TheOtherBart

New charcoal forge - feedback?

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My daughter and I have put together a little charcoal forge using a stainless sink lined with sand and a hair dryer for a blower, based on things I read here and elsewhere. This afternoon was the inaugural burn. Everything looked okay, but I couldn't get a piece of rebar hot enough to do anything with and it seemed to burn charcoal really quickly. 

One thing I know I could improve is the charcoal. I had a little lump but not a lot, so I put briquettes in the forge and then poured burning lump from a chimney starter on top. I've read here that briquettes suck, so maybe that's the issue. Also there seemed to be a lot of stuff blowing out of the forge, which makes me think I might have had too much air (or too much air velocity). The dryer was on low but I can play with cutting back farther if anyone thinks that could have been a problem. 

What say ye? 

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Briquettes are a major issues as is too much air; as is not deep enough firepot as is not deep enough fire. Briquettes are designed to not burn as hot as lump charcoal they are also made by compressing a lot of little bits together---that can come apart in a forge blast and blow around.

Is the ash dump open on your forge?  if not open it. You may still have too much air for a charcoal fire but it will be better!

Remember your piece of metal should go into the fire horizontally and not sloped this means the fire needs to go up more.  The reducing point of the fire is located about 12 times the mean size of your fuel above the tuyere (for a bloomery running charcoal); so how deep should that fire be using briquettes when you know that a good 1/2 to 1/3 the depth should be on top of the metal above the neutral/reducing point? (the lump charcoal should have gone next to the tuyere!)

Take some firebricks and make a set of parallel walls so you can pile it high but not very wide.

Can you cut some slices in the horizontal air pipe to let excess air out and use duct tape to cover the slices to get just the right amount of air?  OR get a foot pedal from a sewing machine and wire it into the system so you can control the hair dryer motor with it---it also stops when you take a piece to the anvil to hammer and so saves a LOT of charcoal!

Search on the Tim Lively washtub forge to see a good method of building a charcoal forge inexpensively.

Now a bit of a rant---please feel free to disregard---I got my curmudgeonhood honestly!   Since you know everything looks ok you must have a lot of experience using charcoal forges to judge it by; If you are brand new to the craft then  what are you basing your judgement on? To me there are a number of obvious issues; but then I've used charcoal forges for over 36 years. (and coal forges almost as long;  propane forges only about 20 years...)

Anyway stop by tomorrow after Church and I'll teach all y'all the basics.  I'm currently at my southern house; though next weekend I'll be at the northern one. (If you put a general location in your profile you might get invitations from folks local to you.) Also check for local ABANA affiliates and I hope you got your Daughter a copy of "The Backyard Blacksmith" by Lorelei Sims: A good starter book and written by a smith to happens to be female herself. (also look online at  the work by Roberta Elliott!!!!) 

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I raised daughters, so I have a soft spot. 

Bottom blast isn't charcoals favorite, and as you can only work about 6" at a time, work toward an 8" across fire bowl. Ad a bit more to bring the dirt level to the top, TP's recommendation of using bricks is good, try either  a plate with a 3/4" hole or a 2" pipe cap with one. And yes, less air in the case of charcoal. I don't typically break up my fuel, as the fire dose it for me, but you want small embers ( first joint if your pinky or her thumb size) below and immediately on the stock. Kill the air wile you work. Ad that to forming an Asian style trench like TP suggests an you'll be ok. 

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Welcome aboard you two, REALLY glad to have you. We need more ladysmiths, so get her forge working! ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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A lot of good info, thanks for that.  I'll work through it and try again later this week. Deeper fire, all lump, less air... I had the ash catch capped, I'll try leaving it open next time. We're in the northern Illinois area.

You read a lot into the "looked okay" comment that I didn't mean. The long-form version of what I meant would have been "Everything looked okay from the perspective of someone who's never done this before, meaning there was fire where I expected there to be and nothing else burst into flame, so that's good". I know nothing about what we're doing and I know that, that's why I'm here asking questions. 

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Keep asking questions. We want you to succeed, but we have to work together to make that happen.

