jwesthurl

How should I modify my forge?

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My daughter and I were given this cast iron forge with champion blower after she got into blacksmithing. I clay lined it with the intention of using coal. We were lucky enough to spend a weekend with Lorelei Sims as our initial instruction in smithing and she taught us a good deal about fire management. HOWEVER, we live in the middle of a neighborhood and have only used charcoal. Obviously this forge isn’t ideal for charcoal and I’m wondering what would be the best way to modify it for charcoal use. We’ve actually used it quite a bit and it’s worked great but I know it can be better. My initial thought is to use firebricks to create a deeper and narrow fire pot but I’m not sure. Also, with charcoal, where do I want my piece to sit in the fire? I try to keep a good mound of charcoal in the shallow pot but I think it oxidizes too much at times. Thanks!

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First thing I'd do is add a grating over the tuyree, you'll be losing all your smaller embers down past that clinker breaker. I would then use fire bricks to form what ever size and shape of fire I required, this helps conserve fuel and makes for easier fire management. But do make sure they are fire bricks/refactory bricks.

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Fire brick can melt, stay with the clay/adobe. Unlike coal that is self banking (fire spread isn’t a big isue so you can build a coal fire and push fuel against it to contain the fire ball in a usable shape) a charcoal forge should have the hearth built level with adobe and mounds sculpted to contain the fuel above the center of the fireball. Bottom blast seems to require a deeper fire than side blast. Another option would be to acquire a pluming “L” that will fit over the existing tuyere, clay it in place and creat a side blast forge. You may have to install a plug with a 1” hole to get a 6-8” fire ball. From their the illustrations I drew concerning side blast forge design should be able to guid you. With the side blast you will still be able to burn coal.

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That's a duck's nest pan forge there is no "fire pot." Enough semantics but it is a point. Don't apply the clay so wet next time, just damp enough to ram hard with a mallet is better. This is also an easy type to turn into a side blast as Charles suggests. I use fire brick though. One on each side of the tuyere and one over the top to form a tunnel, arrange the brick to make an opening around 1" sq. Block the back with clay or another brick and it's ready for use. The air tunnel thing doesn't need to be full brick length, it only needs to redirect the blast direction.

This arrangement only exposes the ends of the bricks to forge temperatures and the air flow will go a log way towards keeping them cool. Just move the fire back as the brick's ends burn off. No big deal.

Frosty the Lucky.

 

 

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9 hours ago, Charles R. Stevens said:

Fire brick can melt, stay with the clay/adobe.

Thanks Charles, I can see this as a real possibility if I decide to stick with mainly charcoal but I want to be sure I'm understanding you. The hearth of the forge would just be flat and I would build two(?) mounds above the hearth, basically creating a trench between the mounds with the tuyere exiting from one of the mounds. Is this correct? How tall should the mounds be?

 

5 hours ago, Frosty said:

That's a duck's nest pan forge there is no "fire pot."

Yes, thanks Frosty, by "fire pot" i meant the duck's nest created by the clay. You're looking at the forge after a year or more of use. I just scraped back the ash so you could see the forge better. If I use this method to convert it to side blast, do I just use bricks to contain the fire as well? How tall do I need the brick walls?

I do have one more question about placing stock in a charcoal fire. I know the fireball and zones are different from a coal fire, so where should my stock rest in the fire?

Thank you guys for the taking the time to answer!

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Correct, you will notice your forge has notched cut in the side to reach the center of the fire, there’s a start. The nice thing about dirt is you can dig and sculpt at will to make it worthwhile way you want. 

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Right, but is that too shallow for a charcoal fire? I was under the impression that a charcoal fire was supposed to be deeper and the stock should sit higher in the fire. Of course I can always just use clay or bricks to get the stock at the correct level once I modify the forge.

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Typically I found charcoal need a bit deeper for bottom blast and a bit shallower for side blast. If you nerrow your existing bowl to make a bit of trench shape and then add mounds to each side you can then start a fire and as you said temp things to figure out were the stock goes. Then you can fill in a little more perment as to the fuel over the top, generally I just cover it buy an inch or two

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That’s the nice thing about playing with mud, easy to modify and repair. 

I raised daughter, so I have a bit of a soft spot, I look forward to seeing what she does over the next few years.

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Thanks, she actually decided she wanted to participate in a homeschool craft fair this past November, so we forged a bunch of small stuff for her to sell. She came up with the idea of a forged candy cane ornament and she and her sister forged a bunch of hooks from horseshoe nails and a bunch of little swords from duplex nails. We also made some horseshoe nail rings. She sold almost $200 worth of stuff at a 1 day craft fair! I'm pretty proud of her.

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Oh she done good by 2! I'll bet she's the envy of many of the craft sale crowd!

Charles and I do charcoal fires a little differently though he comes by his savvy honestly. I had to figure it out  forging around camp fires in the bush. In my coal forge I redirected the blast as I describe lay my fire between bricks on edge in a long trench.  Typically 2-3 bricks long, my burn zones are determined by distance from the air blast and how hard I crank the blower. I coal the wood at the blast, raking coals out to make my forging fire and adjust the work distance to get the heat and atmosphere I need by eye.

In the field I worked in the coals below the burning wood by raking or shoveling coals out to make my forge fire. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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