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I Forge Iron

Outdoor Shop Advice Needed


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I've been itching to get into blacksmithing for the last couple of years and have decided I can't stand to wait any longer. My garage is already a completely stuffed full wood shop so my blacksmithing area is going to have to be in the back yard.  I live in Georgia, so the weather is muggy and hot in the summer and cold (but only very rarely freezing) and rainy in the winter.  I have a few concerns with this outdoor setup that I'm hoping someone can help out with:

  • I was planning on building the Essential Craftsman DIY forge.  It's basically just some firebricks held together with some angle iron and a diy burner.  Will this forge and the propane tank be ok stored outside under a tarp or in the grill mentioned below?
  • What safety considerations should I be considering with this setup?  I've read that the propane needs to be kept a certain distance away from the working area, but I'm not sure how far that needs to be.  I have an old propane grill that I was thinking about using as a cabinet to store the propane tank in just to shelter it and keep it off the ground.  Would it be inherently dangerous to have this small forge sitting on the grill surface in such a configuration?
  • I'm guessing the anvil will be constantly covered with surface rust.  Should I be concerned with this interfering with my projects?  Will I need to clean this rust off every time I want to use the anvil?

Thanks in advance to anyone who chimes in.  I really enjoy this forum and hope to have something to contribute to it myself one day.

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Read the gas forges forum for ideas on the construction of a forge. Bricks will work but there are more efficient designs.

Anvil faces shine when you use them to work hot metal.  A wipe with ATF (auto transmission fluid) will protect it between visits. BLO (boiled linseed oil) wiped on the rest of the anvil will protect it. Keep equipment covered when not in use. 

A roof or shelter during the summer keeps the sun from baking you. Makes like more comfortable.

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I strongly suggest you try to attend some meetings of an ABANA affiliate to see what other folks are doing to deal with your specific issues in your specific location.

We need more details to be able to answer some of your questions---like what kinds of things do you want to forge?  How often will it be used? Are you rural or in suburbia or urban?

Soft fire brick forges tend to break down fairly quickly unless you can source some of the new better thermal cycling bricks; can you tell us why you think that type would be best for your use?

My propane forges have all been kaowool lined tube forges; I built 2 at an ABANA Affiliate's forge building workshops and then have built several on my own.  I still do my forge welding in my coal forge(s).

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Thanks for the responses so far. 

Let's see- I'm in a suburban area.  I have three step-daughters and that aforementioned wood shop with a huge backlog of projects, so it's hard to say how often it will get used.  I'm hoping to set aside a couple of 1-2 hour blocks of time per week.

As for the type of projects I am planning, I am not entirely sure.  I want to start out by focusing on skill building.  I was planning on finding a small project like a key chain or bottle opener and making a ton of them just to get practice time in.  I love the idea of forging hardware for furniture projects, so I may move on to that after I have some skills under my belt. I also have a Gransfors Bruks ax that I love.  I can definitely see myself getting into axes and hatchets at some point. 

I was mainly considering the fire brick forge due to its simplicity to build.  I don't have any dreams of it lasting very long.  It's just quick to build and cheap.  This is important for several reasons including price, limited shop time and no actual blacksmithing experience.  I don't want to spend too much time or money building something that turns out not to be well suited for what I end up forging, so an inexpensive starter seems like a good way to get my practice time in while learning what I like and don't like.  I did spend some time looking at a few really affordable small forges from Devil Forge.  I may decide to get a small cheap forge like that for around $200 instead of trying to build my first one.  Any thoughts on that strategy?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I built my forge from an old water heater, and clay lining.  A few fire bricks that I can move around to make adjustments to the fire pit.

Solid fuel, not gas.  It lives outside, along with my "ALO".    The only thing that bothers me is the charcoal "fireflies" in fall when there are leaves on the ground.

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  • 5 weeks later...

My smithy is outdoors as well but I did build a metal roof that cranks up and down so when not in use it is hidden from view below my 6' perimeter wall and mostly protects my stuff from the rain. I bought some roof turbine vent covers from Home Depot for $5 each and I cover the anvils and the two pedestal grinders I keep out there. The coal forge is an open top barrel design and I took a big piece of 1/8" aluminum and bent it into a "garbage can" looking lid that fits tightly over the top since the coal forge sits out from under the roof. The aluminum top also makes for a great work surface when the forge is not being used, I always use it to rest lumber on when I cut it. In the summer it gets really hot here but it's very dry so evaporative coolers work great and I have a 4,500 CFM on a rolling stand sitting just outside the roofed area. My propane forge fits nicely under the roof.

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I almost forgot, I made a weather proof locker from angle iron and corrugated roofing 4 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 6 feet tall. I keep my coal in there and I put racks on the doors so when you swing them open the tongs and hammers are right there hanging on the inside of the door easy to grab. When finished for the day just close em up and everything is out of the weather. Another smaller white cabinet sits just inside the roofed area and holds all my small material that might come in handy when making something.

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I have one of those old fiberglass ten foot C band satellite dishes that I was going to use as a roof over our outdoor pad that the propane forge is on. Found out I couldn't use it because of the electric service line running from the pole to the shop would be above it and the elect co. said nope can't have any structure under the line.:angry:

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11 hours ago, Irondragon Forge & Clay said:

I have one of those old fiberglass ten foot C band satellite dishes that I was going to use as a roof over our outdoor pad that the propane forge is on. Found out I couldn't use it because of the electric service line running from the pole to the shop would be above it and the elect co. said nope can't have any structure under the line.:angry:

I think I would do it anyway while they aren't looking. Is it a primary line or something? No such rules here or in the NEC except for proper clearances which vary for different voltages. Sometimes those POCO guys make up their own rules. They follow NESC, not sure what NESC says about structures under the line but whether it is primary or secondary is going to make a difference. I don't see a problem placing a non-conductive roof, or a conductive one at that, under a secondary line provided you have the required minimum clearance

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