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my forge isn't working


Nate37

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I have tried several different things but my forge just doesn't seem to keep heat. The hottest metal gets is a dull red. Am I doing something wrong? The inside coating is plaster of Paris and sand, which I've been told can suck up a lot of heat. Is that true? I've spent 4 months trying to get this to work but I'm thinking about giving up and getting a propane forge.

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I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your whole setup is wrong, thus your problem. You need sides on your forge body to hold your "green" coal. If you are using coking coal, the coal goes around the sides, not on the top, at least after your first fire. The coal burns and turns to coke. This is what you want around your iron, not the green coal. Coke produces very little smoke and is what you need to get your iron hot. 

Actually, it doesn't look like you are burning blacksmith coal. It looks more like anthracite.

Basically, you want 4" of coke under your work, in the firepot and 2" of coke on the top. The green coal stays around the sides and as it burns, with very little smoke, it turns to coke. You move the coke into your firepot with your poker and rake, and as you produce more coke this goes on the top. So the sides of your forge should be about 2" high. 

I live about 4-5 hours north of you and close by you can buy blacksmith coal just outside of the little town called Hesperus, Colorado. If you want to make the drive, you are welcome. There are smiths in Abq that are closer. I'm not speaking for Thomas, but he is closer and has, I believe has people come by as well as teaching classes. He also has info on the local NM blacksmith association.

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There is a whole section about coal forges on IFI. Your mistake was building what someone THINKS will work. While not much but the blower and basic table is worth saving getting it right is pretty straight forward.

A propane forge on the other hand is a good option but you have to learn to use it and they have inherent issues as well. 

Check out the JABOD forge. https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/44842-just-a-box-of-dirt-or-a-simple-side-blast-forge/page/3/

There are drawings and construction details as you go through the thread.

If you decide to go propane give me a shout.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Nate, this is just my $0.02 as a rookie-ish blacksmith. I built a propane forge following the guidance of guys on here, and it has worked very well for me for the last year or two or however long it has been. HOWEVER, I have been leaning more and more towards coal. I took a class locally a couple weekends ago to learn proper use and tending of a coal fire, as I have an old rivet forge that I would like to start using. Not everything fits inside a propane forge, and sometimes you don't want your whole piece hot all at once. 

A proper burning coal fire as these guys described gets HOT! You can burn up your stock real quick if you are not paying attention. 

If you have the option, visit someone local to you in person to learn. And next best is listening to the advice on this forum. Don't get offended by criticism either. What I've seen on this forum has always been for a persons safety, or to keep someone from wasting their time/money. 

Good luck getting your forge working well and hopefully soon you can get beating on some hot steel!

 

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I know in your other thread you said the forge is a bottom blast, however the setup I see is a modified side blast. A bottom blast the tuyere comes in from the bottom of the forge pan so the air goes straight up through a grate.. I recommend cutting the slotted portion of the pipe off making it a side blast and shortening up the fire pot by about a half and make a ducks nest fire pot. That way your coal will get a lot more concentrated air, air makes the fire hot not the fuel.

Like anvil said your coal does look like anthracite like Tractor Supply sells not bituminous blacksmithing coal. It will work but is hard to light and requires a constant air supply to keep from going out. 

Also the plaster of Paris/sand mix is not good so if you do get full heat, it will fall apart and depending on the moisture content could shatter/spald throwing pieces out. If you have a river or creek near by you can get clay from the bank and mix it with sand and some water to make a stiff mix. Take a look at this thread about side blast forges.

https://www.iforgeiron.com/topic/52623-anatomy-and-a-brief-history-of-simple-side-blast-forges/

 

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I'm looking at the air slot in the tuyere- strikes me as being pretty large to be able to keep up with the air from the blower. To use it as a bottom blast I would consider replacing the tuyere as is, dropping it below the table with a tee fitting, one end of the tee feeding the forge thru a smaller drilled or slotted grate, the down end of the tee with a flap door to periodically empty clinker and ash. That would effectively make your forge pot a little bit deeper- 4" would work to get more fire under your work. PoP is not needed- make your firepot from 3/8" stock and you should be fine. 

Steve

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A simple test with your current setup may be to plug the air slot up leaving 2~3” open. (Plug it just with wet dirt, it’s just a quick test.) Then pile your coal deep (like Anvil said, 4” below 2” above.) and light it up. Just concentrating the air may help, but you will need more depth of coals to get good and hot. (You want enough coal depth to use all of the oxygen and provide a little insulation from radiating heat.)

Your setup reminds me of the “washtub” forge, but every example I’ve seen of that type used a deeper washtub and hole drilled in the pipe, not a slot. 
How much air does that blower put out? Looks like the ones they used on that knife show on the cable network. I wouldn’t wish those on anyone. If you really crank that, will it blow coals out of the fire? (Not that you really want that, but it give me an idea of it’s output…)

In a solid fuel forge, air makes the fire hot, chances are you not getting enough air to the fuel in the right spot. 
 

Keep it fun,

David

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The problem with the current setup is the slot for the air is plugged up and the stuff has nowhere to go. If you continue with solid fuel a T pipe underneath as was mentioned is the way to go. Or build a true side blast forge.  

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Every one is telling you what is wrong with your forge, and tho I agree with them let’s talk about what is right. 
I have seen similar designs for raw wood and charcoal on YouTube, and with the small air supply (those import blowers aren’t really up to large coal forges) and they work ok for knife heat treating forges but not as good for forging. 
Try cleaning out your tuyere (the pipe with the slot) and piling about 8” of lump charcoal in your forge. It will eat it up pretty fast but it should work ok. 
know if you would like help reworking your forge to heat 1” square stock let me know. 
I do have one question, as to your coal. Is it hard (stove coal from tracto supply or the like) or soft (blacksmith/farrier)? Hard coal and hand cranked blowers aren’t a good fit. 

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Mostly soft but I think it has a little bit of hard coal in it. Charles, thanks for telling me something that isn't wrong about my forge! Is there any way I can get lump charcoal easily?

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I recommend building the trench stile side blast as illustrated in the above link. Buy moving the tuyere to the side of your bread pan and then sculpting a trench and side walls with stiff mud, brick or steel you will have a more efficient charcoal forge that will still burn  soft coal. 
long trench fires aren’t very efficient for forging as you can only forge about 6” at a time, so it’s not efficient to burn that much fuel.  

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Nate; will you be at the New Mexico Artist Blacksmith Association meeting in Bernalillo in early October?  (This Saturday IIRC!)

"We are excited to announce our October meeting!! We are fortunate to have Cameron Stoker demonstrate forging a folding blacksmith's knife. The meeting will be held at Wholesale Timber and Viga, 300 Calle Industrial, Bernalillo NM 87004. The meeting will begin at 9:00 am. Bring something delicious for the potluck and something for Iron in the Hat. Stay for open forging if you wish."

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