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What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/06/2013 9:34 PM

I am thinking of making a small forge for my own use and can't decide what material is best. One blacksmith group likes brick and ceramic designs but the other one said iron was the normal material. I am new at this craft and I didn't know which was better. Can anyone help? I need a material for high heat use.

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#1

Re: Whats the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/06/2013 9:56 PM

Depends on what you will be working. If you have a coal fire with a nice bed of coal and are careful not to poke around too much you can get away with a fire-brick liner on a good steel. If you rake around and are working large pieces you might be better suited with a cast iron firebox.

The forge I used was an old shoeing forge, a bit smaller than what I really needed but worked for me. It was cast iron with a nice clinker removing bit at the bottom and it had good air flow. With a deep bed of coal I could heat a 12 inch rod almost all the way across (if I moved it a bit).

Are you making this or buying? Have you considered a gas forge (they are usually cheaper)?

See if you have a smith in your area who can let you bang around a bit to get a feel for what you want.

Drew K

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Whats the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/06/2013 10:20 PM

I had not considered a gas forge because the one I know uses coal most of the time. He has a propane one but I have not seen it in use yet. I want to do small projects first and I was thinking of something like a small blade. My friends want me to make decorative pieces but I don't know. What kind of blacksmithing do you do?

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#6
In reply to #2

Re: Whats the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/07/2013 9:40 AM

I don't do much at the moment...I don't have a forge, I left mine in East Anglia with a buddy. I used to do some decorative work and low quality knives but mostly I was having fun trying to learn what I wanted to do.

My favorite thing to do is to recycle something into something new. Railroad spikes make nice looking but low quality knives (it takes a lot of work to get a good quality steel edge into it).

Drew K

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#9
In reply to #6

Re: Whats the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/07/2013 4:57 PM

Do you think a knife is too hard for someone who is new to the craft? I sent you a message with more questions so I don't bog up the discussion board. I hope that is alright.

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#3

Re: What's the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/06/2013 10:20 PM
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#4
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Re: What's the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/06/2013 10:29 PM

Yes! Thank you those were helpful! I know I have tons to learn but I am trying

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#5

Re: What's the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/07/2013 3:21 AM

I asked a similar Q some time back. There may be some good suggestions in there from folk who have since wandered off.
Del

(I never did get round to making the forge, although I did get a big old brake drum to make it from...)

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#7
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Re: What's the best material for a blacksmith forge?

02/07/2013 11:36 AM

Del asked for help with a forge so he could make arrow heads.

He never made the forge.

Does that mean he never got the point?

(You didn't pay a cover charge so don't bother trying to get a refund.)

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#8

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/07/2013 1:05 PM

brake drum forge:

Youtube video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xIM3tG1ZNM

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/07/2013 6:43 PM

That was helpful to me. Did you make the forge yourself? Or is it someone elses movie?

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#11

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/07/2013 11:05 PM

Don't know where you are located, but if you can get hold of a book called "The $50 Knife Shop" written by Wayne Goddard and published by Krause publishers (U.S.) you will find a ton of useful info for knife making including plans for a low cost propane-fueled forge made using two soft fire bricks and a Weller hand-held torch. Requires only hand tools and no special skills. You should be able to order the book from Amazon for around $20 + s/h. Also, Google the Amateur Blacksmith Association for forge plans plus other info.

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#12

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 4:01 AM

Cast iron is the traditional, but fire brick is a good alternate. it can be replaced easily if you do get it to hot, and you can build to the size or shape you desire. as for coal or gas? gas is clean and convenient, but if you are say making a knife or tooling it will not put the carbon into the steel like coal or charcoal will. so it just depends what your are making. decorative or functional pieces. check out youtube, as there are always good ideas on there

hope this helps you a little

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#13
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 4:39 AM

... check out youtube, as there are always good ideas on there...
And amusing catsDel

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#26
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/18/2013 10:40 AM

Thank you! Yes it helps. And it tells my why some people said to use brick.

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#14

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 5:31 AM

I use a truck rim with a similar set up Iris in reply 8. It is lined with fire bricks and I used clay with about 30% horse manure mixed into it as the mortar for the joints. The air supply is supplied from the exhaust of a vacuum cleaner that has a speed controller on it.

Welded to the side of the rim are 3 sockets that are a neat fit on 3 legs. This way they can be pulled out and the whole thing loaded into the boot (Trunk) of the car for those occasions when you need to get mobile.

