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I just built a furnace, I don't even have a fuel picked out yet (post answers pending), and I want to spend as little money as possible until I get into it and know that I'll enjoy it enough to put money into a proper bellows. At the moment, would a vacuum cleaner that blows work as a bellows when connected to a steel pipe? The pipe goes into the base of the furnace so the air is blowing directly onto the coal/charcoal (again, fuel question answers are pending - Coal vs. Charcoal) in the bottom of the furnace. I'm not just using the furnace to heat metals; I'm also using it (with a crucible) to melt soft metals to cast into jewelry.

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they usually put out way too much air.  Perhaps you should read up on the dozens of threads where this has been discussed previously.  Shoot I mentioned a place to probably get a free blower in a post today.  I've also built a bellows for under US$1 before.

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I will give you a very specific answer about a very specific situation. 

I burn anthracite (hard coal) in a rivet forge. Anthracite requires a constant blast of air, otherwise it will go out.

I use an old shop-vac set on Blow as my air supply. While it provides a constant blast, it is noisy and hard to regulate. 

Does it work? Yes, under these specific conditions. (I tried it with charcoal and got a literal shower of sparks. No matter: I needed a haircut anyway.) Is it ideal? Not at all, even under these conditions. 

So here's my advice: before you go reinventing the wheel or locking yourself into a less-than-ideal situation, read every IForgeIron thread you can find about forges, blowers, fuel, and casting. If they don't give you the answers, at very least you'll be in a position to ask better questions. 

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As you have stated you do not wish to spend any cash until you are happy smithing is for you, and I can relate to that, then if the vacuum is your only current option, yes it can work but it's not the best. Please be aware that while making do with what's at hand may be the cheap option, it may also be a difficult option and ultimately turn your metal bashing passion cold! As advised above, keep your options open and soak up the info in the threads here. For fuel, charcoal is usually easier to obtain than coal so it's a good opening choice, vacuums general provide too much air, but by simply blowing "at" rather than "into" your air feed pipe you can reduce the flow in the forge.

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Hair driers and bed inflators are cheep and a bit quieter than a shop vac. An inertube makes exeptable leaves for a bellows, either the classic teardrop or constitina (round or square) 

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I used a blower from an old heat gun that the heating elements had burned out.
I disassemble the heat gun and took out the blower assembly.

The heat gun was 120V AC but oddly enough the blower was low voltage DC.
I ended up powering it from a cheap 12V wall-wart but you could use a car battery or other 12-18V source.
It was nearly silent and provided plenty of air.

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I tried a hair dryer simply to educate myself. Not something I'd do otherwise as I have a collection of antique forge blowers. So I did it. Go my feet wet. I'm further educated.

It works. But way too much air even on low. I can live with the decibel level.Not bad. But there is a reason Champion went to great lengths to make a silent blower. I do do a hair dryer if I had provisions to regulate the air and or the speed.

It's one thing to do this once in a while for fun. It's an udder thing to make items or teach class with a noise like that. I cannot imagine a vacuum cleaner.Rather listen to Miley Cyrus speak.

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I honestly believe a small Dayton type blower is well worth every penny, if you choose to go that route.

Also I believe that with a little bit of looking you can find something better than a vacuum or a hairdryer fairly readily. Just my two cents.

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