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Finally starting my Forge build...


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I finally settled on a  concept for my "box" of dirt. I decided to go with a 55 gal oil drum. Although not the typicall "55 forge" seen around the forums. Im laying mine on its side to create a "JABOD" with a longer fire bed. I will be burning charcoal for fuel. And I will be building a box bellows to accompany the forge.

As of right now I've got my box ready. Next I will build a rolling stand then pipe and fill the box with fill dirt and firebrick.

Never built a forge before, so any thoughts or suggestions are much appreciated. 

I will be posting more photos as it comes together. 

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The way I was seeing it in my head, the fule and fire would only be about 1/3 the volume or less of half the barrel.  But having the ability to rearrange the bricks and piping to build bigger fires when i want to start working larger. And hopefully with a hand pumped air supply I can keep the fule cost down.  But you may be right, Irondragon. Ill probably be running out for wood every thime I want to cook some steel.

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In general I believe you'd build a more successful forge after a few attempts and have a better idea of what you need and how to get it. What you have is surprisingly close to my thoughts for a 55 drum forge. 

I think you'll be much happier with lower sides. As it lays you'll either end up with a forge that's too deep to lay the steel in correctly or burn so much fuel you'll go nuts or broke feeding it. Of if you put enough dirt in it it isn't going to be very mobile.

Overlaying my original thoughts and sketches on yours. I cut the hood section of the drum down the center of the bottom chine. The flutes in drums that make them easy to roll and turn are the Chines. Cutting down the center of the chine made it easy and left an easily rolled edge for safety's sake and for the next step. I cut the chine to about 1/3 max from the far side. Measuring 12" from a centerline marked from the center of the "hood" section on each side and two longitudinal cut to the far end. I folded these two leaves outwards to make a large table above the remaining curved belly. The 2' wide section of drum side becomes useful stock once cut free.

I cut the far end of the drum along a line where the two wings connect. This portion of the drum end fit into the remaining chine in the "hood" section. Once fitted the split chine is rolled and crimped over the front and opening hood section, made from the drum end. If this proved poor, welding is easy enough change of plans. Yes?  I planned on modeling and testing the openings with cardboard and such. There is plenty of useful steel in the doorway and or the drop left from opening up the drum to get pretty fancy. A barrel stove jack is off the shelf and is placed on the "hood" section to run stove pipe outside. I don't know if 10" barrel stove jack is available but it's not hard to make one.

Treating the exposed edges of sawn drum steel is a MUST, I considered rolling a bead on them with a hand dolly, hammer and maybe a torch if I couldn't do it cold. Another option was slitting a rubber hose and or buying rubber edge molding and gluing it on.

The stand would've been what I came up with materials to make. 

Seeing yours makes me wonder about making one again. 

Frosty The Lucky. 

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Frosty, welding is not available quite yet. But hopefully soon. This is the first attempt. I was considerinv cutting it down a bit more. But I don't have the ability to add material, I can only remove it.  So i didn't want to take it too far yet. Knowing that I don't know what exactly I want yet... I may pick up another one or two 55s at some point, then are pretty readily available around here for 10 to 20 bucks, for real clean ones. When I get a welder in the shop I will build a rolling stand. And maybe build up an even better forge housing. 

I would love to see how you were using the 55 in your idea. Feel free to post pictures.

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I only built it in my mind's eye and on paper. I cut drums with a reciprocating saw and if the free end of the drum fit in the chine of the hood then crimping it would eliminate the need for a welder. If you wanted to do something else requiting joinery sheet metal screws rivets and nuts and bolts work a treat. 

A good way to model ideas is with soup, etc. cans. Tin snips can be had for a few dollars. 

Frosty The Lucky. 

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Strongly suggest you search out depictions of the "Tim Lively washtub forge" for a proven-in design. I would also use a 30 gallon steel drum if you want to go ahead with that design  More clay than is needed is just hassle and added weight!

What projects do you expect to need the added length for?

