone. The center is a pipe and a large washer connects the end of the cone to the pipe.
Build one, you won't be sorry :)

Now I just wish I could get a local source for metallurgical coke...


What are the dimensions, i.e. diameter of the back of the cone, ditto for the front, how long, what diameter for the blast pipe, how big is the water tank, etc?
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The back blast forges are quite simple to make and in use operation. One of the reasons the solid tue irons are not as common now as they used to be is because of the difficulty we here in the UK have in getting a suitable forging coal, Coke has replaced coal and generates far more heat at the nose of the tue, consequently burning away the nose more rapidly than coal did.

They take up more floorspace in the workshop than a bottom blast forge, and you need access to water to top up the tank.

When the water in the tank becomes warm, natural convection currents (hot water rises) allow the water to circulate and help keep the front face of the tue relatively cool preventing it from burning away

If your shop is cold in winter, you could plumb the tank in to a radiator for the shop

The main components you will need if you want to make one are
A tank, with a capacity of about 20+gallons
A piece of pipe/tube 4" dia x 10"long (Sizes are approximate use what is available)
A piece of tube with a bore of 1"+diameter, long enough to pass through the tank and plus the length of the larger diameter tube (Your Air supply has to be connected to this tube)
A thick disc (1/2") plate with a 3/4" or 7/8" diameter hole through centre and with an outside diameter to allow it to fit over the end of the larger tube with sufficient to allow you to run a weld around

Cut two holes in the tank at a centre line approximately 3" up from the base of the tank, one hole to allow small tube to pass through the other slightly smaller than the diameter of the larger tube to allow tube to be welded onto the tank surface

Weld the smaller bore tube to the back of the thick disc,

Then weld this disc and tube to pass down the centre of the larger tube/pipe, ensure the assembly will fit through the tank,

Next weld the larger tube to the front of the tank, and weld the smaller tube in position at the rear of the tank

Check that the tank and welded assemblies are watertight, then the unit is ready to be placed into the forge hearth from the rear.

The height of the tue hole is approximately 5" above the base of the forge, If you leave an air gap between the rear of the forge hearth and the tank, this will negate the need for a heavy back plate, and assist in keeping the water cool.

Note the sizes are not critical, the principle is the important thing,

In use, if you place your bar across the front of the tue iron, you will get a longer heat than if you place the bar in from the front of the hearth, use this position for heating an end to be jumped up, or if you only need a short heat on the bar end.

I hope this helps

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What are the dimensions, i.e. diameter of the back of the cone, ditto for the front, how long, what diameter for the blast pipe, how big is the water tank, etc?


I'll have to get back to you on specifics... Roughly speaking though (this is all speculation from my memory), the cone is about 10 inches wide at the back. The air blast is about 1" wide. The nose of the cone is about 3" wide. The cone is probably about 14" long. The tub holds about 3-5 gallons of water, I only ever fill it 3 gallons full or so. Never had a problem with the water or tub getting too hot.

Tomorrow evening is my forging night. I'll try to take some pics and measurements then. The digital camera has been acting up though...
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...In use, if you place your bar across the front of the tue iron, you will get a longer heat than if you place the bar in from the front of the hearth, use this position for heating an end to be jumped up, or if you only need a short heat on the bar end...


John,

Thank you for posting this info, it helps me a lot since I have only seen still photos of the UK side blasts. Do you typically use fire brick around the fuel to push the fire around? I have seen primitive American forges during local period re-enactments that used charcoal, which had a mound of dirt or a brick turned sideways in front of the blast. This directed the air stream in a perpendicular manner to the blast direction so the fire naturally became narrow and long - similar to a Japanese swordsmith's forge.

I have also read that the side blast fell out of favor in America because the patent pot was lighter, cheaper, needed no water for cooling and used less fuel than a side blast because the fire naturally formed in the bowl but I figure it's still in use for good reason. Do you feel the side blast consumes an excessive amount of coal/coke or is it easily manageable?

I'm asking all this because I have been toying with making one for a long time but I only want to make it once. I am also engaged to build a working, period-accurate forge for a restored smithy at a local historical park and was considering making that one a side blast instead of buying a firepot.

Thanks in advance...Hollis
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Hollis,

I can't speak for John, but in my setup, most of the box is filled with fines. If I want to clean it out and get it in tip top condition for forging, I'll remove all the coal / coke off the top, and be left with big bed of fines. Then I'll shape a long fire pot in the fines perpendicular to the tuyere. Using a little water to help pat it down in place helps.

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John B, I hope life is nice for you in Devon these days. Thank you for your very informative reply. It seems I've hit upon an interesting subject with this post. Most of what I've seen on the subject is to be found in the free downloads available from the rural crafts heritage folks in the U.K. and a bit here and there in various books. Nothing in great depth though and no clear photos of such a forge in actual use. A photo essay showing this type of forge in detail and in use with procedures of maintaining the fire, taking heats, and removing clinkers would be splendid and much enjoyed by many of us here on this forum if the interest in this thread is any indication.
So far it seems that those who have had the pleasure of using such a forge are very pleased with the experience and find it to be a versatile platform in their smithing. Ihope this thread continues with lots of participation. Dan:)

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The tuyere does not have to be tapered, mine is fabricated from roughly 6'' dia pipe - one solid piece then another piece cut along its length and wrapped around to give extra thickness to the wall. As for the water tank, bigger is definately better, mine takes over 40 gallons and after a hard days work is up to a good boil. I also use fines to cover the bed, but also have a single layer of fire bricks against the back face.
You can buy cast tuyeres and water tanks from smithing supppliers but they are expensive and the tanks are really too small to be of use.
Air is controlled by a sliding air gate and is suplied by a woodworkers dust extractor, fuel is coke.