This is not to disagree with Thomas but another way to do things. Close the ash dump opening on your forge. Disconnect the hair dryer from the air pipe. Leave an air gap between the hair dryer and the air pipe, usually 2-4 inches will do. For more air, aim the hair dryer blast toward the pipe, for less air do not aim as directly, letting some of the air miss the pipe. Adjust as needed.

Surround the bowl with brick making the fire deeper. Leave a gap in the wall for the metal to go into the embers of the fire. When you get the fire started, fill the brick enclosure with fuel. Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot. The fuel will not burn without air so your not wasting any fuel. Put the metal into the fire horizontally and about 1/2 to 2/3 the way up the fire ball.

 

 

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So I would phrase that as "I can't see what is wrong with it"  No reason to wait until next weekend; work on making the changes during the week and if it works out you can do some forging on the weekend!  I'm still leaning toward the sewing machine foot pedal as having the air cut off when you take the piece out of the fire saves a LOT of fuel and charcoal does burn fast!

Also rebar is not a good material to practice on; when I teach my beginner's class we start with a 2' piece of 1/4" sq stock---lots of things you can forge with that and it's easy for people who don't have their hammer arm built up to work.  I get it in hot rolled 20' long when I can find it and settle for cold rolled 12' long when I can't.  The 2' length means you can work with it without tongs.  A steel supply company is MUCH cheaper than a big box store---my 20' may cost less than a 4' section at the big box store!

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I was trying to cut down on the amount of hammering needed for a new smith working on their first project...

I've gotten 1/4" at a local steel supply place in El Paso Texas, one in Las Cruces NM and one 3 hours away in Lemitar NM.  may be a OK peculiarity  of not having it.  The Lemitar place orders it as they are an old fashioned windmill repair and installation shop that sells steel on the side.  As they get a bigger discount from the out of town dealer the larger their orders are they sell steel retail on the side and are happy to piggyback an order. (and are still 1/3 cheaper than the lumberyard in Socorro)

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I imagine I could grapes over half of OKC or Tulsa but that's an hour to two and a half out. Chickasha and Lindsay are busts. Lindsay orders 1/4" key stock for me. 

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at least here we can get steel delivered

if I spend 150 uk pounds ( about $190 at a guess ) then delivery is free, if I spend less it costs 10 uk pounds ( about $12 )

this is for 20 or 24 foot lengths and they come from 100 miles away

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1/4" sq hot or cold is a special order at the steel suppliers around here, same for 1/4" rd. However, 5/16" hot rolled rd. is off the shelf stock everywhere and it's about the same weight / ft. as 1/4" sq. so it's the same thing. 

Until a couple weeks ago we had charcoal available if we wanted to use solid fuel but one of the guys located a seam of excellent smithing coal. I may, heck probably won't be doing a whole lot of propane forge work and tinkering except where appropriate. Making the beginners use solid fuel makes most of them whine but it makes them pay attention to the steel and fire. 

They'll deliver but it's been a long time since I bought enough for free delivery but it's only about 10 miles to the closest and about 18 to the best $/lb supplier. Every supplier I've ever patronized will cut sticks for transport IF  you don't ask at the counter when you order, they HAVE to charge by the cut. The guys in the yard on the other hand just drop it on the dry saw automatically, THEN ask if you want it cut and how long. It's the same story for the drops, ask the guys in the yard, NOT at the counter, the yard guys let me take what I want so long as I don't get too greedy, the people at the counter MUST charge by the lb. and a couple places want the cut charge too.

Buy the sticks at the counter, look for the cuts and free stuff in the yard. Just don't get greedy, the yard guys have long memories.

Frosty The Lucky.