I have used the same setup on a 44 Gallon Drum (205 Litres) split in half vertically. This is perfect for swords so long as they are not Claymores or Bastards. (Are we allowed to say that here?)

One of the first rules of blacksmithing is "Use the right tool for the job" and if it isn't available improvise or make the right tool.

I like to use good quality fine crushed coal but this is a little hard to get lately and I have been using coke. This works well for heat but you have to spend a bit more time controlling the fire.

There is lots of fun to be had and a few burnt fingers.

One other quick tip. Wear stout foot wear with thick soles. Boots are good but make sure that mill scale and other hot bits can't fall in the top of the boot. The amusement this causes onlookers may result in them an injury.

This is a good site to have a look at. http://www.anvilfire.com/

BAB

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#15
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 2:56 PM

I have seen the anvilfire site before, some really nice work there.

I had a piece of scale jump up and land in my boot once! Taught me a lesson to keep my pants bloused over my boots!

Drew K

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#16

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 4:23 PM

There are several forge builds for various purposes on 'instructables.com' It's a good idea site.

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#17

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/08/2013 8:51 PM

There is little that I can add to the links you already have received about blacksmithing as a hobby. It is fairly straightforward. The best forge I ever saw was made out of earth in a wooden box at an 1812 re-enactment settlement. The earth was returned to its hole after the battles were over, and the forge packed up. Smart man-dumb machine concept.

As a blacksmith by trade myself, I make my living pounding on steel, so I have a little bit of experience (27 years), and these white hairs allow me to get all philosophical on you. First...what you do for a hobby is COMPLETELY different to what you would do as a tradesman, even "back in the day". This distinction is more important than you might think. For instance, my trade might be metalwork, but my hobby is tying trout flies. It takes me more than 22 hours to tie a trout fly. Do you think I would be able to sell one? I doubt it...they are too expensive. But they are the best trout flies in the world, and they WILL catch a trout on the second "wet" cast. I can devote all this attention to detail because of course, it is my hobby, not my source of rent money. The products I make as a tradesman are not like that...in fact, I rarely ever see them finished...well, except for the thirty seconds or so it takes to get it out of the spray booth and into the shipping box. If you want to get into blacksmithing as a hobby, you really must devote prodigious amounts of time, money and effort into learning and doing. If you don't have the "passion" to do that, then you will be merely a duffer, and will forever fail to perform to any meaningful level.

The field you might want to get into would be known as "artist-blacksmith". Note that the word artist comes first. That reflects the point that you need to be an artist before you can be an artist-blacksmith. Some artists work in the medium of oil paint, some work in the medium of clay, and some work in the medium of hot steel.

This can be a stumbling point when people call me up and ask me what courses they should take and are often disconcerted, perhaps even upset when I suggest an attempt to get a certificate or even a degree in fine arts before even purchasing your first hammer. A degree in fine arts is often looked down upon as somehow less prestigious than a degree in, say, physics or engineering, but it is essential if you wish to enter a field such as artisan blacksmithing.

Blacksmithing as a trade...well, now that is a different forge entirely. Your education is in draughting, welding, and Computer Aided Design. You no longer do the work with your good right arm, you use a power hammer. You no longer have a small smokey coal (actually "coke") forge with a dozen knife blades soaking up the heat. You have industrial machinery, Miller welders, power bending tools like Ironworkers...in short you create a machine shop. Such machine shops might include serious power machinery, much of it run with three phase power. A lot of hand work is still done in such shops....airplanes for instance are often still made largely "by hand" instead of being stamped out in like fenders in Detroit. The skill sets are different, you become a "machine operator" and you will likely never even pick up a hammer, except to free up the chuck in a turret lathe. You will likely never actually make a knife blade in the old way because it really IS too darned hard to hammer weld a piece of high carbon steel into a groove in your low carbon steel....why bother when you can purchase a factory made "damascus" steel blade for twenty bucks? A tradesman blacksmith even back in the day would not bother to make a knife blade, factories in Boston, Pittsburgh, Leeds and such places made those items, the tradesman blacksmith would make hinges both fancy and plain, buggy hardware, unusual tools (rock chisels for instance) and a thousand other things....but probably not knife blades.

