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I Forge Iron

How to build a fire in a solid fuel forge


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Let us return to simple and try NOT to over complicate things. You have a solid fuel forge and need a fire.


Air: Forges use normal air, the same kind you breathe. DO NOT attach the heat gun, hair dryer, or other air source directly to the air pipe for the forge. Leave a 3 inch gap or so between the air source and the air pipe to the forge. This is your air control. Aim the air source more directly to the end of the air pipe for more air, aim no so directly for less air. You will have to play with the air control to figure out what you need. 

Adjust the air control as needed to use the smallest amount of air. You want just enough air for the amount of heat you need for the project at hand. No afterburners, no 3 foot flames, no Hollywood special effects.  Just enough air for the amount of heat you need for the project at hand.


Let us build a fire. Start with sticks about the size of your finger or wood split down to that size. Gather up or split up a gallon paint bucket full. This should be enough to start several fires. 

If you are using a chimney, light a sheet or two of newspaper on fire and place near the opening of the chimney to create a draft and get air moving UP the chimney. This will help eliminate much of the smoke from the fire on start up.

Get a couple of sheets of newspaper and loosely was them into a ball. Put the ball of newspaper in the forge. Put the kindling on top of the cardboard.  Add just enough air until the kindling catches fire and then place wood on top of the kindling. Add just enough more air until the wood catches fire.

OR get a cardboard box and cut several strips of cardboard about 3 inches wide. Roll the cardboard into a cylinder about 3 inches in diameter. You may have to use several of the strips to get this diameter. Light a half sheet of newspaper, let it catch fire, and place it in the forge. Put the cardboard on top of the newspaper. Put the kindling on top of the cardboard.  Add just enough air until the kindling catches fire and then place wood on top of the kindling. Add just enough more air until the wood catches fire. You are building a small fire that would male a boy scout proud.

The embers of the fire are what transfers heat to the metal and makes the metal hot. With coal you will need a fire ball about the size of a melon. You will want fuel on top of the fire ball to be transforming into embers to replace those in the fire ball as they are consumed.

With wood, you will need to make a deeper fire as you are converting the raw wood to charcoal, and converting the charcoal to embers. I would suggest 9-12 inches total for the depth. The size of the fire could be about the size of the rotor opening. Stack bricks around the rotor, or make a metal cylinder to get this depth.

The size of the wood is a consideration in the depth. 2 x 2 x 4 inches is a good place to start. Once the fire is going and you have built up a fire ball of embers, you can go to 2 x 4 x 4 inches. Placement of the metal. The metal should be placed  horizontally into the fire ball, and about 1/2 to 2/3 the way up the fire ball.This is where most of the oxygen has been consumed and you have a good amount of heat. Keep watch on the metal as it gets hot. Too much heat and the metal will burn, too little heat and it will not get hot enough to forge. The heat is controlled by the amount of air you blow into the air tube for the forge. It is a dance and only experience will tell you how much is enough. You may not have to add air into the forge while you work at the anvil. You may find that you want to add just a little air to keep things going while you are at the anvil. As I said it is a dance and you have to work out the details as you go.

Do not change anything, just try what was suggested first. Then adjust as needed for your forge, your location, and your set up.

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I REALLY like your write up Glenn even if you had auto spell correct enabled. That makes for some interesting and entertaining terminology. The only substantive correction I offer is "newspaper OR cardboard coil, NOT both!" One of the other is plenty to get a forge burning using both at once is just a PITA with no extra goodness. It illustrates your beginning statement about not over complicating things. 

Note I'm not even pitching for the cardboard coil and you know how much I favor it. B)

It really is an excellent write up, just needs another edit to polish. 

Frosty The Lucky.


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Frosty, I read the original post and have made changes so it reads better.  The part of using newspaper and cardboard have been separated into two different paragraphs so it is easier to follow. I find that a half sheet of newspaper on fire in the fire gets the cardboard going a lot easier. The same method is used in the wood stove, that is induce draft up the chimney, newspaper, cardboard, kindling, then small fire wood. One match and close the door to the stove.

Thank you for alerting me to refine the wording on the original post.

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My way in my coal forge, is to use brown kraft paper, crumpled into a nest, put some wood stove pellets in the nest with coke from prior fires. Light the edges and apply light air. When it's burning well rake more coke into the edges and add green coal. Like bluesman7 said air makes the difference as long as the blast is mild. Takes me about three minutes to have a good fire going. If you have a grocery store that offers paper or plastic bags always ask for paper which is kraft paper.

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Charles R Stevens is correct about younger members possibly not knowing what a newspaper is, or worse, it might cause frustration,  the few newspapers that are left around here have gone to a colour print and now use paper that burns quite poorly! Not really suitable for starting fires.

One of the members of my blacksmith club still has a old style free community newspaper delivered in his area that burns well, he is always offering them around to those of us less blessed, who only get the "glossy wont burn" versions!


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