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I Forge Iron

Complete Beginner

Jon Kerr

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Last week I finally made it along to the Much Hadham Forge for my first proper bit of blacksmithing training. I had a fantastic day with the resident blacksmith, Richard Maynard, and learnt a huge amount.

My main objective for the day was to learn how to make tongs, including all the necessary basic techniques..... drawing out, punching, etc. The picture attached shows what I achieved during the day. I made 3 types of tongs- a "quick and dirty" simple twist and drill set, a set of bolt-jaw tongs from a set of tong blanks, and a set of normal tongs wtih 16mm square bar. I actually had time to make another set of normal tongs also which weren't pictures. The bolt jaw tongs are finished (might tweak the angle of the reins) but the rest still need some work- the rivets aren't all done so I can go back and round the handles nicely and finish them off.

Great day and now I can't wait to get back to forging at home.

Much Hadham(2).jpg

Much Hadham(1).jpg


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I've picked up 3 old broken car coil springs during my trip to the car garage today.

The only ones the guy gave me were a) painted black, and b) thin car variety, say 10-12mm diameter. Obviously I'm not complaining  but next time I might ask if there are any bulkier van/4x4 ones with no paint.

So- I've already  read some posts on here regarding spring coatings, and I'm thinking I might go along the lines of very irresonsibly chucking them in a bonfire and burning the paint off from a safe distance. Poor planet...


1. What kinds of projects are these 10mm round spings useful for? They seem a little thin for punches and other tools. Is upsetting advisable to get to a more chunky diameter? Or more effor than its worth?


Also, while I'm asking daft questions.....

2. Anyone got any tips for what a "Posh Jabod" (or similar side blast forge) might look like? There are a few side blast forges on eBay etc but very expensive, and I'd like something long enough that I can sit a side-drawing hood down into it.

3. Any design rules/guidelines for a sheet metal side blast that differ from a JABOD?

4. What do people usually line the bottom of the forge with? Dirt/clay like a jabod? Firebricks? or fancier refractory cement?


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It's the broken part that worries me.  Springs tend to have micro cracking developing before one "catastrophically propagates".  On the other hand I have used old springs before without problems, (and have used them with problems...) So stuff for yourself---not an issue as you accept the risk.  Stuff for other; people not a good idea as you accept the *risk*!

Not knowing what you want to do makes it harder to make suggestions: like gardening---I could type in several pages of information on growing flowers only to have someone tell me they are only interested in growing foodstuffs.

1: Spring fullers, upset ends for chisels, make dragon carving tools, wood working chisels,... Don't go wild upsetting as larger stock will turn up over time.  My largest spring stock in my scrap pile is 1.5" in diameter (earth moving equipment).

2: Fretwork?  Should be easy to incorporate a side sucker hood, may run the tue pipe under it.   If I had to move it around a lot I would design it with wheels and a minimum of clay/dirt and more air space built in for weight considerations.

3: JABOD can be sheet metal; nothing says it has to be made from wood.  Wood is just shown as most folks starting out can deal with wood easier than metal. If I was building a sheet metal version I would make it so the tuyere would go through a slot in the side so it could be moved up/down as you experiment with what works best with YOUR work, methods, set up. My first forge was an 1930's farmhouse sink lined with dirt/creek clay, back in 1981...I was lucky enough that there wasn't anybody to tell me I was doing it wrong.

4: Firebricks, dirt, ashes, clay.  Cast refractory is pretty uncommon.

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Fun isn't this? The 10 mm coil makes good chasing chisels and punches but it's excellent to have on hand for projects that need more strength than mild steel. Just because you have something does NOT mean you HAVE to use it. Yes?

12 mm is a good size, I like it for tongs, you can make them lighter and they'll be springy and tough. You have to be careful not to let them get red hot and cool them in water. 

If you're concerned about burning the paint off, wear a dust mask and wire brush it off. 

A POSH  JABOD? Isn't that an oxymoron? :rolleyes: While I've never made a JABOD I've made a side blast forge by piling dirt on an old kitchen table and compacting it to suit. 4" - 5" under the fire kept the old masonite(?) table top from heat damage. By old kitchen table, it was a 1950s chrome and laminate thing that got left with me. 

Don't over think these things, all you need in a JABOD is D. . . DIRT. Clayey soil with just enough moisture you can compact it works just fine. Just hammer it till it's reasonably hard, don't get fancy, use: the flat of a single jack sledge, baseball bat, wooden mallet, stove wood, big rock, whatEVER and beat it till it's hard. Hmmm?