Cutlery. There is so much more to making a knife than pounding out the blade...sanders, grinders and sharpening stones to do wet work, selection of bone, antler, hardwoods for handles, and more than a passing familiarity with leather for scabbards. Lots of people still do that...and some even make money doing it. You might want to chat with them. But in my humble opinion, this can easily get into a situation where you can easily price yourself out of the market. A search on "deviant art" for artist blacksmith knives would pay REAL dividends. If we wanted to get technical, the field of knife making is "cutler". An ancient and worthy trade indeed. And one in which I urge you to practice a bit first and ask for tips on how to "improve" your railway spike hatchet rather than expect a cutler to give you a crash course in a trade which he may have spent a lifetime learning.

Personally, I went into a sort of composite field...I do my own development in my small shop, and employees do all the heavy lifting as they churn out the designs I come up with.

So, this gives you three major directions to go. If you just want it to be a hobby (like most people who get into this field do), then be prepared to become an expert, study the "art" in recognized schools, then be prepared to practice, practice, practice. If you want to be a tradesman, get into a machine, welding or body working shop. If you want to be a cutler, learn metallurgy....steels nowadays are not like they were two centuries ago.

No matter which route you choose to take, you will NEVER regret a moment of it.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/09/2013 11:59 AM

GA from me. When doing a job to earn a living you often have to sacrifice your ideals.

Not sure which country you are in Geowin Rose but I have a Flamefast natural gas ceramic chip forge, extensive set of tools, leg vice etc which are just gathering dust and looking for a good home. If you are in the UK send me a PM and we can discuss.

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#20
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/09/2013 3:53 PM

I am not in the UK I'm sorry. I am in America. I plan on visiting the UK some day so I will stay in touch. Thanks!!!!

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#19
In reply to #17

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/09/2013 12:17 PM

Wow...that is about the most comprehensive answer I have seen on CR4 (and I have been around a little while).

GA from me too!

Drew K

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#21
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/09/2013 3:57 PM

Thank you for the details!!! I have so many questions to ask. It is only a hobby for me now. I am in school to be a social worker. Welding was a class someone told me might be useful but the ones you listed make sense too. I was thinking of doing a knife but not anymore. A bunch of people said it was too much work and had a low potential. Your profession and experience sound so intriguing! Thanks a million!!!

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#22
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Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/10/2013 4:19 PM

After you have done some bashing and bending of steel and started to get a feel for how much force it takes to get to where you are happy with the shape and size of what you have made. Then it is time to have a go at edged tool. This where the metallurgy that Yusef1 was talking about comes into play. The carbon content of the metal, any minor aditives like vanadium, the silicon content . All these things make a difference to the final product so long as you get the hardening and tempering right.

It takes a lot of practice but when you get it right it is very rewarding.

Here is one of my favourite quotes: Men are like steel, a loss of temper and there usefulness is limited and they will probably crack at the most inconvenient time.

BAB

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#23

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/11/2013 5:26 AM

Hi,

Been reading the posts, and it looks like you have a wide range of answers, so I feel compelled to throw in my version.....just build it!! I have built many forges over the years, from specialized long and narrow sword forges, to dig a hole in the ground, stick in a pipe, use a fireplace bellows and some wood forges. They all work!!!! One of the best was built in about 3 hours by my wife and I when we had a quick show to do and our main portable was at another show. some angle iron, sheet metal, and a hand cranked blower and it works great 8 years later. If you can, get the book "practical projects for the blacksmith" I don't know the man personally, but I use the book when I am teaching classes. In the beginning he takes a hair dryer, barbeque grill and a few fittings and builds a forge. As a heads up, I line mine with firebrick just to make the fire deeper and contain the coals. Works for me. If you have further questions, contact me and we can talk.

Cheers!!

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#24

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/11/2013 10:55 PM

http://www.archive.org/stream/firstlessonsinm00compgoog#page/n8/mode/2up

http://www.archive.org/stream/withhammertongsm00coop#page/n3/mode/2up

http://www.archive.org/stream/withhammertongsm00coop#page/n3/mode/2up

http://www.archive.org/stream/illustratingligh00jgbr#page/n0/mode/2up

http://www.archive.org/stream/mediaevalcraftsm00wethuoft#page/n7/mode/2up

There. Memorize these. Then get back to me.

Yusef1

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#25

Re: What's the Best Material for a Blacksmith Forge?

02/14/2013 12:19 PM

Thank you all. I have lots to read!

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