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I Forge Iron

Forge Kits?


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I am sure this is a very oft repeated question. I tried the site search but was not getting anywhere. I was on Vaughans Hope Shop and saw that they offer some kits for forges. I only saw coal/coke forge kits there. I am still thinking I need to do propane - does anyone offer a good kit? In my case, cutting the steel for the shell is a pain- while I am a more than passable torch welder, I don't shine with cutting torches. And, liner material is something I know little about. Has anyone used a high pressure burner or two from a turkey fryer set-up? They put out scads of heat and are rugged cast iron and cheap. From what I can see, the Vaughans' kits are pre-cut but will be shop welded. Any suggestions?thanks, mike aka racer3j EDIT- I know that I will have to sharpen up torch-cutting- like skills if I am going to have a go at smithing.m

Edited by racer3j
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I've been to two gas forge building workshops and none of the parts were torch cut. I've been smithing for about 27 years now and never owned a cutting torch.

Don't get focused on the tools, look at the processes! You want to cut steel there are *lots* of ways to do it!

Several places sell burner kits and the forge body can just be a chunk of pipe of a suitable diameter, of my two: one was a grain auger pipe---thin wall and light to carry. The second was a section of scrapped Oxy tank---*very* thick wall and stable. OTOH I know of a professional smith who needed a special sized forge for a job and just rolled kaowool up and tied it with binding wire and stuck a burner into it---not suggested BTW.

So keep looking and design for the tools you have and are good at---or have friends who have/are...

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Building a gas forge isn't a difficult thing if you remember to apply some basic principles and ratios.

Principle 1. A forge is a furnace, all it needs do is hold fire while the floor supports the pieces you're putting in it.

Principle 2. Only make it a LITTLE larger and stronger than you think you'll need. Unless you're going to be forging RR rail you do NOT need to use 1/4" steel. You can of course, especially if you have it or it's cheap, etc. There's nothing wrong with using overkill dimension steel in a project unless you want to move it of course. ;)

My choice for a pipe forge is SS stove pipe. It's commonly available in dia. up to 12" and if you want larger you can snap two together to make larger dia. For example two sections of 8" will make a 16" dia. shell.

It comes in different lengths though 24" and 36" are most common. While tough as grandpa's toenails it's workable with hand tools and power hand tools. A pair of tin snips, aviation snips work better than simple snips. Hand drill, pop rivets, etc. NO special shop tools necessary at all.

About the only "special" tool you might need is a bimetal holesaw to make the burner port(s).

There are lots of options commonly available for ready made forge shells. What you use depends on what shape you want and what's available. I'll drop a few suggestions in a bit.

The most important basic ratio to remember has to do with burner size and number per volume. For a naturally aspirated burner whether it's a linear like Ron Reil's EZ, one of Jay Hays', etc. or an Ejector type like Mike Porter's, a T Rex, Side Arm, etc. The ratio to observe is 1 ea. 3/4" burner per 350 cu/in of volume. There is wiggle room of course but this is a good conservative ratio and it's better to have more burner than you need, you can always turn it down but you can NOT turn it up over max.

Other factors will effect this basic ratio of course.

The forge liner is probably #1. Hard refractory is a poor insulator and will require more fuel and time to come to heat and stay at heat and may require more burner for the same volume as an insulating lined forge. The upside is hard refractory is MUCH tougher than an insulating refractory.

#2 but no less important is shape. If your chamber is roughly cubical or spherical you can get away with less burner. If however you want a long narrow chamber you'll probably want more but smaller burners to maintain an even heat.

Shape makes a lot of difference at some point in your exploration of the craft. This usually occurs when you've settled into a style of smithing. For instance bladesmithing usually requires a long forge for heat treating but it can be pretty narrow.

An armorer on the other hand may need to get a piece of sheet metal into a forge that's 18" x 24". Neither of these guys(gals) will be happy with the other's forge.

If all you're going to do is make small tools like wood chisels, reasonable sized knives, etc. a Bean Can forge will probably be plenty.

If you want to do architectural iron work you may end up with a walk in. :o I'm building a Variable Volume forge at present so I can do the small stuff without heating a huge volume and still enlarge it enough to get that breastplate in if necessary.

Things to keep an eye out for that'll make a good ready made forge shell are: Stove pipe, discarded 20lb. propane tanks, helium (balloon) tanks, water heater, well tank, ammo cans, (.50 cal makes a really nice size and shape box forge) Popcorn tins, etc. etc. You get the idea.

Steer away from galvanized pipe for a forge shell. If you build it right the shell shouldn't get hot enough to burn off the zinc but there's no reason to take chances you don't need to.

Liners are next on your decision list. As I've already said hard refractory is tough but less efficient. Ceramic wool blanket like Kaowool, Durablanket, etc. are very efficient but also very fragile. You also need to be thinking about breathing the particles though this is easily remidied.

Another thing about insulating refractories is welding fluxes. At welding heat borax is quite caustic and will go through Kaowool like hot water through cotton candy.

Eventually welding flux will erode even heavy duty hard firebrick though it takes a LOT longer. But you get back into the insulating and heat sink aspect again.

I've been reasonably happy with a double lined gasser. The inner liner is a hard rammable refractory and the outer liner is Kaowool for insulation. If I build another like it I'll use 2" of Kaowool but it works pretty well with 1".

You can have more than one kind of refractory as an inner liner as well. the forge I'm currently building has hard high temp split (half thickness 1 1/4") fire brick for the floor with 2,300f insulating castable refractory under it. The sides and lid have 2,300f insulating kiln brick.

The idea behind this is to use the most efficient materials wherever possible and use the toughest available where necessary.

So, now you're wondering how well a 2,300f refractory is going to hold up at temps of 2,700f or more.

Coatings is the answer. A high zirconia coating will reflect most of the IR radiation back into the chamber so less heat will soak into the refractory. ITC-100 is the best known though I've talked to a fellow who makes his own.

ITC-100 is kind of spendy up front but savings in fuel and refractory repairs will pay for it, quickly if you do a lot of forging, longer if you only do a little bit. If you're not going to use a forge very often you may not want to spend the money on high efficiency materials.

ITC-100 or one of the other available coatings is a good way to contain ceramic blanket so it doesn't release particles into the air. A little exposure is no big deal but there's no reason to take chances you don't need to, especially if you're going to do much forging.

I'm sure I've gone on more than long enough but building a forge is front burner on my mind right now.

In summery:

1, Decide the size and shape work you're most likely to do and design a forge just a LITTLE larger.

2, Decide what type and size burner(s) you want to use.

3, Decide what kind of refractory you need.

4, Build it and light er up!


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Racer: Try this link. There is contact info. near the bottom for Jay Hayes. He is very knowledgeable about propane forges. He sells the parts and kits for them. Give him a ring, he'll be more than glad to help.

Jay Hayes
100 Christmas Place, Weston, WV 26452
(304) 269-6111
email: jay @hrea.coop

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Cool, I'll put that one under his name in my E-dress book too.

I just picked up a pint of ITC-100 today. We've been coorresponding with the other Edress.

TWO E-mail addresses! What is the world coming to?


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