Monday, December 23, 2013

Wooden Forge

Greetings, of the season, which is Advent, soon to be Christmas (with all due respect to my readers who do not celebrate such a joyous time of rejoicing)!

Today I want to share with you all the forge that I constructed from scrap lumber, steel fence-posts and wire mesh, all found around my house. The screws were mostly extras that my dad had laying around, and everything was done with minimal tools.
I want to show what CAN be done, and that you don't have to go fancy to make beautiful artwork.

First of all, after I first bought my Champion 400 blower and Whirlwind Firepot, I knew I needed a place to put them, so that I could forge efficiently.
This was my original set up. I did work like this for about 6 or 7 months, which was a real drag. The fuel always fell out of the heap, as you can see from the bricks surrounding the pot.

So, with a little help from my dad, we scrounged some scrap wood and build this table: 

As you can see, the forge is wood, with a plywood top and adobe/mud topped with firebricks. This was amazing, forging on top of this puppy. Unfortunately, the first forging only lasted a few minutes...

We have smoke! Ignition! Fire!

The Champion 400 doing its thing, me, doing my thing in my Franciscan U T-shirt

Look how happy I am, posing for the camera! This was way before I had a big ole' beard. (although now I am down to a mustache. Go figure!)

Can you guess the obvious design flaw? 

(this one is my avatar for

So, this forge caught fire. The plyboard was only an inch away from a hot firepot, and so it reached critical temperatures.... Back to the drawing board! 

I knew that I was not going back to this rubble pile of a forge. It was just plain inconvenient!

So, I measured, and began to cut the fence posts! (note the bending forks in the background! I did a post on them while at school, featuring MS Paint in all its glory!)

The fence posts spanned the wood, now devoid of the plywood. Note the T shape of the fence posts: I had to cut a notch to accommodate the posts in each piece of wood.

A test fitting of my firepot! This is the general idea of my wooden forge. There is between 8 and 12 inches from the wood to the firepot in any direction. 

The next step, accomplished many months later, when the snow was long gone:
I covered the whole thing with wire mesh, and doused it with dissolved borax in water. Its a fireproofing thing. 

The back needed to be cut out, and so I did that and added reinforcements so it didn't cave in. I used old flex tubing for the air pipe. It works great!

This is the underside. I added cut open steel food cans as deflectors to reflect the heat back from the wood. This added layer of insurance is great, it works like a charm.

It is tied with wire to the mesh up top.

The forge, finished for now, and with a bright fire licking coal smoke off those smooth black rocks.

The fire bricks are movable and temporary. I am not quite done modifying the forge; I would like a steel top rather than the wire mesh, but that will come whenever I can find a filing cabinet or a washing machine shell...

Here's the whole smithy, under the sprawling elm tree or whatever the poet wrote. I'd rather have a roof.

After the fire was all raked away. The mesh holds the coal well enough!

A view of the ash dump, held there by wire. Slightly primitive, but its what I've got.

A view of the underside after I raked away the coals.

The blower, the thing that makes it hotttttt!!!

And an artsy shot!

I have the feet cut off and the tube goes straight int the stump, which has holes drilled to accommodate the piping.

There was enough airflow to keep the coals glowing hot for a little while. Amazing!

Thus, I completed my forge, in all of its glory! Its not DONE, but its getting there. 

God Bless us all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Forging Again!

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where Jones is walking through the Aztec temple, and there are big honkin' tarantulas everywhere?
Well, let me relate to you a story. Yesterday, as I was finally out forging again (felt great after a 8 month hiatus), and as I got my bags of coal out of the shed, I noticed two spiders hibernating on the side of the bags. I brushed them off and buried them in the snow. Good riddance. (Arachnophobic man, right here.) Later, I had been holding the bag, pouring coal onto my forge. Evidently there was still one lil' guy (and by lil' guy I actually mean huge sucker.) on the side of the bag. I did not realize this, however, until a few minutes went by. I was messing with something, and movement caught my eye, just over my right shoulder.
 I turned my head, and there was a 2-3" long spider, crawling lazily across my shoulder.
I panicked, brushed it off, but didn't see where it landed! I took off my coat, and there he was, still on the back. I brushed him onto the forge, and he woke up fast! I pushed him into the sweet spot of the fire, and in a puff of smoke and flame, he was dead.
Good riddance.
Anyways! I finally got the ole' champion 400 back out, mounted proudly on her stump:

And lit a smart little fire up in the whirlwind firepot on my 'new' forge:
Then, I got my anvil all set up, got the hammers out, brushed away the rust, and set everything up:

Yesterday I forged a hook, attempted a poker, and tried out my V slot punch. I figured some things out while I was forging:
First, I was way out of practice. I still am, actually. 8 months doesn't just go away in a heartbeat. I started too ambitiously, wanted to get back into the swing of things (pun intended), and got carried away. Here was the first hook that I forged, poorly at best:
 The first one is on the left. I flattened it out too much, and it deformed much too much.
 The curve was all made freehand. My bending forks are underneath the snow, somewhere. I suppose I'll make a second pair.

The twist was too tight, and too cold. It began splitting. I think the steel was a little burnt, too. Altogether NOT my best work.

Next I wanted a proper fire rake. I have a poker, but realized that I needed a good rake for the coal. Really is an essential part of the kit. So, I grabbed some spare 1/2" rebar, and got to work. Rebar forges funny. Its so inconsistent, and also transfers heat much more than other steel. I make the flattened end, and then bent it in the vice. It was looking good. To make the handle, I quenched the hot end in the snow, and then stuck the other end in the fire. The second blow on the handle end sent vibrations down the shaft, which cracked the flat rake part, right at the bend.

Don't quench. That's a good rule to live by. I suppose I hardened it just enough to sheer off with one blow. My slot punching experience taught me a few things: Make sure the punch is almost if not absolutely symmetrical, and that it tapers continually from the tip to the end, so that if the piece shrinks around it, the punch will not have to be knocked out at an orange heat.(I made that mistake....)
Also, punch from one side until you feel resistance, then from the SAME place on the other side, so as to not tear the metal and create a gross rag.
It worked, though. That was a happy thing! I greatly enjoyed using a slot punch, and now need to forge another one....
Today's forging is best described in the language of pixels and colorful images!
The plug from punching a square hole. It is a thin >1/8th plate that is sheared out of the hole.

The glowing fire warming up a hook, hole and all!


There is the barest hint of a dark red in there!

An oxidizing fire makes all that scale.... Try to keep your metal from doing that.

I just like glowing steel.

A little rat tail!

After wire brushing, here is how it looks!

This twist annoyed me. You need to have a length of square that is roughly the same thickness, and not tapered like this was. That's why the twist is uneven.
All in all, a good time getting back to basics and restarting, after a long hiatus!
~Ridgeway Forge Blacksmith Co.~