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Caleb Steckmann

Brake Drum Forge Issues

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Hey all, 

So I know this has been asked before, but I am new to the world of forging and am on a limited budget so I built a brake drum forge, with a 1.5 inch flange and pipe welded onto the bottom, with the tee fitting to allow for an ash dump and an air supply (two speed hair dryer). I initially made the mistake of using anthracite coal, so I switched to lump charcoal, because I cant find bituminous. I am able to get the forge hot enough to bring my rail road spike up to a nice glowing red, but after the first heat it's a constant battle to get the spike back up to a good temp as well as getting a uniform even temp on the spike. Not sure what I am doing wrong, because I know it gets hot enough, I melted one of my spikes in half. I have spent almost 50 hrs trying to make a single knife, so I am getting discouraged. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.  

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Charcoal hates powered blowers and burns astonishingly fast.  Is your stack of charcoal 5-6 inches over the lip of the brake drum. Are you putting your stock in horizontally making sure there is 4 inches at LEAST of charcoal under it?

Two good tricks using charcoal is to remove the plug on your ash dump to waste more air, and use an old sewing machine pedal to both control the air when you are heating and stop the blowing when you are at the anvil

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This is why I discourage brake drum forges, many smiths have used them and do good work but they are harder to build than other set ups, and. Unlike a side blast that burns coal or charcoal with ease,  TP has much more experiance getting a bottom blast to work with charcoal, but a small side blast with a Delors or double acting pump will almost always be better with charcoal. 

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There's nothing wrong with using anthracite; you just don't manage your fire the same as you do with charcoal or bituminous. The trick is to get a good fire of kindling and/or charcoal going before you add the coal (it takes a lot of heat to get lit) and make sure you have a constant air supply (it will go out without a steady flow of air).

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It dose act a bit like charcoal as it shapes and cracles like charcoal and breaks down into smaller peices instead of clumping. I have burned a about 70# of the stuff. 

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That is very true. Wear eye protection: I have a small scar under my right eye from a glowing bit of coal that the fire spit out into my face.

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Thanks for all the advice guys, I will keep trying I have been doing a combo of the charcoal and anthracite mainly cause I have 40 lbs of it. Sounds like at minimum my stack isnt high enough because it's definitely not 5 inches over the lip of my drum, so maybe that was my problem. 

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That's for straight lump charcoal.  I put a sheet metal fence in my brake drum leaving a gap to stick stock in and a mousehole opposite the gap to stick long stock through

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I took some of the advice you guys gave me and fired up the old brake drum forge again today, and everything just seemed to work I was able to get something pounded out with no problems, Thanks guys. 

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