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First time building a forge (safety and size questions)


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Hi, I am currently working on a project to build a DIY blacksmithing forge for the first time. I have done some research and I have settled on a JABOD (Just a box of dirt) type forge, mainly because it seemed the cheapest and most feasible. As for the fuel, I am still not fully sure but I am looking more towards coke or charcoal. 

Now, as I have never done this before, I have three main concerns/questions:

Safety. As I will be firing the forge up on a lawn with flammable objects at the least 3 metres away, any advice regarding safety measures I can take (to prevent myself or anything around catching on fire) or ways that I can make the forge safer would be highly appreciated.

Are there any particular recommended dimensions for a JABOD forge (height, width, length, as well as firepot depth) or what dimensions have proved to work well for you?

 

Thanks a lot in advance.

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my charcoal forge shot sparks and burned a hole through a plastic flower pot, so keeping hose around and building a cover for it helps also make sure to keep your charcoal away from the forge because that's how fires spread. lastly as long as your lawn isn't dry you don't have to worry to much about it to much but I wouldn't completely take your eyes off it.

Basic fire safety.

The dimensions are depending on how powerful your blower is (if it only heats a small area vs a huge area) what kind of blower are you using?

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Welcome aboard narfiddle... have you read the Read This First thread located up in the blue banner? It will help you get the best out of the forum with tips like editing your profile to show your location as so many answers depend upon knowing that.

As far as dimensions what works for one person may not work for you. The beauty of the JABOD is it is so easy to modify for any particular situation. Have you scanned the different forges being discussed? Yep, basic fire safety is the key, have water handy just in case.

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Welcome aboard Narfiddle, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you might be surprised how many members live within visiting distance. 

There is some solid information regarding general forge size and there are KNOWLEDGEABLE folk around who'll be more than happy to help. 

Air supply and control is frankly more important than the size and shape of the forge. The spark shower described above is most typically caused by poor air control and lack of experience. It's much better to have too small a fire and build it up a little than it is to have too large a fire and try to tame it down. 

If you're situation requires special fire prevention measures then you're much safer burning coal or coke as they rarely if ever throw a spark. Unless you go crazy ape on the air of course.  

Frosty The Lucky.

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Thanks for all the replies and advice!

I was aiming to use something like an air pump or hairdryer to be on the cheap side (as from what I have read these seem to work quite well). Also, would watering the plants around before using the forge help?

13 hours ago, Irondragon ForgeClay Works said:

The beauty of the JABOD is it is so easy to modify for any particular situation. Have you scanned the different forges being discussed? Yep, basic fire safety is the key, have water handy just in case.

Thanks for bringing the location settings to my attention. I must have missed them, will edit the profile ASAP. I have looked at a variety of JABOD forge examples, but I could not find as much information on preferred dimensions (possible because, as you said, this varies).

 

11 hours ago, Frosty said:

Air supply and control is frankly more important than the size and shape of the forge. The spark shower described above is most typically caused by poor air control and lack of experience. It's much better to have too small a fire and build it up a little than it is to have too large a fire and try to tame it down. 

I believe, in that case, a smaller coke fire would be a better option for me. Considering I am not as experienced, I would rather be on the safer side and not risk the possibility of spark showers :D.

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Keep a 5 gallon bucket of water close to the forge.  It is good for putting out any small fires if they should occur.  Keeping a fully charged water hose at the ready is a good idea until you have some experience using the forge. 

Do not forge in strong winds as embers may be blown out of the fire pot and into the yard.  

As you say better to be on the safe side.

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Note that generally YOU will be working within one meter of the forge and having no problems from radiated heat. It's when you drop hot metal or coals off the forge and onto the ground that there can be an issue.  In a damp climate, picking up the steel or coal with tongs and stepping on where it landed has worked for me for the last 39 years of smithing.  Watering the area around it is a good idea---more to calm the neighbors.

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The only time I've seen an abundance of fire fleas is if the blast is turned up too high or with damp charcoal. As everyone else has said a bucket of water or a hose is a good idea. I also keep a small fire extinguisher on hand just in case. 

I've also noticed  pine charcoal seems to be less prone to producing fire fleas than hardwood charcoal. 

Pnut

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Here in the Southwest USA you can find 40# sacks of mesquite charcoal for cooking that is notorious for forge fleas as it is not fully charred---they want to have some of the smoke and mesquite flavor transfer to the stuff being cooked.  Especially bad as there are a lot of resin pockets in the wood that "pop".

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I'll make sure to have a hose/bucket of water and a fire extinguisher on me (and keep an eye on the lawn if any sparks or hot, solid pieces happen to fall). It's good to hear that simply picking up the hot piece with tongs and stepping on where it landed is enough to deal with smaller pieces of fuel falling onto the ground.

As for the importance of air control,  is a manually-operated blower (like an air pump or hand-crank) better in my case? I'm not sure to what extent this would provide better control of airflow.

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No matter what the air source, how much air get to the fire us up to the blacksmith.  Fuel does not make the fire hot, air makes the fire hot.  Use only the amount of air you need to produce the heat you want.

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