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Hey y'all! I'm a 23 year old Texan going to school in North Idaho/East Washington (border town). Went up to my local "big city" and picked up an anvil and now I'm going to try my hand at black smithing!


I have propane and I have cender blocks, but I want something that is a little more permanent (but still mobile). I'm thinking of moving over to coal (know a guy who sells coal), but I don't know where to start.

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Edited by Torchy
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Welcome aboard Torchy.  If you've already got an anvil and a hammer all you need is a hot fire and some steel to beat on.  If being portable is you highest priority then propane is probably going to beat out coal, but that depends on a few factors.  When you say portable do you mean rolling it in and out of a building or do you mean packing it up in a vehicle and taking it somewhere else?

For solid fuel I recommend reading through this thread:


That will give you an idea of the basics and show how simple and inexpensive it can be to get started. 

If propane seems like it might be better then head here and spend some time reading through several of the topics and you'll be able to get an idea of what makes a good gas forge.


As Thomas pointed out you will learn a lot more faster by having someone show you in person, but getting a grasp on the concepts and terminology used before that is also a very good idea.  The search function on this forum is less than ideal, so if you have something you want to search for on the site you are better off doing a web search and adding "iforgeiron" as part of your key phrase.   Just about any question you can think of has most likely already been asked and answered in detail in the forum, so we always recommend some snacks or a lunch, a cold beverage, and a comfy chair and then a few hours reading up on the topics that interest you the most.


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Welcome aboard Torchy, glad to have you. Close to Spokane is good if you decide to go with a gas forge, EJ Bartells (under a new name I can't recall drat it) has a retail store there. They supply and service HVAC from household to industrial. Bartells is the only decent supplier in Alaska and they treat the club exceptionally well. Kast-O-Lite 30 LI castable bubble alumina, water set refractory seems to be the hot new product for home build propane forges. It's been used by a number of the gang for quite a while but the product seems to be getting popular. Anyway Bartells in AK usually has a pallet on the floor and it's almost undoubtedly available there.

The big score for us is Kaowool. They service furnaces of all types and by code they can't use rems anything going into a service has to come off the roll. What this means is there is usually a dumpster full waiting for pickup, I haven't bought Kaowool in years.

Forget the cinder block except to put stuff on, it doesn't take shocks and a fire will break it sooner than later. It's also not very portable.

The only tweaking you might need to do on your anvil is to it's height. A quick search with terms (correct anvil height, Iforgeiron) will hit on past conversations about the subject unless you feel like reading the section here. Use Google or other regular search engine the one provided by the sad excuse for a software provider Iforge operates on has a search engine that has you searching for . . . Nevermind it stinks.

Hook up with the NWBA it's a very active ABANA affiliate offering lots of meetings, events and great folk.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks y'all for the warm welcome. I'm going to try to stay active on the forum. 

Frosty, I set my anvil at about my wrist height. 

I'm leaning towards going for a solid fuel forge. Any opinion on making a fire pot from a bakes? 

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Waste height is generally too high. The old books say knuckle height is proper but that's from the days of strikers doing heavy work. More common now days is about wrist height. You gauge by standing next to the anvil in the shoes you work in with your hands at your sides and relaxed. Old days your knuckles should just brush the anvil face, newer and I feel better the anvil face should be about knuckle height.

Another and better test is to lay a piece of wood, about the same thickness as the stock you'll be forging, on the anvil and give it a smack with your hammer. Take a look at the mark it leaves if it's even all round the height is near perfect. If it forms a crescent with the deeper part facing you the hammer is "healing" and the anvil it too high. If it's on the far side the hammer is "toeing" and the anvil is too low. If it's left or right you are either holding the hammer cocked left or right and this is a technique mistake you can fix with practice.

If you want to use salvaged parts rather than buying or making your own a brake "rotor" as in disk brakes. The hub is a better size and depth for general work and is more economical. It's easy to get carried away but bigger is NOT better, you can only forge about 6" effectively at a time. Auto brake "drums" are generally too large all round, even from a compact for all but specialty jobs.

Just so you know I'm a gas forge guy, good smithing coal is hard to come by here even though we have enormous coal fields here, I can see a mtn. range of coal out my door. Nobody is mining metallurgical coal and I'm too old and fat to go dig my own. So I use propane.

Building a propane forge is more expensive and technically difficult and requires more shop skills. They're not all that difficult if you have the patience and can follow directions. There are thousands of guys here who use propane forges. Gassers are fast to light a fire in, don't smoke, require almost zero management and go out when you turn them off. They do produce Carbon Monoxide and consume oxygen at a prodigious rate so good ventilation is a MUST and carbon monoxide alarms are highly recommended.

Iforge has extensive sections of archived posts in titled sections with (I'd put money on this) virtually any question you can come up with answered multiple times. I highly recommend you pull up a comfy chair a beverage and snacks, there's more blacksmithing info, opinion and silly myth written than a boy could want. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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If you don't mind me asking, where from Texas did you come from? Welcome, and get ready to pend every weekend, and every bit of your spare time for this craft! It's a bit (or in other words, VERY) addicting....  Which isn't a bad thing unless you make it a bad thing!


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