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Glad to be of some use about side/back blast forges.

I do use fines or coke ash to fill the base of the forge, when it was new, I used firebricks to fill the base of the hearth but left a pit area in front of the tue to allow the clinker to go into, The alternative would be to use sand to take up this space. I also packed ash and fines around the tue iron to stop the tube being heated excessively.

In practice the wall thickness of the outer tube is not an issue as the air blast concentrates the hot spot to the front of the blast hole, if heavy duty forging is required, then up the tue hole dameter to 1", a 3/4" diameter works well allowing firewelding up to 2" square on Wrought Iron (possibly larger, thats the largest I have had the pleasure to work on,) It will also raise meteorites to a forging/welding heat but that's another story

You can spread the range of the fire by using firebricks to divert the blast to what the forging situation calls for

As for economy, as with all forges, it is down to how you use them, and it is a balance of cost of the fuel used, to the cost of time saved if you don't back the blast off between heats. You do not need to have a fire the size and appearance of a mini volcano to be effective, too much air and you will suffer pitting and make a lot of clinker which will stick to your workpiece, at the right blast you should get a rapid heat with a clean finish any scale will readily wire brush off and you should get a clean forged finish. Be warned though, awareness is needed as a momentary lapse in concentration WILL result in the metal sparkling and melting, (well above forge welding heat.)

The coke we use is a pig to keep in and will die very rapidly, so it is more practical and economical to let the forge tick over at a good working heat whilst in prolonged use, it also generates less clinker this way.

Because the coke dies quickly it is quite easy to shut the air off, wait 2 or 3 minutes by which time the clinker is solidified, and then you can usually fish it out in one lump, rake the fire back together and turn on the air blast again and you are up and running in a couple of minutes. This is usually a matter of trial and experience

When in use, pile the new coke you are going to use over the tue iron and backed up to the rear of the forge, this will dry out any dampness, and make it easy to rake forward and recharge the fire.

We also find a lot of smoke is created on startup, but this disappears as soon as the fire gets going

I would guess that one of the reasons most of forges you are used to is because of the relative weights of the firepots/tue iron. When you have to ship or cart the basic items, the firepot takes up less space, weighs less, is easier to produce, and does not need a water supply.

When solid tue irons were in use, (as opposed to water cooled ones) it was not unknown for cannonballs with a hole bored through to be used. Sometimes the cast ones were mounted flush with the back brickwork on a brick built hearth. This worked well with coal, but the introduction of coke meant they were eroded/melted far more rapidly.

Hope this helps.

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John B- thanks for the information concerning solid tues and coal. It had not occured to me that that was why they are so rare. The one smith I know who uses one uses coal. There you go! I made a solid tue myself some years ago, but never used it because I wasn't confident that it would'nt burn up.
I have also wondered whether the application of fire clay would preserve a solid tue.

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First one to build one of the side blown twyeres, takes lots of photos and we can turn it into a blueprint.

As no one is going to do it exactly like the other fellow, there can be 3, 4, 5 blueprints on the same subject. This just make things easier for the next guy, as there are now a how-to tutorials.

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Hi apprenticeman. I have worked extensively with sideblast forges, both with water cooled tuyeres and just pipe. I really want to make one with a soapstone shield stone carved out like a face. ;)

The water cooled variety with the fabricated nozzle was very popular at this year's California Blacksmith Association Spring Conference workshop series. The only drawback I noticed was the odd shape of the hot area confusing people. The forges were shared by 3 people, and coming in from different sides, some participants had trouble getting in the sweet spot. Cleaning ash did not seem to be a problem. You yanked out a big fat syrupy clinker once in a while, everybody cheered, and you got back to work.

In my forge, things are a bit different. I use lump charcoal of varying quality. The place where I buy it from has huge variation between bags. Parenthetically, the vendor is quite large, and knows that a large part of its customer base is blacksmithing. It appears that there will eventually be a blacksmith grade of charcoal, which will be screened to a useful uniform size, and sold at a higher price. Back to the point. These forges can get choked with ash. In a bottom blast forge, you just give the clinker breaker a twist, hit the ash dump, and ashes gone :D! A side blast is more annoying to clean. I have to clean mine every other session, but if I get a bag of bad charcoal, it can ash up in one session. Cleaning is easy when the forge is cold.

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It seems like these sideblast ones are NOT around for a reasson, they sound like a PITA to use compared to a regular firepot forge.


Not necessarily a PITA to use, just to construct. I think, like everybody else in the world, blacksmiths get excited by the promise of new, exotic and, perhaps, more efficient systems. In this particular case, the exitement seems to be immediately followed by the question "how is this convoluted and inconvenient system better than the one I already have?" Once people get over the novelty of it, they will probably go back to what they learnt on.
Similarly, I have worked on a number of home-made bottom blast forges here in the UK, and they never work quite right, because we don't have the know how and accumulated experience, and because they aren't available commercially, so we don't even know what a "proper" one should look like!
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Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages - just like gas v. solid fuel forges. Once set up and working, the side blast would be a great addition to a bottom blast as another tool. I have a spare anvil and was thinking about a second forging station on the other side of my shop but it simply has never been a priority since I work alone. However, a portable forge might be neat to build into a side blast. The Vaughans link was interesting because they show a type that does not appear to use water but is a heavy solid piece. Do any of you British chaps have experience with the non-watercooled models?

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