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I Forge Iron

Propane Bottle Forge Build


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For a number of reasons I have begun putting together a propane bottle forge. Mostly because I found an old propane bottle in the brush on my property and also because this winter I would like to have both coal and propane forges to practice with, because sometimes it is just too cold to putz around trying to light anthracite coal.

I have begun by cutting out the front forge portal, cutting the rear through-port for longer stock, and taking the front off to accommodate installing the liners. The front will be welded back on once the insulating blanket is installed, and the rest I plan to apply through the opening. I have been considering whether to open it up with a side hinge like WayneCo suggests in his build, but there is time to decide.

The front opening is roughly (really roughly) 4in. x 7in. and the rear one is 1.75in. x 3in. The idea is to use k26 firebrick with protective coating as a door for both sides. I will fabricate an actual door once I get the thing working properly.

Reading the forums I have a pretty good idea about the proper method of lining the forge and the right materials that I plan to order from Glenn soon, but the issue I have is the burners.

Ihave read up on Frosty's T burners and I am confident I could follow those directions. (As a sidenote, excellent directions and well put together. Thank you.) However, I did some pricing and with the parts I would need for two burners, the correct sized drill bits, and the tapping tools, it would cost me a good amount of money out of the gate. Admittedly I would then be able to make more of them, but the idea for me is to only need the ones I have. The rub is that I can find T burners online for around $50 for two already assembled. Any extra cost would only be for hookups to the fuel source which I would need for DIY ones anyways. Does it seem reasonable to purchase ones online? Or am I just being a bit too frugal? I did the same cost analysis for the forge body itself and because I already have all the tools necessary it was cheaper to make it than buy it. I personally don't trust the burner sellers because the burners are likely made in China, but for the price and fact that I can return them if they don't work, it seems silly to spend more to work harder. Just looking for some wisdom on this front.

Anyways, here are some pictures of the hack job. Before anyone points it out, yes I am in fact terrible with an angle grinder. :P






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YIKES, how much does a drill bit and a couple taps cost in Erie! :o 

I'd have to have a money back guarantee postage included before I trusted a burner made in anybody else's shop. There are a few exceptions but not many. 

There are better places to spend your money.

I had help with the directions, Spanky Smith read the galleys and smoothed it out nicely. Thank you Spanky, where ever you are. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Ha, well the trouble is that I would need to buy the tap wrench, taps, and bits. After looking at prices, buying those listed tools in the directions would have been roughly $40 for the cheapest, plus another $25 for the pipes and fittings. So not an enormous difference, but enough that my cheap-skate-ness kicked in. However, I did some digging in my garage and found the 5/16 drill bit and read that the #3 is only for removing some burrs. I also found a $30 tap set that has the wrench and both taps that are needed. So, for only five dollars more I guess I can swing it.

With two persons whom I view as knowledgeable on these things, along with my better judgement, I guess I will go ahead and skip the cheap and easy path. I appreciate the input greatly.

I also want to thank Spanky, for organizing quite a bit of information in a very effective package.

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The liner for a gas forge is a consumable. Expect to replace it multiple times before you replace the shell.  Designing to make that easier would be useful.

Also if you are in PA why the heck are you burning anthracite?   You should be able to get some of the finest bituminous coal for smithing there is!  If I hadn't been laid off from my previous job I would be having a "supersack" of it shipped out to NM from PA. 

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11 hours ago, LaneSiders said:

I also found a $30 tap set that has the wrench and both taps that are needed.

In my opinion this is not the place to go cheap.  Been there done that.  The taps are  usually junk in the cheap sets.  Now when I need to buy taps I only buy the specific size(s) I need of a respected brand.  There is a world of difference in how well they cut threads.  It's better to spend $10 to $15 on a single tap of reasonable quality that will last you a long time if not abused than to buy a whole set of next to worthless taps that don't cut threads well and/or turn into corkscrews when you try to use them. 

That's my opinion and my experience.  YMMV.

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On the whole, I agree with Buzzkill on this, but I would like to give a counter-example. I got a tap-and-die set from a yard sale a couple of years ago for five bucks, and it has given me very good service on many jobs that I would not have attempted otherwise. It's not great quality, but I've been replacing the taps as they break and should ultimately end up with a good quality set! 

That said, taps and dies are definitely one of those tools where spending as much as you can afford is the best long-term strategy.

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I agree regarding quality being worth the price but that's personal experience after having to repair or replace so many things I've tried to go cheap on. However if we don't care about using a tool more than one or two times then quality isn't part of the equation.

Pawn shops have bins full of taps and wrenches. So what if they're just piled on each other you only need it once, maybe twice.

No reason to buy the whole set. Pawn shop maybe $10 - $15 for what you need. Yard sale maybe $5-$10 for a set. 

If you'd rather roll the dice on a $50 pair of maybe decent burners. What the hey, maybe you're a lucky guy. It's all good, I won't be using them.

Frosty The Lucky.

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If we all get to go to Quad-State next year; I need to dig out the trashed micrometer I bought for US$1.50 and use it to hold a couple of tarps together---tarps as you need to protect your campsite from exploding machinists...why yes I have been referred to as the "powers of evil" before.

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I truly wish I knew of a place that sold blacksmith coal, but unfortunately Erie Coke shut down last year and that was the only place I knew of that sold it around here. I have had my antenna up but almost everything I have found is almost to Pittsburgh, and also only deals in tons. I don't have room nor ambition for tons, so I will cope with anthracite from Tractor Supply until I find something better. Even the places that sell coal by the ton around here only sell anthracite because it's for heating houses they say. It's really another reason why I would like to have a propane forge, because it is getting harder and harder to get coal of any worth for smithing just based on what I have read and what I have experienced.

