Dirt Cheap Forge

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Video how to make a cheap forge

blacksmiths wife here….

I’m going to post here some tips etc for people who want to play in the fire. Where a good place to get an anvil is…and a few actual tools that are indispensable for safety reasons.

I think making a froe is a fine useful way to get started in a forge btw. It’s reasonably simple in terms of shape, yet stretches your skill level to create the eye for the handle. I think this would be a most recommended place to start… very reasonable and good choice.. and not an overwhelmingly large project as well!

Blacksmith’s wife here….

but don’t kid yourself I do more than bring him lemonade on a summer day when he’s playing in the forge. I too have had my time playing in the fire. Most of what he does is make horseshoes. I occasionally simply practice some basic skills making a horseshoe that matches the one he just made. Yes it takes me infinitely and frustratingly longer. Well I’m a girl and I don’t have his big muscles so that’s reasonable. I don’t have the strength he has for one thing and my skill level is one step beyond “never picked up a rounding hammer in my lifetime”. Well at least it seems that way when I compare myself to my husband!

I know a few things though that perhaps could be helpful in your forays here.

First of all dirt cheap anvils can be picked up at those country style flea markets with truly a sprawling number of stalls. there’s always some old codger out there with really great, nearly ancient tools that have sat in his barn for several decades, sometimes even a century or two. Do NOT be put off by rust on a big chunk of metal like a rounding hammer or a ball peen and certainly don’t be put off by an old rusty anvil. Just working on the anvil will take the rust away!. These big old chunks of metal are often made much better than any modern tools. The same wouldn’t apply to a froe perhaps being a much thinner piece, the rust could have done too much damage and then again too a little grinding and sharpening and you very well may be ready to go after reconditioning an old froe. We’ve picked up anvils occasionally at such places for a mere 5 dollars… obviously its not something you want to order from ebay the shipping is stupid ridiculous of course. Look for barn sales and yard sales being host from a barn! Those are excellent places! We have one small anvil made from rail. Its quite functional whoever made it originally put a decent horn into it. Oh yeah we have anvils… we have I think 6 or 7 different anvils. Each one is unique! Every horn is different. Turning cams on the sides are different. And yes of course my husband has his favorites. I’m not sure how you might go about this but if you had a chance to work on different horns it may be nice to be able to figure out what you personally want for a horn in that rail. Wish you lived around here, hubby could let you try out several anvils. A horseshoer in your area may be kind enough to allow you to do such a thing but they can be a surly lot.

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Be aware at all times and this is a funny thing. Hammers at least some of them have a warning label attached saying that the metal can fracture and become shrapnel etc. That REALLY does happen. Most of us don’t hit hammer to metal often enough to know this, but my husband has had a few injuries of this type, none of the them serious, mostly catching some shrapnel in the hand, but that’s a matter of luck alone. Children shouldn’t be near a forge and anvil really. Their lower height puts them even more significantly in harm’s way. And know too ANY metal can be unstable! Especially the older pieces that have seen lots of rounds of heating and cooling over decades. hammers themselves get very hot during long hours of forge work and should not be quenched!

Do invest in at least a used leather or used kevlar apron… its a purchase you will live to be grateful for and happy that you did. It will save you from a host of small burns and flying chunks of metal that are those stupid accidents WE ALL HAVE! yes we do. Even the pros do incredibly stupid things occasionally. My hubby one day was working some small round stock, properly held and gripped in his round tongs and not wearing an apron (which he usually wears, which is of course why the accident happened) and he pressed the end nearest him into his thigh to feed it down the tongs. yep it burned through his jeans in less than a second and he branded himself. It’s always the black heat that injures a person. And of course if its the red heat that’s injured a person, its time to pick another hobby! Because we can see that heat.

DO invest in a pair of proper tongs. For this project you would need flat tongs. And use the right tool for the right job (yep using flat tongs to hold a round piece of metal results in injury as well) Being able to hold that red hot piece of metal properly without it zinging out of your grip when you strike it with a hammer is EVERYTHING!

