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Brake drum or rotor - DIY Forge?


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Hey all,

Let me preface with: 1) I am happy to find a cool forum like this, and 2) I am very new to the craft, as in, I've always wanted to, but have never done it.  I have only watched about a hundred hours of video and read a bunch online.  I know that does NOT take the place of actually doing it. 

So I have been wanting to make my own DIY homemade forge and started looking around at steel recycle, scrapyards, etc.  I got turned away from a couple (they just didn't have what I needed), but they were both pointing me in the right direction.  I finally, and with their help, found a place that was like, "yeah, go back and see what you can find and you can just have it."  So I ended up walking away with an old brake rotor, a steel wheel (15"), and a leaf spring.  "Awesome find for free!" I thought.  It's a good thing I didn't bring a truck back there and didn't have to walk the 250 yards carrying everything.

My question is: should I go ahead with the rotor to build my forge?  Or a drum?  Or the wheel?

Rotor details:

  • About 4" deep
  • Inside diameter: 8" (mostly), 9.5" at the top 0.75"
  • I plan on inserting it into a metal 4-wheel cart (w/ locking wheels! :o)

So would a brake drum be better?  It would be bigger, so more coal, coke, etc.  But is bigger better?  I am not looking to do smaller knife stock at this point.  I am looking for what would be better for all around blacksmithing; utilitarian, artistic, whatever.  I don't have a drum to compare it to here, but for the wheel...

Wheel details:

  • 15" steel
  • Many many holes
  • Again, I plan on inserting it into a metal 4-wheel cart (w/ locking wheels!)
  • I don't think I've ever seen a wheel forge before...

My problem with the wheel, if I were to use it instead of the rotor or a drum, is that it has so many holes (side holes, not center) that are lower than what I would use for the blower section.  I will include a picture and it won't probably show what I mean right here, but maybe you can see what I mean.  I would have to weld in a circular plate for that part outside the hub that dips down.  Here's the thing, I don't have a welder nor do I know how.  I plan on get a starter welding set up in the next month so maybe this could be a good first project??  And if it's crap, oh well.  Start over, no big deal.

Local biz plug: a plug for the xxxxxxxx that gave me the free hardware?  And not to mention the awesome customer service: xxxxxxxx link removed.  xxxxxxx!  I've gotten my tires there for seven years now and they xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx in not only their service, but prices!  xxxx xxxx!  Anyway, now they also gave me free xxxx so they definitely qualify as xxxxxxxx....  Other than being a customer, I have no affiliation with them, they just rock.

What do you all think?  Rotor, drum or wheel?




Sorry, that was a lot longer post than I expected, but I hope it got most of my details across.


IForgeIron is a G rated Family Forum. Inappropriate language will not be tolerated.

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Welcome 360,   First off clean up your language on the site or the administrators will do it for you.  This is a FAMILY Sight and clean for kids or local ministers to read. 

Put in your location as there just might be people in your area that can help you. 


In my humble opinion No to the wheel, not heavy enough in the material department

Maybe on the brake rotor if nothing better comes along.

I would suggest a brake drum off a 3/4 to 1ton pickup, lots of steel and room.  Do a direct hunt for these not a hit or miss salvage yard hunt.  Watch your area for a repair shop with lots of these trucks in their yard, stop and ask if they do brake work.  Have a picture of what you are trying to do they just might give you a hand.  Stop at a parts store Like NAPA and ask what shops buy these from them and then go talk to the shop.  show the Parts store guys a picture esp. if there are older guys on the counter they have lots of experience and ideas and generally willing to share.  I was one of them for 15 yrs.

Good luck. 

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When you're designing a forge, the thing to keep in mind is that a good general-purpose blacksmith's fire is about the size of a melon. Anything bigger wastes fuel; anything smaller probably won't get your workpiece hot enough. 

The second thing to remember is that the fire is more important than the forge. New folks sometimes become enamoured of finding the perfect piece of equipment or using the cool thing that they found for a particular purpose, and end up blocking out perfectly good options that would work just fine. 

You could use either of your pieces as the basis for your forge, although notownkid's advice about brake drums is worth heeding. If you wanted to, you could use the wheel as the basis for a JABOD (Just A Box Of Dirt) forge, putting it on a stand and filling it in with rammed earth or clay, leaving a melon-sized firebowl in the middle and an airway for your blast (bottom or side). Or you could put the wheel in your yard and use it for a fire pit while you relax after a good forging session, cold drink in hand. 