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ThomasPowers, im not sure that I nedd the full length of the barrel, I was picturing the bed of the fire only to be about 18"or less in length. The 55 was easily available and would allow me to build a bigger fire if I ever needed one. But really I don't see myself making any swords for quite some time. So a smaller fire pit, about the size of the one pictured in Mr. Livelys wash tub forge, seems pretty appropriate. But rather than using clay or refractory, I was going to use dirt and firebrick, to keep it modular while I figure out what I need and how to control the fire.

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If you are making swords your fire needs to be about 6" long as you do NOT want to heat more than you can work on at a time before it goes cold.  Heating more than you need to leads to scale losses, decarburization and grain growth---in other words you are degrading the metal; not a good thing for blades!  Now if you have a power hammer or multiple trained strikers it would be a bit different. 

Only time you want to heat the entire length up is for heat treat and you can finesse that by sliding the blade back and forth through the hotspot or make a Q&D trench forge to handle it.  Making your main forge set up for that is sort of like buying a dump truck as your daily commute car because you may need to by a yard or two of gravel once a year...

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Thomas, thanks for the advice.  It makes plenty of sense. 

Taking everybody's thoughs in to consideration I may end up cutting down the 55, chop it in half then overlap the front and rear, drill and screw em together with sheet metal screws. If I decide I need to change the size I can un do it and adjust the length of the forge body. 

As of the dims of the hot spot I will shoot for about 6"x4" ish... by only drilling air holes in about 5" of the piping. 

I'm digging the concept I've got in my head. Now I need to get back in to the shop and make it happen. Thanks for the advice and inspiration.

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OTOH on my first forge, back in 1981,  I made the fire length adjustable by running the back end of the tue pipe all the way out the other end of the forge and used a steel "ramrod" (steel pulley that just fit inside the pipe with a rod in the center to move it), to control how long a section received the blast for a combo small and long forge.  Almost all the time was spent in the small configuration though.

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A drum in that orientation will work, but My experience says to change a few things. First trim down your top cut off so that the side draft hood section is 12” long. You can then fit a 10” flue pipe wile having a 22” square hearth. for the forge bowl, charcoal likes a small fire and tuyere. Stay with the small single opening in the 3/4-1” ID range. Historacle evidence  indicates a 6” heat zone, so an 8” fire bowl works best, and fore efficiency typically a 4” wide trench.  Most smiths prefer to work from the side, so you can stick long bars threw the fire and out the other side.

if you chose the right fill and an over sized feed for the tuyere you can then reconfigure your fire bowl to accommodate a longer fire with a multiple fire hole fire for heat treating long tools and working long scrolls. 

Also, eliminate the cut in the front, and fill to the top with fill, you can’t bank charcoal and even a 1/2” lip will keep it on the table. If not you end up with the whole hearth ablaze.

We have all gone over bored in the beginning  

 

An example of changing the configuration is Steve Sell’s set up, he has a bottom blast with a classic hearth, so to heat treat swords he inserts a pipe with a 90d bend and holes down its length he piles coal on the table and away he goes. Like all mortals he forges swords 6” at a time.

Try combining Steve’s set up and TP’s your off and running. 

Oh, and table furniture is a good idea, hard fire brick woks, as dose simple adobe, but pieces of 4” angle works best.

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It’s a brick base with an aproximently 30x60” expanded metal hearth (table top) and a commercial bottom blast pot. 

Main gala away is 90% or more of the time he is forging in the fire pot. But he has a manifold made up of pipe that drops in to slow him to build a fire on the hearth instead of in the pot.  If you build a 4x8” trench as I suggest, with with one permanent wall and one removable wall to hold the fuel that is piled above the table you can take a piece of pipe the length of your hearth, two elbows and a pipe Nipple and make up a manifold to aloe you to make an 18” long fire for heat treating. 

