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"55" forge question

John Kelley

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I'm about to start cutting my 1st forge out...a "55" forge.

The blueprint section says to cut it 6" tall all the way around.

I have never used or built a forge.

Many forges I see pics of have an opening to them that is about the height required to lay your steel in fairly horizontally.

Would I be smart to cut out an "access window" to the forge?...say cut that section down to about 2-3" tall and maybe 8 or so inches wide?

I plan on using some fire brick inside the forge to make a pot and maybe a piece or two to act like a shelf to support my work leading out to the window.

Does this sound like a good idea to those of you with experience?....as I have none.

Thank you kindly.


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Thank you.

I thought it would make sense to do that...just thought maybe I was overlooking something.

I was thinking of actually keeping the walls a little taller just to help contain sparks.

...figured why not...I have a whole barrel to work with.

I thought about cutting off the bottom of the barrel for the chimney and then just cutting an opening to access the fire....think pizza oven.

...but that just seemed like it would be harder to tend the fire and such.


I had not thought of a pass thru on the other side.



Thanks for the help.

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What fuel are you planning to use? 

You could make the rest of the barrel into a hood. Or a stand for this one. 

A 55 forge is something to get you forging and as you learn you can tweak it to work better for what you need or even build another one later. 


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I plan to use charcoal....the real stuff.

I may start making some myself..we'll see.

Also...I might have a line on some coal.

As far as a stand goes...I have quite a few concrete blocks around...was just going to sit the forge on a few of those.

I agree...this forge is just a starter forge...that works...that will at least let me find out if I enjoy forging at all.

Almost have my make shift anvil done...not much of a stand..just a welded steel stool I had laying around with an added thick piece of steel on it for and anvil.

I pan on pushing the legs into the ground to the 1st brace in order to make it more stable....I think it will work ok for light work..at least for a while....lol

Just trying to get started with minimum cost and some effort.

Sorta looking forward to sharing some pics when it's done and set up...and hearing all the comments of how I did it wrong....lol




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Sure we love pictures. Get some in progress too. 

For an anvil stand you want Mass and you want it sturdy. The stool may get you by but keep an eye out for a stump or some 4x4s or 6x6s you can mount together. 

I don't have as much experience forging with charcoal ( only tried it a few times when just starting out u till I found a source for coal) but there's some people here that can help you more with that. I do know charcoal needs a little deeper fire pot and lighter on the air then coal. 

"If " you enjoy it? :) It can hard to stop sometimes. Lol 

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All good info.

Thank you.

I've definitely thought about more sturdy stands and all...the bunch 6x6's was sorta at the top of the list.

The one main obstacle I have is that my only area for doing this has to be semi temporary.

Play with it on the weekend or whatever, then tear down and put it away in the garage till next time type of deal.

Really limits my design ideas to have something fairly quick and easy to set up and take down.

..doesn't help that my anvil is a piece of steel 8" round x 2 thick that has a 2 3/8" dia solid shaft coming down from it about 11" long....lol

Didn't want to cut off the shaft cause it is added weight and really helps with the rebound in the center of the anvil....but that shaft does complicate figuring out how to mount it.

...again just using scraps I could find laying around..lol

Right now I have the anvil welded to a 6" ID pipe with the shaft going thru, and the bottom of the pipe welded to a 1/2" plate that sits on top of the stool.

Just need to cut a hole thru the top of the stool for the remaining shaft to fit thru and fasten the plate to the stool...thinking c-clamps for that..again tear down thoughts.

I only used the 6" pipe to raise the anvil top off the surface of the stand so I could hold the work at a downward angle if needed.

....we'll see...

...heck I'm just having fun trying to figure out how to get set up...lol

Thanks for the help!




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Could notch the inside corner of 4 joining 6x6s then when clamped/ bolted together the shaft of your anvil could slide in and secure it. Then it's easily removable. 

I've been working on a demo setup so I'm in the portability mindset on it. So far just with my anvil stand and vise stand( let alone the vise) I have some changes and additions to make. Just from one outing with them. It's not often "one and done" 

Glad your having fun with it. Just wait till you start hammering some hot steel. :) 

Im sure other more knowledgable people will be along with more ideas. And it sounds like you have a plan coming together which is how it starts. 

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That's a pretty good idea actually....hhhmmmm...lol

Really looking forward to getting started.

Kinda put the cart in front of the horse a bit when I dressed my hammer last night (2# Vaughan cross pein)....now all I wanna do is hit something with it..lol

Hope it's a decent hammer...at least it's American made.

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Use the hammer to hit (gently) some modeling clay, or mud. The resulting impression will tell you what is happening as a result of the dressing. May want to do a site search for "cow pie".

IF you are going to use real charcoal you may want to make the side walls a bit deeper. This and a row of bricks will give you a deeper fire that the real charcoal needs. When you start playing with the fire, look for the sweet spot in the fire ball and then set up bricks or something that is horizontal to that height. You can then insert the metal onto the fire at that height and not even think about it.

Your forge, at your location, using your fuel should work for you.  Dimensions on this type forge are not critical, just a starting point. Keep the adjustments loose so you can be made changes easily. Change only ONE thing at a time and then forge with the new setup for a while. You like it then keep it, if not then go back to the old set up. Easy to figure things out that way. 

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Looked up "cow Pie" with a google advance search of this site...

Pretty sure I did ok with the dressing for my 1 and only hammer.

...I can definitely understand how having different hammers with different dressed faces could really help on some projects.

