Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Coal Forge Remake From Lessons Learned

After day 1 and day 2 of forging I decided it was time to make some major changes to the forge.

I've left images of several iterations I went through before landing on this final configuration. It was truly a learning experience. I put the forge on wheels so I can wheel it outdoors. My anvil is close to an overhead door, so the coal forge can be outside. When I'm done forging, I just shut the air down, separate the coal, let it cool for just a few minutes and wheel it inside.

I like it better than the propane forge that cost almost 10 times as much and took a bunch more work to build. The propane is noisier, and try making a dinner bell in it! All in all however, I'm glad I now have both. If I get the urge to forge in bad weather I can use propane. 

My only supply of coal I can find local is Tractor Supply. They have Nut coal and Rice coal. I started with the Nut Coal. It was near impossible to get started and keep burning. I tried the Rice Coal and that was much better. In trying to just use up the bag of Nut Coal I found that mixing the two worked best. Both of these coals are anthracite coal. I hope to find Bituminous coal, which is softer and works much better (so I've heard).

My air flow is a broken vacuum cleaner. I removed all the unwanted parts from it and cobbed up an air hose. I do want to find a way to regulate the air flow.

The bottom of this forge is actually the top of the wood stove turned upside down. It just makes up the stand for the fire box section.

So here is a few things I've learned.
  • The sides should be just high enough to stop the coal from falling off. If its to high it makes it hard to get the piece in the hot spot. The lower the sides, the more convenient it will be. If a table top was big enough to not need and side, that would be awesome.
  • You don't want the firebox to deep. I always wondered why some of the commercial made forges didn't have a firebox at all. No firebox will work far better than a firebox to deep.
  • How big the forge is isn't of great importance,  you typically only work about 6" or so of heated metal at a time. Support outside the forge can be helpful to help hold longer pieces however.
  • Bituminous coal is blacksmith coal. 
  • If you are going to put a coal forge inside, think of it like a hood over a cook stove, not a chimney on a wood stove.
  • I didn't believe you could burn metal quicker in a coal forge than a propane forge. Believe it!

I ordered some 2" black pipe fitting to get the air from under the fire. Getting the air under the fire seems to be the best way to go.

Here is all you need. 
  • 2" Black Cap 
  • 2" Black Floor Flange 
  • 2" x 2-1/2" Black Nipple 
  • 2" x 4" Black Nipple 
  • 2" x 5" Black Nipple 
  • 2" Black Cast Iron Steam Tee 
Think of how you will connect your air. You may want the side intake longer. I also reduced mine with a shop vac end.

I forgot to order the floor drain so I wound up making the screen section to keep the coal from falling down into the pipe.

Here are some of the "Not so good" ideas..........

To say this didn't really work very well was a bit of an understatement. I still wanted to use this old wood stove, if for no other reason than pure stubbornness, but I also felt if modified correctly, it could work out well.

Next was to find a rotor. The best way to go about a forge is to have a fire basket. And I soon learned bigger isn't necessarily better. This truck rotor is actually a little to big based on most opinions I've heard, but not really by much. I believe it would have worked, but I found one a little shallower and I went with that one.

The larger deeper rotor would have burnt more coal to get the fire high enough to use. 

Here is the one I ended up using.

I started the transition by cutting the opening in the front. This was more or less a design on the fly kind of project, which is typically what my projects are anyhow. It wasn't a good design for a forge. A fireplace maybe, but not a forge.

So lots of things wrong with this original design. But doing it all wrong taught me why what I ended with was right. Low sides, High fire hot spot, and lots of air.

And the first real projects from the finished product. Dinner Bells made from some 100 year old rod. 


Sunday, November 18, 2018

My Propane Forge Build

Here is my journey building my propane forge. I'm not looking at this as a coal forge replacement,  but an addition to my blacksmithing tool set.

This forge is a compilation of watching a whole bunch of YouTube videos, reading blogs and websites. You don't typically find two the same, so it seems it's best to pick a design and go with it.


zoellerforge.com was especially helpful and I wound up ordering everything I couldn't find local from there.

Here is a list of what I used:
A 7 gallon  air tank (an old tank that's been around forever)

For the burners
(2) 3/4" black iron pipe tee
(2) 3/4" x 8" black iron pipe
(2) 3/4" to 1" adapter (this is because I couldn't find a 3/4" x 1 1/4" adapter)
(2) 1" to 1 1/4" adapter (flare)
(2) 1/4" plug (drilled and tapped with 1/4" x 28 for nozzle)
(2) .035 nozzle for mig welder.
(2) The ball valve came with the connection kit from Zoeller Forge

Here was what I bought from Zoeller Forge (for 2 burners)
(1) Two burner connection kit
(4) 9" x 4 1/2" x 3/4"  3000°F heavy duty fire bricks  (2 extra for when I use flux to forge weld)
(2) 2 1/2" x 9" x 4 1/2"  2600°F insulated firebricks
4 lbs Plistix 900F
(2 each) Propane Quick Disconnect and Coupler
(4 running feet) 1"  8# density 2300°F Durablanket 24" wide

Building the burner.
This was pretty simple once I figured it out. I drilled a 1/2" hole in the top of the tee. With just a little filling, the plug fit through the hole. Next time I think I will tap it for the plug.