The only place bricks come in handy is to form the fire: pot, trench, ?. Remember, it's just dirt play with the shape of the fire till you find one that works well for you. Check out some of the 3rd. world blacksmithing videos, there are a couple excellent examples of this type forge without the box. Most recently a smiths forging:  Kukris and Machetes, I didn't book mark one of an African smith with a mobile service, he'd visit a village and set up. Villagers would bring scrap and he'd make tools to order. He used whatever was available for fuel, dung, sticks, etc. Village kids pumped the bellows, hollow bamboo say 200-250 mm. with feathers on sticks. The chants they sang as they pumped were a constant background, the smith would change their pace by changing the tempo of the chant.  

The African smith's forge was a piece of pipe and a few rocks.

Be aware you have to be really careful using rocks, if they have internal moisture they can explode when they get hot, sandstone usually vent steam pretty well but you have to be REALLY careful. Fire brick is a lot safer if you have the available.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Google “ side blast forge Iforgeiron.com” then hit images. English style side blasts are a sheet steel box filled with ash and clinker (cat litter works well, sand not so much). 

Myself, I used my experience with the JABOD projects to build a steel fire pot (it could have been 4-5” wide instead of 6”) 



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I found a leg vice!!!!!

We were wandering around the car boot sale on Saturday, and my wife pointed to something on the floor and said "Isn't that what you wanted?"..... and there it was. Its got some surface rust (or maybe just a good patina :D ) but the screw is well greased and looks completely free of damage.  Jaws are pretty tidy, leg is slightly bent. The mounting plate etc is all perfect. The only damage is to the handle which is a bit mangled but useable, and easily replaceable should I ever feel the need. I managed to get the price to £40 which I think is a good price (as compared to eBay auction prices).

Pictures to follow.

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Mr. Kerr,

Congratulations for finding a leg vise and in fine condition.

As for the price and value,  more information is needed.

How much does it weigh?

And what size jaws does it have?



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Jaws are 4inches. Not sure on weight unless I stick it on the scales- what does that tell me?

it has a number that looks like 20 stamped on the side, and text I cant identify. I'm almost sure one word says "GHOST". Any ideas anyone?




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Right next to the 20 seems to be the info wanted.  Flour dusting pic?

Postvises come in both gracile and robustus configurations.  My travel vise is around 35# with a small leg, my vise attached to the telephone pole holding up the carport at my southern rental is probably twice that in weight with a heavy leg and they are about the same jaw width.  Weight just gives you an indication on how heavy of work you can do on it without damaging it.  (My very large vise up at my shop---over 100 pounds, I once twisted a RR spike, 5/8" sq around 30 points C, COLD in it!)

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Thanks Thomas.

I just weighed it- its 20kg. Is it possible thats what the stamped "20" refers to? Does this also date the vice approximately given the introduction of the metric system?

I tried the flour dusting but still cant make sense of it. Hopefully someone has a better eye than me!

*EDIT* the text was upside down to the "20"! Threw me completely. I can now read "Mas* & Sons" "Stone****s".... any ideas? Google failing.





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  • 4 weeks later...

Well I've been busy lately.

I laid my concrete slab a couple of weeks ago, and the timber for my shop turned up on Thursday morning at 7.30am.

By 6pm the same day it was fully built! By lunchtime the next day the roof was insulated and tiled (felt shingles).

Now I just need to buy my new forge from The Iron Dwarf as my JABOD was a casualty and went in the skip during the tidy up. (Deliberately.... it had served its purpose and needed an upgrade).

I couldnt be happier.... I've been dreaming of having a workshop like this for years. Now I just cant wait to get back to Forging!

I also started work on my new hardy plate "anvil", to complement by steel block anvil.







Edited by Mod30
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Tongue and groove solid wood construction like that is a pretty good sound damper, it'll be quieter than common frame construction. 

That's a beautiful little shop, nice job. What kind of forge will you be using? I don't see enough ventilation to make propane a good idea and don't see a chimney or smoke stack.

Well done.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks Frosty! :D

Yeh the sound-dampening and thermal properties were major reason for going this way. Im really pleased with the building.

I'll be adding a side draft hood into an 8inch flue going out the back wall and up. (Coke forge)

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What kind of flue would you gus be using?

Ive been assuming twin wall flue like you use for boilers or log burners but its insanely expensive. I managed to get some 8" stuff cheap which helped but if I need to switch to 12" its going to cost me £500+ !!!!

Am I missing something? Is there a cheaper alternative?

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