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Seeking advice on a forge for art work


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I am a machinist by trade (although I no longer do that for a living) and I have an interest in adding light duty blacksmithing capabilities to my small shop. Lately I do art work involving lots of CAD design, general machining, CNC plasma cutting, and other general metal fabrication. I have various welding capabilities (MIG, TIG) and oxy/acetylene rig. I just purchased a Peddinghaus 165 lb anvil and leg vise. And now I need a forge! My preference is to buy, not build. I want something self-contained, fairly portable, and safe and easy to operate.
 
My shop is currently in a garage under a house. Could I operate a small propane forge indoors, or should I pull it out into the concrete driveway? Should I pull the anvil out there too? I'm still not entirely sure how practical my plan is. I've successfully done lots of welding and machining in my shop, but not hot work with forge and anvil!
 
These are some forges I have looked at:
 
I can justify spending the money on any of these. Any recommendations for a newbie blacksmith who wants to do sculpture / artwork are most welcome. I suspect the heaviest work I might want to do is drawing a 1" diameter bar of mild steel out to a point.
 
Thank you!
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You might add Chile forge to your list.  Although I haven't used one, they've been mentioned several times in the forum as excellent.  I'll let others chime in on what they think but it often turns into a bit of a Ford/Chevy Mac/PC kind of debate because there is no single one-size-fits-all answer.

Oh..and if you update your profile to include your location, you might be surprised to find people near you where you can actually see some options in person.

 

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I can't help with the decision on which forge is best because I have a forge that I built.

One warning I can give is that propane forges emit copious quantities of CO (carbon monoxide) so it's dangerous to use one in an attached garage without very good ventilation and CO detectors in every room of the house so the safest way is to move it outside. Of course if you move the forge outside you will want your anvil close by.

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You can build your own much cheaper and wind up with a better forge.

When I first started smithing I was advised to build rather than buy.  I thought that the person was CRAZY then a friend helped me build a forge and burner.  I was surprised how easy  and simple it was.

Check out the Build a Gas forge attachment at the Forge Supplies page on my web site.  You can find my url and e=mail addy at my profiles page.

Let me know if I can help you.

Wayne

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Thank you Wayne! I've definitely been offered that same advice by metal-working friends. Right now at least I really like the idea of a very self-contained unit with a sheet metal skin. I'm sure I have the general fabrication skills and tools to build one, especially with help from someone like yourself, but I definitely don't have sheet metal equipment. Most of the home-built ones I've seen didn't look very portable to me. I will give it more thought.

I am interested if anyone has thoughts on the thickness of stock I can work with, with one of these forges and a 165 lb anvil. Does drawing out a 1" dia bar to a taper seem doable with this equipment? I'm just using that as kind of a benchmark in my mind for how heavy I can go; maybe not a valid one as I have yet to hit an anvil with a hammer!!

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How many times are you going to be using 1 inch stock?  How many pieces are you going to make?  How much hot metal can you move before the metal cools down and needs to take another heat? 

While you hammer, the gas forge can have a second piece of metal at forging temperature, waiting.  Your arm will most likely give out long before you run out of hot metal. The 165 pound anvil should last well beyond the service life of the smith.

 

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Build or buy, whatever you end up with will become your "first" forge once you learn the craft and what you like or need to make most often. Drawing 1" stock is doable and I recommend you give it a shot once, it's a LOT of work without a power hammer or striker. If you want to make your own hammers you'll use larger stock but do less drawing down.

I make my own forges, have for years and have the dust collectors to prove it. My most successful long user gets used at about 25% most of the time and occasionally 50%. It's a variable geometry lash up I can change the size and shape of the chamber as needed, 1 - 4, 3/4" T burners. 

As soon as I get the new one tweaked satisfactorily it'll get retired. However the new forge release 2 isn't satisfactory and it's too cold to work up the next unsatisfactory forge. I experiment with chamber size and shape using soft firebrick but making the permanent unit is NEVER the same. 

There have been times I wished I'd just bought one back in the day. Then someone asks me to tweak their old commercial forge so it works right.

Right and satisfactory are very subjective. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Good Morning, Kevin.

You live in the heart of North West Blacksmith Association. There are a pile of members in your area. Someone will have a Forge, in your town. Check out www.blacksmith.org . They have monthly get togethers at the fairgrounds in Longview, probably this weekend. I know you will find, what you can try, before you buy. I have a couple of Ribbon Burners that Ron Wailes made (in Cle Elem), but he has gone to the the great beyond.

Mighty Forges are made in Duncan, BC, by Lorne Bakker. They are golden, I have used one over 15 years, another for 10 years. Keep on ticking, keep on lickin'.

If you need a hand with direction, please send me a PM on this site.

Neil Gustafson

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If you go with Forgemaster, get the Blacksmith dual valve model. You can shut down 1 burner and save fuel. They get super hot. I run about 8psi and can just about weld off that. I'm a farrier, so I have it in my truck. It was my first forge and only forge. Been going perfect for about 10 years now. 

NC is another brand to look into. They have some great forges. Side ports are the best usually. Front and rear ports, your limited quite a bit. 

Those are the 2 that I use and have used. Always work great. 

Honestly for a home shop, I'd like to build one. I feel like that's why some of us are blacksmiths, we enjoy tinkering around with things. Good luck with your choice! 

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Have you looked into induction heaters with a pancake coil? That may be the way to go for art pieces that can easily exceed the opening size of a gas forge once they start getting bent, and formed.   Remember that whatever you want to make has to fit in the forge after being shaped unless you can get it done in one heat. 

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Kevin,

If I was you, I would stop by Porters place tomorrow, after calling ahead to Contact me PM for his number. If the guy doesn't answer your first three ring call, call again right away. He will let you use one of his books. If you are nice, he will even make you Seattle style coffee, while you quiz the author. When you are done with the book, you can pass it on to someone else.

You are one of the very few people I would advise building the five-gallon forge in Gas Burners for Forges, Furnaces, and Kilns as a first forge, and this only because you will end up doing decorative work in the Seattle area. Our architects like to come up with diabolical problems for metal artists.

Then, get smart and join the Northwest blacksmiths; they have loads to teach about how to use a gas forge, and where to buy hand tools.

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My brand new Kanca 6" leg vise just arrived! My #9 RIDGID anvil is soon to follow. So many new toys for Xmas I don't know what to do with myself!!

New questions on my mind:

  • Should I mount heavy duty rubber feet under both the 3-legged anvil and vise stands I'm about to build? I plan to roughly follow Mark Aspery's designs in his "Fundamentals of Blacksmithing" book. If I'm not anchoring the stands to the floor his suggests they help to keep them from moving around under use. I imagine there's some efficiency loss, but given this is (at the moment) a hobby in a residential neighborhood I primarily want to help reduce noise. (I bought magnets for the anvil). 
  • And then of course, hammers! I'm 6'-3", reasonably strong in the upper body with long arms. I don't know how much my stature affects hammer weight, but again I think I may follow Mr. Aspery's lead and secure a 3.2lb cross pein and a 2.2lb rounding hammer to start. 

Thanks for the good advice all. Very glad I joined this forum. 

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On the hammer, I think those weights are fine. I started more liking around a 2lb hammer but now my main go to is around 3lb. And grabbing a 4lb to draw things down faster is no problem. 

Congrats on the vise and anvil purchases. 

 

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