I drilled and tapped the plug 1/4" x 28 to accept the .035 nozzle. The plug fits through the hole and the ball valve threads on it to hole it in place nice and tight.

The propane connections added per Larry's instructions.

Building the forge body
I cut the front of the tank off following the original weld line. This is just to facilitate the ability to work inside it. This cut was made with a 4 1/2" grinder with a cut off wheel.
I used a 2" hole saw to cut the holes for the burners.  You can obviously use a different technique  like drilling a series of holes around and knocking it out and grinding or filing it round.
The black pipe adapters were welded to the tank
I just made a few brackets to bolt the front back on.
I have seen a few designs where the door was hinged. The front opening on mine isn't much smaller than the size of the box, so I didn't see an advantage
I made the back opening the size of the insulated fire brick. This allows me to slide the brick in to reduce the box size and use a single burner.
The shelves on the front and back are just 1/8" plate steel.
The front opening  is also the height of the firebrick, but wider. I can use the brick as a door to  close down the opening when appropriate.

Here is the back view. The firebrick is just closing the door. This allows me to slide the brick in to reduce the box size and use a single burner.

The firebrick can be slid to open or close the front opening

Here is the 3/4" to 1" adapter (this is because I couldn't find a 3/4" x 1 1/4" adapter) then the 1" to 1 1/4" adapter to create the flare


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Making The Hook Knives

I had several of these heavy power hacksaw blades hanging in the shop. I decided to cut one up and make some hook knives.

The blades were wide enough to cut two widths, then halved to make 4 knives.

I used my cheap crappy Beaver Craft knife as a sort of template. I used a piece of aluminum flashing to make a template of sorts. I tend to make things larger than I need, and in this project that is not a good thing. Bending the aluminum to shape, marking it and then straighten it back out I got the right dimensions. 

I used the grinder to form a rough bevel. I've now done this both before and after heat treating and I'm not sure there is a big difference. Obviously after heat treating you need to make sure you don't let it get to hot, but its still very doable. 

The "forming a rough bevel" step could be completed with a hand held grinder if that's all you have. If you annealed the blade first you could even use a file, 

Cutting to rough shape was completed with a cut off wheel in the hand held grinder.

 I've made a couple of these knives so far. I've used both my propane mini forge and nothing but the mapp torch. Obviously the mini forge is a little quicker to heat, but the mapp gas does just fine.

To form the hook I clamp a piece of steel rod (1" black pipe works as well. I used the black pipe until I found this piece of solid steel in a pile of metal scraps I had)

Here i made the final bend. I held the knife in the vice, heated it and bent it with an adjustable wrench.

It was then heat treated using canola oil.

I have also purchased some 3/8" O-1 rod to make hook knives.

The rod took a little more forging, but seems to have a more consistent results. I heated and flatten the hook end and ground to shape similar to the blades above. I then bent it by forming around the steel rod the same as I did above. 

A word of caution. The first one i made I accidentally thumped on the bench after heat treating and before tempering. It snapped it in half. Be careful. After heat treating the blade is very brittle. 

This seems to be a little easier to sharpen, but I'm also advancing my skill level so that could come into play a little as well. 


Monday, September 24, 2018

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Carving Bowls -Lessons Learned Part 1

I love these two adzes, but this bowl making with an adze is one of the fasted way to make a huge mess in the shop. Chips fly for 20 feet in all directions. It's actually worse than the lathe, just minus most of the actual dust.

The tools you use will largely depend on the tools you have and feel comfortable with. Some carvers use a draw knife for this next step. I prefer my Sargent VBM #410 hand plane.

So to save some clean up efforts, I've moved some of the operation outdoors for now. I doubt it will stay out there for winter, but we'll see how it all goes. I have however found a new tree chunk so i have one in the shop and one outdoors. 

I've also found it's easier to contain the mess to a smaller area using gouges rather than an adze. It's a little slower, but not terribly so, especially since I'm not looking for any kind of production numbers. This is a hobby and just meant for relaxation.

I do like using the adzes, so I'm sure my future will be a mix with the adze making up most of the rough work.

Based on my limited experience carving dough bowls, my suggestion would be if your going to carve off your woodworking bench and using your woodworking vices (which works very well by the way) plan to start with a couple gouges. If you're going to get a stump or log section, then move to the adze. 

I particularly like the "PFEIL"Swiss Made" 25mm # 7 Sweep Bent Gouge". It was one of my first carving related purchases and buying it was a bit of beginners luck, but it gets used alot.

For me, the bench is to high for using an adze. And the stump doesn't have a way to hold the piece for gouges. Experiment what works for you, but i doubt you'll find a big difference than what I've found.

Either way, I'd love to hear your comments.