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38 minutes ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

IC, I imagine if I wanted to buy a truck load they would deliver anything

I can order a single length of 5/16 and they will deliver it for 10 pounds when next through town ( normally twice a week )

my next order to them will be 20 lengths of 1/2", 10 lengths of 1/4" and 2 lengths of 5/8 round,

should last me 2 weeks and with more from my friend John we should get free delivery

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I have an inexpensive sewing machine pedal on order and I'll be picking up more lump today or tomorrow. Searching around I found a number of different sources for firebrick but also a number of different specs, could someone offer a link to the specific item I need? Some of what I found was pretty pricey, want to make sure it's what I need (or find out what the budget option is). I have a good steel supplier close, I'll go see what kind of drops I can get this week. 

When we were working I made the comment that it might be getting too much air, and my daughter suggested pulling the hair dryer away from the inlet pipe to cut the flow. She might just have some good instincts here. 

So as I understand it the pile of fuel needs to be up above the top of the sink vessel so that the working steel can be horizontal and yet still buried within the pile? 

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TOB, take a look at the threads on JABOD (Just A Box Of Dirt) forges, especially @Charles R. Stevens's original thread. Good info there, which should help a lot.

2 minutes ago, TheOtherBart said:

When we were working I made the comment that it might be getting too much air, and my daughter suggested pulling the hair dryer away from the inlet pipe to cut the flow. She might just have some good instincts here. 

Definitely good instincts there. Encourage them! 

(And it's good to see her wearing safety glasses and having her hair back, but also encourage her to wear full-length pants, with the cuffs over the tops of her boots. She does have boots, right? She does NOT want a piece of hot scale or a punching slug going down into low-top shoes!) 

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It's been a long time since the last update because we got busy with school and work and life, but over the Thanksgiving weekend we had some time to take all the great advice I got here and give the forge another try. 

We filled the sink with more sand so that we could put firebrick up on top to form a trough. In the process of that of course we pulled out all those briquettes that were causing problems. And we spaced the hair dryer back from the pipe, and plugged it into a sewing machine pedal for on/off control. 

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I hesitate to say it worked better, since it's been pointed out (correctly) that I don't know poop from Pine-Sol, but in my perfectly ignorant opinion it worked better. My daughter had fun banging on some flat stock but didn't have time to finish anything because of a previously scheduled social engagement. I kept at it a little longer and managed to produce what I think is a rough but serviceable coat hook. 

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A good time was had by all. Everything y'all suggested worked great, so any more tips based on what you see would be most appreciated. 

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I see round to flat to round then a square taper with a small scroll. If that aint blacksmithin I dont know what is. Keep practicing. It only gets better !

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Now we are ready to get a bit more advanced in our forge endevers. As before we mentioned bottom blast and charcoal are an unhappy marriage.

Since last we spoke I have done a bit Moreno work in the realm of charcoal forges and as you have a second sink bowl...

 

 

so as each square is 1". You will soon descover that sand will melt, and as it is the sand in coal that causes clinker to form you will be fighting clinker. An Adobe soil of about 1/3 clay works well and who dosnt like making mud pies? Cuting your sand with 1/3 cheep clay cat litter (clean please..) will surf ice if you don't want to dig it up. Mix it, put it in a sweater box sprinkle with water and cover over night. Repeat untile you have a kneedable mix. 

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The bed pump costs $10 and is quit! And as you don't pump wile forging helps conserve fuel. 

Using your bricks in a charcoal only forge is ok, but be warned I have melted one. 

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as charcoal is not as dense as coal and flame spread is a major issue you must build banks to contain charcoal in a n effecent size and shape as well as manage your air to produce just enugh heat. Coal can acualy be used to bank a fire, and as it needs to be converted to coke befor use it's a prety natural thing. 

This is all a learning proces. 

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They didn't look like fire bricks to me but cement pavers and still a huge fire, try pushing them in some more.

 

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On 12/1/2017 at 4:00 PM, Charles R. Stevens said:

At first glance that what I thought to but after reading the post and looking again I see they are the thin wood stove bricks you buy at places like ace. 

Yep, cheap hardware store firebrick. 

On 12/1/2017 at 11:44 AM, Kevin Olson said:

I see round to flat to round then a square taper with a small scroll. If that aint blacksmithin I dont know what is. Keep practicing. It only gets better !

Much appreciated. I'm looking forward to getting more time on it. 

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