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Thanks Notownkid and JHCC for the good info. I will look into your suggestions.

Question: by melon-size, are you talking like a cantaloupe or honeydew melon? I'm assuming so.

As for my language, I apologize for that. I will definitely clean it up! Sorry all! The last thing I want to do is to find a cool forum and then come in and offend everyone! I thought I cleaned it up enough by leaving out letters, etc., but I'll clean it up.



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Remember you want to be able to stick your workpiece HORIZONTALLY through the hot spot not at an angle.  So while you want enough depth to put the reducing part of the fire right where you will be sticking the workpiece you don't want it so deep you have to burn 4 times as much fuel to push the hot spot up,  For the Wheel you would to cut  large slots on a diameter that you could stick your work piece in at.

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So what would you suggest?  I'm all about things taking less time and money!


17 hours ago, ThomasPowers said:

...So while you want enough depth to put the reducing part of the fire right where you will be sticking the workpiece you don't want it so deep you have to burn 4 times as much fuel to push the hot spot up,  For the Wheel you would to cut  large slots on a diameter that you could stick your work piece in at.

So a rotor being about 4" deep, that would be fine?

And if I were working, say, the middle of a rod, I could just have the fuel and heat stacked up a little bit higher.  Basically, have the rod stock laying across the rotor's rim and having coal built up over the part I'll be working.  That sound about right?

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Pretty much so except you should ALWAYS be mounding up the fuel and heating your stock outside of the oxidizing  zone!

My brake drum forge used a smallish brake drum  that I then dropped in a sheet metal "fence" that held itself against the side walls and allowed me to pile the coal up without it falling on the ground.  The fence had a gap where the two ends did not meet to stick work into the fuel pile and a "mousehole" I cut opposite the gap to allow long pieces to go through the hot spot and out the mousehole.

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Glenn's 55 forge series is a good start. If you look at rivet forges they had no fire bowl, they were esentualy an oil drain pan (or cut down 55 gallon drum) with a manifold ( tuyere ) Glenn uses exaust pipe drops welded together by his local exaust shop.  

Sinks have been uses, but some times they are a bit deep so you run your tuyere up to the right depth and fill in around it. 

These are all bottom blast forges. Fire pots can be welded up out of 1/4" plate as well, and 2" square tubing makes a fine tuyere. 

Las for side blast forges (the best if you plan to use charcoal) are esentualy a hole in the ground with a pipe sticking in the side. We just put the hole in a box and raise it up about two and a half feet. 

So in the just a box of dirt forge we start with a box made up of 8" boards, place the tuyere so the bottom edge of the tuyere (3/4" pipe) is 3" off the bottom and 3" back from center. 

Glenns 55 sideblast dose the same. 

The English are still using side blasts predominantly (the Iron dwarf manufactures. Nice portable bottom blast tho) and many of them use water cooled tuyere. Fancy holes in the ground with a fancy pipe stuck in the side. 

Many smiths here use break drum forges, but unless your using a trailer brake drum you have to sorce (usualy buy) 2" black pipe fittings (unless you have access to a welder, then why not fabricate a fire pot?) so that's a "T" a floor flange and 3 nipples, plus a two inch cap (sucks) or a two inch exhaust stack flapper. A side blast needs a peice of 3/4" pipe (or get fancy and its 3 nipples a "T" and a valve). Stick this in the side of a box and your off to the races.  

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I used a rear rotor that was had the  ebrake integrated. It's a bit deeper than a std rotor but not as deep as a drum. The center hole is smaller than the black iron floor flange used for the air pipe.  I can simply drop the pipe in without using bolts.  I then cut doughnut out of steel plate to cover the lug nut holes.  It is held by an old steel lawn mower deck, and held up by cinder blocks.  




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You need a fire ball the size of a melon or larger (yellow portion) and then more fuel on top of that. The drawing shows proper placement for the metal in the fire. The fire is hotter and the metal gets hot faster, so you are not wasting fuel, your working more efficiently. 

fire drawing 2.jpg


Olio, move the forge and work table so they are one step away from the forge.

That way the metal does not cool on the road trip to the anvil, and the shorter distance reduces unnecessagy mileage on your personal odometer (read knees, legs, and feet).

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