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Hello all I am very interested in getting into bladesmithing and even posted a discussion awhile back about information on constructing a side draft forge but I have had an unfortunate lack of funds to do so. My current situationhas made me rethink my starter forge design. Since I still need to learn the hammering and heating techniques as well as heat treating I was looking for some info on brake drum forges and the pros and cons of using them as far as functionality I am mainly going to start out making knives. Any information and help would be appreciated. I know I intend to use a solid fuel forge probably making my own charcoal as well.

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I built a brake drum forge about a year ago and have been using it almost daily since. In my opinion, brake drums are a little too wide and shallow. It makes building a deep fire for things like welding a little tricky, though welding is far from impossible in them (I do it often in mine.) And you sometimes end up burning more fuel than needed, depending on your project, due to the width. All of these things are dependant on the drum you use though. Mine is 10" round. Works very well for making knives, I think. I rarely make knives with blades over 10" so getting an even heat for quenching is not difficult. All in all, I think they make decent firepots.

I also burn charcoal, and it is a great fuel, I believe. It burns up faster than one would expect, so be ready for that. It provides excellent heat though, and you can burn steel away if you're not careful. 

I would also recommend staring out learning the basics. I'm still pretty new as well, and I wish I listened to the more experienced bladesmiths on this site about learning the basics first. I've messed up many would-be knives because I didn't know what I was doing. Learn how to draw out, upset, punch holes, flatten steel, take out a bend etc. before you just go at it. Its important to be able to accurately predict how the steel will move and act proactively instead of reactively. It will help you, I promise. 

Oh, yes, and in the all too common words of the experienced guys here, pack a lunch, grab a cold drink, and READ THE INFORMATION ON THIS SITE! There is so much knowledge readily available to you here. 

Good luck. 

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Thank you for the knowledge u have a strange idea for the forge but it may work I been thinking about welding two drums together to make a covered top for it and cut out the side so I can do longer blades like machetes I do intend on learning the basics I've been reading the forums on this site I just hadn't seen a ton of posts on brake drum forges yet I may not have gotten far enough in the forums yet I just seen it to be a little faster to ask on here to get a few direct opinions and reviews on using drum forges I don't know much other than what I've read here and a few other ppl I've talked to I can't find any local smiths to learn from so I turn to this site

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Why weld another one on top of the first one? I see no advantage to this. This seems detrimental to me actually, as it will prevent you from building a proper size and shape fire. Plus having it open, you wont need to cut part of the drum out to pass through longer projects. I think the good old K.I.S.S. rule applies here. 

I can't believe I'm actually typing this (Frosty, what have you done!) but if you add a more precise location to your profile, you may be able to find someone on this site close to you who can help. Exact addresses are not necessary, but central, western, eastern? Hands on experience trumps everything. 

There are a few topics here about brake drum forges iirc. It never hurts to ask questions, but definitely check the forum before asking. You may find that someone already asked, and got an answer to, your question. And heck, you may even learn something that you didn't even know you needed to learn! I know I have a time or ten before. 

 

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Thank you I'm not sure what gave me the idea I just remember seeing something similar in an image search but it may have been a homemade propane forge but I just wondered about the appropriateness of the idea for solid fuel and thanks again man I have been reading several forums in here and I've already answered a few questions I had.

 

I thought I had put it on my profile before but it may not have saved. I'd love some hands on training I just thought I'd do my research before diving head first plus I know brake drum forges are portable so it's a possibility to forge side by side if the teacher only has a single forge if I find someone to teach me. Again thank you for your knowledge and opinion on the ideas I was curious about.

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Just a box of dirt works and is discussed on the site. JABOD. The 55 Forge works, in several modifications. Side blast is easiest and least expensive to build.

The brake drum is just a container to hold the fire. Charcoal fuel requires a deeper fire. Usually you can build a deeper fire with bricks or a metal fence around the drum. Leave one side open a bit to insert the metal, How quickly the charcoal is consumed depends on the amount of BTUs you require (heat) and the configuration of the fire.

KISS is the way to start. The forge does not have to be perfect and it can be changed or modified at any time, as needed.

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On 3/21/2017 at 10:00 PM, Jay.bro said:

Thank you I'm not sure what gave me the idea I just remember seeing something similar in an image search but it may have been a homemade propane forge but I just wondered about the appropriateness of the idea for solid fuel and thanks again man I have been reading several forums in here and I've already answered a few questions I had.

 

I thought I had put it on my profile before but it may not have saved. I'd love some hands on training I just thought I'd do my research before diving head first plus I know brake drum forges are portable so it's a possibility to forge side by side if the teacher only has a single forge if I find someone to teach me. Again thank you for your knowledge and opinion on the ideas I was curious about.

You might look into the Blacksmith Organization of Arkansas. There is a central chapter and river valley chapter with members all around you.

http://blacksmithsofarkansas.org/

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Look into the Tim Lively Washtub forge as one that is tweaked for bladesmithing and using charcoal.

Also you know that the American Bladesmiths Society offers classes in bladesmithing in AR, right?

Irondragon; sorry I didn't get a chance to meet up with any of the NW AR folk last week. I got drug into doing stuff with my kinfolk the whole time and didn't get to do several things I wanted to do...Oh well someday the kids&grandkids might be picking our nursing home and "Fast Turn-Around Acres" would not be my first choice....

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On 3/21/2017 at 10:00 PM, Jay.bro said:

Thank you I'm not sure what gave me the idea I just remember seeing something similar in an image search but it may have been a homemade propane forge but I just wondered about the appropriateness of the idea for solid fuel and thanks again man I have been reading several forums in here and I've already answered a few questions I had.

 

I thought I had put it on my profile before but it may not have saved. I'd love some hands on training I just thought I'd do my research before diving head first plus I know brake drum forges are portable so it's a possibility to forge side by side if the teacher only has a single forge if I find someone to teach me. Again thank you for your knowledge and opinion on the ideas I was curious about.

Jay.bro,

The River Valley Chapter of Blacksmith Organization of Arkansas, BOA, will be holding a meeting in Dyer, AR on April 1.  About 2 hours from you I believe.

The Central Chapter of BOA will be meeting in Hot Springs, AR on April 15, a little closer maybe?

At either of those meetings, you can meet some fine and experienced smiths who may be able to help you with your smithing questions and provide some hand's on training.  PM me for information if you are interested.

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Thank you I may not be able to make either of those money has tightened up lately so I may have to wait I've been sketching ideas for blueprints of my forge set up a lot lately and researching a ton of stuff like what metal to use and possibly building a small foundry to use for guard crafting but mainly I've been doing tons of research and writing things down I read something about clay in a brake drum forge and there's a ton of people on both sides of to clay or not to clay but I haven't found the benefits of claying your fire pot

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Sorry you can't make either of the BOA meetings.  We have some excellent bladesmiths in the organization.  Maybe when things turn in your favor you can attend one. :)

As for brake drum forges, you really don't need to clay one.  The cast iron is tough and the ashes, small coke and your tuyere, whatever it is, tend to "insulate" it a bit.  Mine is four years old and shows no signs of deterioration.  Besides, if it does become problematic, just pull it and put in a new one from the scrap pile.  Free drums are not as expensive as store-bought ones. ;)  One more reason for not welding everything in place.

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If you are using charcoal then claying can help cut down on fuel use and encourage it to migrated into the hot zone.  If you are burning coal not much is gained in my opinion in claying a brake drum---unless you used a very much too large one!

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