Drill 3/8” or so holes in the pipe in a row and on the same plane, assemble so that one elbow meats the side blast tuyere, then use dirt, brick or steel to make a long trench about 4” wide on top of your hearth. A bit of mud will seal the tuyere to the elbow. If you fit a slug or pair of disks to a rod that fits inside the pipe you now can adjust the length as described buy TP. You don’t need welding heat for heat treating so this can be simple. Note the regular fire pot can heat treat a longish knife any way, say 10” blade if you move the blade back and forth. Frankly a 6” blade for most knives is long, 2-4” being enough for most tasks slicing steaks and chopping jungle undergrowth need something longer. You don’t have to heat the tang when you harden as you will just have to anneal it later anyway.  

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Charles, I don't want you to think im ignoring you. It is a lot to think about. And ive been jumping back and forth between the threads in the solid fule section, with special attention to the side blast history thread. Then trying to lay it out on paper. I think im gonna have to harvest some clay.

But, do I build a progressive firebed? With expanded dims (according to the table on post civil war charcoal forges) to be able to choose the size of the fire based on my stock materials...Or do I build a consistent pit, with only the ability to expand the size of the hot spot by opening more airways for jobs such as heat treat...??

I dont see my self getting into swords in the near future, but sooner than later I will be learning how to direct a striker so I can make hammers. In which case im wondering if I should just split the difference and maybe shoot for what might be considered to be overkill for a majority of stock. Or do I just have to pump harder and longer, to work larger stock?

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If your using charcoal, it really only likes one tuyere size and that is 3/4-1” I’d. Thus 1” square bare or smaller and a 6” heat. 

To go bigger takes multiple tuyere. 3 thralls pumping bellows will get you up into the 3” and 9” fire range. Believe me 1 1/4 by hand sucks. I have made splitting wedges from sway a way hitch stabilizer bars with a 4# hammer with a 7/8id tuyere (3/4” schedule 40 pipe) and charcoal. Hot cut those SOBs as well. 1” is plenty big for most of us, but with a side-blast you can always modify it to make a bigger or specialized fire.    

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The problem is that you end up with a bottom blast and charcoal isn’t so efferent in that configuration. 

I have built and used willox and lively style forges and tho they work well this is a reason why the Asians , Africans, romans, and northern eropoens used small side blast forges with charcoal. Now sometimes they build brick furnaces over the top for special operations. 

Bull but hey your plan, your forge. I was just hoping you would learn from my mistakes and go forth and make new and inventIve ones.

Now if you make a long trench with the tuyere at the end, you could then have a pipe that you layed in the trench for long fires, and a bricks to fill it in when you didn’t have the long tuyere in place...

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Sorry im not trying to discount your input, just trying to understand the ideas and apply them to my design. I am trying to avoid a bottom blast situation. Which was why I was thinking of basically 3 side blast forges stuck end to end fed from the same air supply with a restricted of some sort. Still trying to come up with a concise drawing to run by you guys, but it has to happen between work at the day job.

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I am definitely not going to say you are wrong. In fact, you may have hit the nail on the head. 

Which brings me to a couple more questions.

Assuming that a bottom blast extention system would be less efficient using charcoal as fule. Could it be able to get a thinner workpiece such as a long blade to reach critical temperatures for heat treating?

If a smaller forge can be used to do the same thing by painting the blade through the hot spot, I think my only hang up would be working larger stock materials.

  And if I understand correctly, up scaling a charcoal forge requires a multi tuyere sideblast system.... so where do I draw the line as becoming over kill?  

I am more likely to be making hammers rather than swords this year.  But will likely not always need the heat and fule required for this type of job, in which case, I would want to only run a single tuyere sideblast.

should I build a multi tuyere sideblast and run extra fule(charcoal) or should I be able to make a single tuyere sideblast work just hard enough to efficiently heat 3lbs. hammer billets when I occasionally want it to?  

Man I wish I had a few of you guys locally, sure would make things easier. I am grateful for you guys taking your time to share your hard earned experience and expertise.  

Thanks.

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You only need just over red heat for heat treating (the temp that table salt melts) is all you need for heat treating steels. So even a less efficient set up can work for heat treating while we need the most efficiency for forging and welding. 

The truth is a pile of bricks, and a piece of perforated pipe stacked in the corner until you need to set up a 36” trench out in the garden to heat treat that great sword. Works. 

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