Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Newbie question.

Recommended Posts

Sorry if I'm asking a question that's already been answered. I am literally starting today. On my last trip to California, I talked my dads ferrier out of some horseshoes his apprentice had messed up on the cheap. I have an old fire pit I converted into a forge by lining with firebrick and adding a blower. I have hardwood for fuel.  I want to know if I will be able to straighten one of the horseshoes with my cheap little setup, or am I just spinning my wheels?  Should I see if I can get coal instead of using hardwood?  Is horseshoe iron a decent material to practice on?  Thanks for any advice, and sorry once again if I'm covering old ground. 

Edited by CaliforniaOkie
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well using a pit forge blown by two single action bellows and burning real chunk charcoal---NOT Briquettes! they were able to forge pattern welded swords for centuries!

I like to burn my wood in a raised firepit and just shift hot coals over so I don't have to deal with the smoke and fire at the forge.  Also a blower for charcoal needs to have a very soft blast.  Most electric ones will need to waste most of the output only letting a little in the fire.  A hand crank blower is great for charcoal.

Is horseshoes OK metal to practice on?  Yes, No, Maybe depending on what you are trying to do; unless they were sold to you at scrap rate there is chaper metal you could get and use.  you mich search on steel suppliers Duncan OK and call around and ask how much a 20' section of say 3/8" sq would cost, A-36 or "mild steel".  Sucker rod is good for things like tongs and other smithing tools, automotive coil spring for knives---but learn to forge FIRST then worry about forging blades.

Find your local Abana Affiliate; probably a branch of these guys: http://www.saltforkcraftsmen.org/  working *1* saturday with a smith who know what they are doing can save you 6 months of futzing around on your own!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Welcome aboard. Specifics really help in the question to get specific answers. Please be more specific.  We like pictures too. 

:) the horse shoes are probably steel, not iron.

You Can burn wood and use the hot coals with a blower to forge with. 

What are you planning to make?

what tools do you have to work with? 

How is the blower setup to the fire pit?

etc.. Too many unknowns to know how to answer your questions. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome aboard, glad to have you. What kind of blower do you have? You don't need much of one for charcoal, a blow drier is way more than necessary for basic smithing. I pick up mattress inflater blowers at yard, garage, etc. sales for next to nothing and they make enough air blast for an industrial size coal forge. Heck I just came in from burning slash from clearing a fire lane around the house. I use a Coleman InflateAll,HO (high output) and a junk of salvaged tubing to blast the burn pile. Without the blower it takes a couple hours to burn a pickup load of fresh cut green slash, the blower makes about 3 pickup loads go away to ash in about 1.5hrs.

Anywho a little air and wood turns into coals which is more than hot enough to smelt, refine, cast, forge, whatever steel, horse shoes don't stand a chance. Do a quick search of Iforge, use Google and specify Iforge in the terms, the on site search engine sucks . . . stuff we're not allowed to name here, it's a family site you know. Anyway search out Charles Stevens "forge in a box" thread. He's a huge proponent of side blast forges especially for charcoal and I have to agree it's hard to beat a side blast for charcoal. Better still a side blast forge is as simple as a shallow hole or trench in mineral soil. Fire brick is gilding the lilly but makes a dandy sideblast forge.

If you hold off on making knives till you've developed some basic smithing skills it'll smooth your learning curve enormously. Buying a stick, 20' of stock at a steel supply costs about the same as buying a 3' piece of the same size at a big box store say Lowes, Home Depot, an industrial hardware, etc. As suggested already 3/8" sq. mild is excellent stock to learn with. It's thin enough you get to see results in a reasonable time and heavy enough to hold heat a while and best of all it's heavy enough your mistakes won't become permanent nearly as quickly as using say 1/4" sq, rd.

To start pick a modest weight hammer, I start folk out with a 32oz. 2lb. drill hammer. It's a smooth double faced hammer on a short handle. It's heavy enough to do serious work but light enough to not tire you too quickly or injure you and like moderate size stock won't make mistakes permanent nearly as quickly as a larger hammer.

Accuracy is far more important than strength, develop good hammer control will serve you far better for decades than developing the muscle to swing a BIG hammer.

I don't have access to sucker rod but coil springs turn up everywhere and it's medium carbon steel that's pretty forgiving of mistakes in the heat treat. It makes good punches, chisels, knives and one of my favorites tongs. Tongs made from a medium carbon steel can be forged thinner and be stronger than mild,  thinner means lighter and lighter is easier on you. Just don't dip them in water if you let them get red hot, toss them on the ground to air cool and normalize. Quenching from too hot will make them brittle, maybe even snap them when they hit the water.

I HOPE you realize how much fun this playing with fire and hitting things with hammers business is, it's downright addictive. And we're here to help. :D

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I seem to have an almost endless supply of used horse shoes some not used enough that I would have put them back on but a lot of eventers in our area don't want used shoes.  Farrier Friend of my sons drops grain bags of them off when he gets around to it and leaves a rasp or two at times also.  I've made hoof picks out of the shoes in the past and give them out to the young riders at a horse Assoc. up the road from me.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

So sorry for no picture. This was my set up. I had a fire pit I cut a hole in the bottom of and attached a short piece of 2" pipe, then an elbow, and a pipe leading out that I used my wife's old hairdryer as a blower with. I stacked fire brick around the hole and set a grate between layers to keep the chunks of hardwood from falling in. So I did manage to get a cherry red on the horseshoe, I wouldn't say it was bright, but it was visible in daylight. About then I also noticed the bottom of the fire pit around the pipe connection was bright red. So I need a different forge. Thank you for all the suggestions and support. I'll post again when I have a better setup. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome aboard. ontop of the very good advice you have alred got I woud like to add a snippet:

A horseshoe needs tongs but if you start on a rod that is longer than a foot/foot and a half, you do not need tongs and holding directly in the hand gives you better control with less effort.  You cut off when you are finished. It is a little like glass blowers method of working. Japanese swordsmiths weld a handle to their billet rather than use tongs.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As a member of the Saltfork craftsman, I second joining, infact Gerald lives just east of Duncan. 

Charcoal generaly dose best with a side blast forge with a 3/4" schedual 40 pipe. And about a 6" fireball. This is the most effecent setup I have found. This closely resembles the Iron Age forge's used in Europe, Africa and Asia. The detailes vary a bit, but the basics remain the same. I find that raw wood cut up about the size of a kids block and small limb peices the size of your thumb work well in a Tim Lively style wash tub forge, wile a side blast is generaly best for charcoal. 

As to air, a hair drier is generaly to much, as are electric bed/pool inflators and you have to regulate them some how. Hand bed inflators (the one from Sears are my preference) work well, and as your pumping you tend not to forget and burn up your steel. 

Welcome to the addiction

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Pay very close attention. You are offered very sound advise. Get some pizza and soda. Start reading. Then read more, till your eyes are sore. Then repeat another day.

Thanks guys for taking time to reply. It's how I got started. Well....not exactly, but you know what I'm saying. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Charcoal generaly dose best with a side blast forge with a 3/4" schedual 40 pipe. And about a 6" fireball. This is the most effecent setup I have found.

This is true, ... but it's not a LAW or anything.  :D

Since you're already set up to do bottom blast, ... I'd recommend sticking a "mushroom" shaped diffuser in, ... or over, ... the 2" inlet pipe.

Something like a 3" to 4" diameter disk, spaced up maybe an inch above the bottom of the firepot.

Obviously, the intent would be to spread the airflow out over a larger area, rather than concentrating it in the center.

Don't overthink this, ... just about anything that won't burn up, will probably work OK.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...