I appreciate you bringing up the "cow pie" analogy.

I had not really thought about the "spread" of the metal vs the shaping of the face.

I mostly just dressed it with a nice gradual even radius at the edges so as not to have a sharp angle.

Most importantly, you mentioning this thought has got me thinking about how the face contours have an effect on the work.

...if I see a problem when working I can at least think about if whether or not the hammer face should be changed.

...my wife walked in and looked at me a little weird when saw me hammering the kids silly putty a few mins ago...lol

...not fine like clay......but it is what I had around.

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Silly putty can shatter or break when hit. Play Dough may be a better choice. Modeling clay from the hobby store has many advantages.  Get a block next time your in town. 

As to the hammer face, you can use a piece of soft pine wood, or wood sheeting, to test and view the impact depressions. 

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I was planning on testing my impressions on some thin (3/16") pine strips I have before finalizing my anvil height.

Before that...I need to do some more reading on the proper way to use/swing/drop a hammer.

...seems there are a number of different suggested ways to do it.

I want to do this right...without over complicating the heck out of it.

I shoot and make all wood longbows.

I got into traditional archery for the simplicity of it.

Many new comers to trad. archery have a tendency to over complicate it and become frustrated.

I am endeavoring to become knowledgeable about the basic do's and don'ts so as not to become put off by the initial learning curve, but also not be overwhelmed with attaining perfection immediately and become frustrated.

As with archery...I'm sure forging and hammer use can benefit from good form/technique.

With archery the most important thing is to achieve at least acceptable form.

...after that everything else falls into place much more easily.

Right now I'm searching my fingers off trying to find the most commonly accepted proper technique for using the hammer in order to hopefully smooth out my learning curve.

I truly appreciate the knowledge that has been shared with me the last few days after joining this site.

I have high hopes of becoming someone of knowledge and experience that can help people in my shoes eventually.


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You really sound like you are on the right path and having the other craftsman experience will help. Look up blacksmith basics once you get the setup going. I'm sure you will find a lot of good starting projects to get some skills down then look into what you are most interested in and work there. 

You are definatly on the right path with your head I the right place. 

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Don't think of dressing your hammers to address how they effect the steel. You dress the hammers to lessen the edge marks and increase some aspects of the effects. If down the line you notice the metal isn't doing what you expect having a properly dressed hammer takes it out of the equation.  It's not likely the tool. 

With enough experience a smith can work with sharp edges and dead flat hammer faces with minimal effect but it's an experience thing. For instance you can probably draw a strange bow and adjust your technique to get good performance just like I can step up to an anvil at a less than my ideal height and still do good work. 

Don't sweat it, I know what you're thinking but hammers aren't really that complicated even though there are different patterns and hundreds of regional tweaks, they're all basically just hammers. Uri Hoffi and Brian Brazeal don't use a cross or straight pein, they use the edges of their hammer's face. A relatively recent hammer design is becoming more popular as a general smithing hammer, the farrier's rounding or turning hammer, I have a couple and love them. I'm not sure but I THINK it's a modification of a ball pein or more likely the exaggeration of a crowned face that evolved. 

When it comes down to hammer time I use a rounding hammer, a straight pein and my drill hammer more than any others. The light ball pein is my usual choice for peining rivets.

Keep your kit simple and your skills will fill the gaps. If not make the tool you need, it's what we do. ;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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After learning to hit the steel where you want to, and hit it flat, you need to relive that the steel moves. If I move the end of a bar to the edge of the anvil and strike it at a 45, the corner is pushed back into the bar. Where dose the steel that it displaces go? Well it swells the sides and creates a bit of a bulge just behind the blow (not unlike an ocean swell) as you become familiar with this idea of steel moving and as importantly how to block out, or isolate different parts of the project threw fullering your speed and efficiency will improve. Lots of things to learn at once

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Surely you can find a stump the proper height for your anvil?  That stool will lose you so much energy every blow..  As to the shape of your anvil sounds like a cylindrical version of my stump anvil; but mine has the bottom projection made into a spike to fit in the hole in the stump.

Please review CRS's thread on improvised anvils for suggestions on mounting.  https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/52308-a-collection-of-improvised-anvils/

Yours would be more easily dealt with using structural lumber,  However you can drill a hole the correct depth and then make a burning bar to expand it close to the size needed (allow some for charing.)

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That's a great link thank you.

I got most of everything built yesterday.

Didn't get a chance to make a fire though.

I have about zero intentions of keeping my stool as the anvil mount for long.

I do have some ideas of how I could do it better...but right now I'm trying to spend about $0 getting up and running to try this out.

Thank you for the help everyone.

People here seem down right decent!


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Many of the "build it yourself" stump designs are minimal in cost if you can scrounge the dimensional lumber---any houses being built or decks being built in your area?  I built 3 out of boards from a scrapped horse trailer---scrapyard doesn't like wood and so the oak boards were free! The bolts I bolted them together with cost about 50 cents a piece at the same scrapyard except I found several for free where a car had hit a guardrail and  they replace the stanchions and didn't clean up the site well.

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Those are great ideas for things to look for.

My anvil now has a 1 foot square by 1/2 thick base plate so I'll be able to mount it easily in the future.

I'm thinking of a 35 gal steel drum trimmed to height then filled with concrete and leveled off.

Then put in some anchors and bolt on the plate base.

Will be able to lay it down and roll it away when done.

...might be a trick to stand it back up..but I can figure that out.


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