Also, I am seriously considering opening the cylinder she'll up Wayne style because I really don't want to have to cut it open again in the future just to replace the innards.

I do agree that I would prefer tools that will actually be useful in a year. If anyone has a suggestion for a quality tap and die set, or even just a good tap handle and taps I am all ears. I know next to nothing about brands that do those well so help in shopping for that would be appreciated. I primarily just need these to do Frosty's T burners, so a 1/4-28 tap and a 1/8 Pipe tap are all I actually need at the moment.

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I originally bought a "cheap" ($40ish?) set from my local big box (Menards) and they did not work well. I ended up at my local Ace Hardware (Looks like you have one in Erie according to their website). They had both of the taps I needed in stock (I believe they are Irwin Hanson brand), and even sold me the accompanying sized drill bit for the one I didn't have a bit for at home. I had purchased a handle from Menards because the one that came in my set was super small. 

I believe the two taps were roughly $10 each and the tap wrench I picked up was around that price too, maybe $15?  I only kept the set I picked up because I might want to use the dies that came with it, I'll just be purchasing taps as I need them going forward!

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Thanks Jealdi, I think I will check them out this weekend. The prices seem alright from what I found online.

I sent a message to the Oil Valley fellows that were the closest ABANA affiliate listed on the site. They don't seem to have a web presence except a Facebook. Which I don't use online social networks so that's out. I asked about coal and just generally about being in contact with them so hopefully I can find some local like-minded individuals to talk with.

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  • 4 weeks later...

So, it's been slow going but I am continuing to work on my propane powered propane bottle forge. I haven't done much else with the shell but I have been working on a pair of 3/4" Frosty T-burners. I have been using my coal forge to practice my smithing and making Christmas gifts, so I have not been able to focus on this project as much as I'd like.

I only have one fully assembled so far, and it "works" as in it all goes together, connects to a propane tank, produces a flame somewhat, and doesn't explode. I admit that I might need to drill and tap another T for it because I didn't get it quite as straight as I would have liked.

The flame at this point is unstable at best. I don't plan to really work on tuning it until I have a forge to put it into. At 3+ PSI the flame just shoots off the end of the burner. I can hold the lighter at the end and it looks nice and sounds good, but as soon as the heat source is gone it's just blowing out propane. If I drop the pressure slowly it will light and stay for a few seconds but with no obvious "oompf" then start to flutter till it goes out. If I drop it low enough the flame backs into the T and I have to shut the valve off. My guess is that it's too rich because I have the mig tip cut back only just so that it's halfway to the mixing tube. Figure I will wait till it actually has back pressure in the shell to tune further.

I will give more details about the burners themselves and what I used in another post. I will also get some better pictures but for now this is what I've got. Long weekend will hopefully give me some more time.





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Just posting a couple more pictures and giving some numbers.

Did almost exactly how Frosty and Spanky described in the PDF. Just had to do some different things to hook up to the propane.

1" x 1" x 3/4" steel T (found it at Home Depot, surprisingly)

3/4" pipe nipple, 6" long

Added a 3/4" coupling at the end because I intend to use it to attach to the forge shell

.035" Hobart Mig tip from Tractor Supply (snipped a tiny bit, will do more once it's in the forge)

1/8" MIP Hex Nipple (Everbilt brand from Home Depot, along with all the other brass)

3/8" MIP x 1/8" FIP Hex Bushing

3/8" Flare x 3/8" FIP Coupling

0-30 PSI propane regulator with gauge (Amazon for 20 bucks)

Took a little while to get the taps and tap handles before I could start the project. Only issue I ran into is that when I went to drill the hole in the T, I believe I didn't have a large enough punch mark and the drill walked a little bit. It's off just enough that the tap didn't go in as true as I would have liked. I figure next time I will recruit my friend who has a full sized machining lathe to help with that step. That or I will punch it harder, use a smaller drill first for a pilot hole, then try again. The press vise makes it much easier to keep it straight but maybe I will use the floor flange method? Who knows!

I also believe that I tapped the T a little too deep. The NPT tap is tapered and I kept going a little deeper, backing it out, and checking with the nipple. It wouldn't even go in for at least five attempts so I think I got a little over-zealous because now to screw it tight the face of the nipple is at least a quarter inch inside the T behind the mig tip... Oops!

It's all good, I am having fun toying around with it so I guess that's a plus. I still need to get the forge itself built so it is not a rush job or anything.

I have been on cut hours at work because of the downturn in demand for aerospace parts so I have to save my pennies to move from one step to another on this project. I still need to order the lining components from Glenn but I am confident that once I get them I will be able to assemble the forge relatively quickly. I am not going to cut up the cylinder any more, the front that I cut off I am going to attach with a hinge and a latch that I will weld or bolt on. That will be my means of inserting odd shaped stock and replacing the liner when that day arrives.

I do have one question though before this ramble ends. How far apart should the burners be from one another? I assume that they should be relatively evenly spaced in the center of the actual cylinder lengthwise, but not sure how far apart to drill the burner holes. I intend to have them mounted facing at a downward angle. I also intend to cut the holes large enough that I can upgrade to a 1" burner if I need to in the future.

Anyways, here are some more pictures. I hear you guys and gals like pictures.





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  • 3 weeks later...

Moving in the right direction. Ordered and received the Inswool, Kast-O-Lite, Plistix, and rigidizer from Glenn over the week. Was fully planning on moving all of it to the garage and getting started but I went and caught a cold (yes, just a cold) and really don't feel like going outside in my unheated garage. I have a ventilator mask for the insulation but I also don't think I should risk my lungs when I'm already a little wheezy.

I also wanted to let everyone know that if Glenn is as good at working steel as he is at taping boxes, he must be a master smith of some renown. Scissors were useless, knives were implemented. :lol:




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