Finally be aware that there are many types of metal that can be worked and many grades of steel and they are not all the same and are not conducive to being used for every project. My husband shoes horses and at professional lectures and conventions they do actually speak very specifically about the exact numbered type of steel etc. So be extra careful when you used salvaged metals. They may not be what your expecting. They may not have the exact tempering abilities you were expecting. Again if its an older piece it may have at some point been partially tempered creating a weak spot, It may have been tempered so many times that its simply become brittle and shatters easily. You never know the history of that piece of metal and if some bozo quenched the hammer head in a bucket of water and made it brittle. My hubby uses a home depot plastic bucket to quench in. Metal really isn’t that important if you want to go cheaper. You shouldn’t be quenching very often anyway. it’s much more important for instance if you are hot shaping a horse shoe and then have to nail it on an animal. There are also a variety of quenching techniques. I know some blacksmiths quench in oil occasionally for specific reasons to temper the metal in particular ways. If you have any desire to make a piece like a sword you will need to have a forge that is big enough to get the whole blade in the fire at once or it won’t temper properly. A friend of ours is currently making his own forge out of a truck rim (yeah like an 18 wheeler rim) my husband tells me that is done by people reasonably commonly. apparently the thickness of the rim is enough.

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My husband’s forge is a metal box with a pour in liner and propane burner. The box is open at the front and there’s a door at the back that opens and latches closed so he can get bar stock into the fire down the entire length of it but not all at the same time, which would be necessary for a sword for instance. But this is somewhat different because his forge has to travel with him to the barns and it is mounted in his work trailer.

I had discussed him building a real stationary forge at home once when we had taken down a massive old oak tree. The trunk log pieces were perfect for a huge anvil and we have one over 200 lbs. So I started questioning what it would take to have a stationary old fashioned forge. As we have had many people in our lives interested in learning how to play in the fire, just like you! He said that you couldn’t get a glowing red heat on the metal with a wood fire and that coal was necessary… that’s why its called a coal forge, but it wasn’t charcoal, it was actual mined coal. I know people order it and have it shipped to them. His propane setup also gets a glowing red heat on the metal. I think he said it gets to 600 or 700 degrees, but I can’t remember now. I’ve been in the fire a couple dozen times now. Very honestly and truthfully unless its glowing at least a dull orange I don’t find it any easier to shape the metal than if it was dead cold. I’m sure my husband who has vast experience can likely distinguish several temperature gradients in relation to workability. But steel CAN be worked cold and it often is. In fact my husband often shaped horse shoes on a stall jack right beside the horse. I attached a picture of a stall jack that resembles my husband’s.

If you go to popular mechanics on line and search for an article called “Blacksmithing 101: How to make a forge and start hammering metal.” I am not suggesting here that what you’ve done is anything less than brilliant and cool. It is brilliant and cool! But too here you are at that stage of learning and trying and that’s the point we all get to where we start to think in terms of building a better mouse trap if you know what I mean. For instance, my husband’s steel box forge that is mobile has some definite advantages! Being a box with only one opening it keeps the heat in! In that fashion its highly desirable in terms of low cost and efficient use! Propane also is not expensive. So these things would be reasonable considerations as you explore this hobby, maybe someday turn it into your own business. There’s certainly a whole cottage sort of hobby craft sort of thing creating working ornate hinges and hooks with an elegant turn in them of twisted square stock. Twisting is easier than one would think! A red hot 1/4 inch square stock simply secured in a vice and the other end held by the tongs and its easy even for me and they come out lovely! One never knows where starting down any particular path in life may lead eventually. But also and more importantly I have learned things about where to hit a piece of metal to get the desired effect on shaping the metal and its not nearly as straight forward as it would seem in many cases. I have the benefit of having a pro to teach me! But this article teaches some of the basics on how to move that metal to where you want it to go using a hammer. Its a very decent read! I’m not sure where your skill level sits and I hope this may acquaint you with some other techniques that you may not be currently practicing with this particular project. For every single thing there is in life there is a whole world unto that thing, with people doing that thing who LOVE doing that thing. I hope you continue to grow with this hobby. It’s a cool hobby! Well no… its a hot hobby! You may find great ideas by looking through a farrier supply catalogue. A cut up old pair of jeans with some leather patches sewn on can suffice as a makeshift apron for little cost for instance. So take a look on line at a farrier supply catalogue. And if you make an apron with low to little cost for the hobbyist, post that as an instructable as well! There are a lot of guys out there and even girls out there that would benefit from you sharing your own path with all of us, people who don’t want to sink big bucks into something to try something new.

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This has been a ridiculously long post, sorry about that! Do be safe in your hobby. Very nice “ible” indeed! And if you ever want to pick my brain or my husband’s then contact me and we’ll do what we can to help you with your hobby! Two thumbs way up. Keep hammering away at it! And a very nice job on your first project and the intelligence on the choice! Very smart!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>