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Gas forge assistance required


JWParker62

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My wife is super excited and worrying me to death to start a new hobby and blacksmithing is her hobby of choice. I have been researching for about 2 months now to find her a gas propane forge for her to start with. She will be doing this just as a hobby for starters and will be focusing on mainly knife work. I feel like I'm running in circles now. I have been on all the major player sites for pre-built forges and have read a whole lot of the forum post on this site. I was trying avoid building her a forge, but after seeing the prices of the ready made ones, I can't pull the trigger on a $700+ piece of equipment that she might use for a few months and then give it up. So it looks like i will be building her one. I have read through a lot of the posts on here and see bits and pieces of things i would need to accomplish this task. Is there a master list somewhere out there by which i could start with? I do not have access to a welder, nor do i have access to anything that would cut a propane tank apart. I don't want to go so small to where all she can make is a pocket knife, and she doesn't need to be making a sword either. Something in the 2 burner range, maybe with a 16" bed, is what i was thinking. 

Watching a lot of Youtube and doing a lot of google searching, has implanted a good bit of understanding of the art, but i am still at a loss of at where to really begin with this project. I have read through the forges 101 and understand about temperature and burners, but i don't know where the best place to purchase such equipment would be. 

I lay my request at the experts feet, hoping for some good feedback that I have seen in so many of these forums. 

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Welcome to the forum.   I consider you a lucky man if your wife wants this as a hobby, but that's in line with my interests so it may not be the same for you.

A couple things to keep in mind here:   Think of the forge chamber/body as a heat container.  That's all it really is.  This does not have to be complicated or elegant; it just has to hold the heat and accept the stock being worked on.  For what it's worth I've been using a disposable helium tank, which is the same size as a freon tank, for my current propane forge.  I'm just a hobby bladesmith, but I haven't needed anything larger for any knives I've made.  You can only work on about 6 inches of hot steel at a time before it cools to the point where it needs to go back into the forge, so having a forge that can heat up 16 or even 12 inches at a time is just wasting fuel (and money).  The only time you need to heat up more is preparing for the quench, but the work can be moved in and out of the forge to get an even temperature before the quench.  As long as you have a pass through at the rear of the forge to work on longer stock there's no need for forge that large.  It will cost you money up front and continue to cost more in fuel over time.  I've made blades up to 2 feet long with my forge without any real issues due to the size of the forge.

So, with that in mind, if you get the right components, you can build what you (she) needs fairly easily and relatively inexpensively without a welder or a lot of specialized tools.  You will need some ceramic fiber blanket. How much you need depends on the size you choose of course, and that's true for the other components of the forge chamber.  It's good to have a lining inside the blanket of castable refractory, such as kastolite or its equivalent.  Ideally that would be coated with ITC 100, Metrikote, or Plistix for greater efficiency. For the front and rear openings it will probably be simplest for you to get a few insulating firebricks which can be stacked as needed to get the desired openings at first.  Again, you don't want to break the bank on something that may not be a long term interest, so you don't want to go overboard on design and cost here.

For a burner I'd suggest Frosty's T burner.  I believe the thread on that is pinned at the top of the gas forge section. 

Finally, blade smithing is in some ways a specialized area of blacksmithing.  To go from no smithing experience directly into blade making can be discouraging as there are so many things to learn simultaneously rather than sequentially.  Perhaps one of the best things you could do for her if you haven't already would be to find a blacksmithing or blade making group fairly close to you and have her attend at least one class/event before going further.

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Thanks for the quick responses. She has been on this kick for about 4 months now and has been watching videos and reading books and anything she can find regarding knife making. We live outside of Atlanta, GA and i have found some local classes that i might send her to at some point. I am the wood worker hobbyist, so if she can really get this metal working thing down, we could make a deadly duo. 

ThomasPowers, I came across Wayne coes website earlier today so i have it on my radar now for supplies. 

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Look into a local ABANA affiliate if you can; best way to meet folks with similar interests and located in your area.  Blacksmithing is learned a LOT faster with in person instruction and I DON'T mean YouTube!   "The Backyard Blacksmith" by Lorelei Sims may help widen her interest in the craft, (her website http://www.blacksmithchic.com/)  I once built a complete beginner's set up, (forge, blower, anvil, basic tools), using coal for under US$25 to prove a point; but a propane forge is a lot easier to learn on.

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JW, check out the attachments at the Forge Supplies page at www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com.  You can cut the propane tank as needed with an angle grinder with a cut off wheel, a jig saw with a metal cutting blade and a drill.  The only weld that has to be done is to hold the burner.  Surely you could find someone around that would do that little bit of welding for you, or you could mount the burner bracket with a piece of EMT with the nuts for that.  You can see how it is done by going to www.zoellerforge.com.  That is not the way I would recommend that you do it but it is a way that it can be done. 

Let me know if I can help you.

Wayne

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If you have read very many posts it should be clear that there is a middle way to end up with a small forge that is suitable for introductory use in blacksmithing. Go to eBay and input "gas forge," and up will pop Devil  Forge; choose the tunnel forge similar in size to a coffee-can: these are worth the price asked, and can be improved on for very little added money or effort, later on. Don't bother paying for one with a hose and regulator, because they will both need changing anyway.

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Welcome aboard JW, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many of the Iforge gang live within visiting distance. 

A forge with a 16" floor in any direction is a lot bigger than you're likely to ever really need. It's a common mistake for folk breaking into a new craft to want WAY more than they need, I've been doing this as a hobbyist for decades and keep making forges bigger than I need.

You don't need anything special for the shell. Propane or helium tanks have become a popular shell recently but require more tools and you still end up with essentially a pipe forge. Cylindrical forge that is.

You don't really need tools greater than a: hack saw, tin snips, drill motor & bits, pop rivet gun and some measuring tools. You should have plenty of layout tools, tape, scale, square, compass and marking devices, pencils are good. A nail can serve as a center punch if you don't have one.

I know it's not popular but a perfectly serviceable cylinrical forge can be made from UNGALVANIZED stove pipe, off the shelf fittings and pop rivets. You're talking blades not andirons so it the forge will support itself and couple lbs. it's  all you need. You can buy thin sheet steel in the 18ga. range for not a lot and 14 ga. steel over a 36" x 48" span supports several hundred lbs. on my big coal forge without problem. A propane forge doesn't need to support all that much.

If you were to go with 18ga. steel you can cut it with good tin snips or a jigsaw. You can simple rivet or bolt/screw a frame together from light weight angle iron,devoting a few seconds per cut with a hack saw. You HAVE a vise, yes? A couple open throat clamps to hold stuff together while you drill and pop rivet, screw or bolt it together and you're golden.

Lining the shell is a matter of picking a "design" and sticking with it. Current consensus seems to be 2" of ceramic blanket for the outer, insulating liner and an inner liner of approx. 1/2" of a castable hard refractory, plastered or cast in place. The flame face itself (the surface fire gets on directly) be kiln washed in an IR reemitting product, ITC-100 is the most known brand currently but there are others as good, check Wayne's site. If you want to know more about "kiln wash" check out pottery and ceramic web sites, there are a bunch of them but we have pretty simple needs compared to a ceramic's studio.

These things are easy if you let them be, just a metal container lined with some insulation and protective refractories, powered by any one of many perfectly good propane burners.

Don't try to build a "perfect" forge there ain't one and until you've used one for long enough you won't know if the one you're using is good enough. Perfect is the enemy of good, good Enough is a good place to start, heck be.

Frosty The Lucky.

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