Down'n'dirty Blacksmithing/Constructing a Down'n'dirty Forge
This page is here to show you how to construct a simple, cheap blacksmithing forge.
Construct a simple forge that will heat steel to temperature for forging.
The forge will be a hole in the ground about 6 or 7" deep with a narrow, angled trench leading to one side of it from about an inch below the bottom of the hole inclining upward to ground level at about a 30 degree angle.
A section of scrap steel pipe large enough in diameter to accommodate the blower/bellows outlet will be placed in the trench so that the lower end projects a little into the bottom of the hole.
With the bellows attached to the pipe and the hole filled with tinder and fuel, the pipe will then transmit the air flow into the base of the fire.
Location of the Forge
- Pick a place to dig where no one will get upset with you for putting a hole in the ground. If it's not your property: ask. If you have a partner or housemates, double check.
- You will want an area about 10' square to have room for the forge, the anvil and yourself and room to lay out tools and materials.
- Locate it far enough from existing buildings, brush, and trees so that you minimize the fire danger.
- Pick a spot where, if the ground isn't clear already, it will not hurt things to scrape the ground down to the dirt, and where it won't matter if you trample the grass.
- If you're inclined to put up an awning or lean-to as a wind break or screen from the sun, make sure you have room for that as well and set it up first. Erect it so that the forge will be out from under the tarp or so that the tarp is high enough that it will not be affected by the fire. Make sure that any ropes and stakes supporting the tarp are out of the way so that you won't trip or get hung up as you work.
- You will also want to consider where the nearest electrical outlet is to provide power for the vacuum cleaner (or substitute bellows). Remember that this outlet should be a GFI outlet as you are working outdoors.
- You may also want to consider how far you are from the nearest source of water or the end of the garden hose.
Digging the Firepot
1. Locate where the center of the hole will be on the ground. Mark it with a stake or something. Clear the ground around this hole down to the dirt for at least a 2' radius around the stake.
2. Using your digging tool, dig a hole 6 - 7" in diameter and about the same depth.
3. Dig a trench perpendicular to the hole and wide enough to accommodate the tuyer pipe. The trench should slant upward starting from about an inch from the bottom of the hole to ground level at about a 30 degree angle.
4. Pack the bottom and sides of the hole and the trench.
Setting up the Tuyere
1. Place the tuyere pipe in the trench so that it projects about an inch into the hole with the base of the pipe about 1" from the bottom of the hole. (This gives a little space below the air inlet for ash and clinker to drop into.
2. Fill in the trench and pack the dirt tight over the tuyere.
Connecting the Blower/Bellows
1. If you're using a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer and the pipe is a large enough diameter, it should be a simple matter to stick the outlet of the dryer or the vacuum cleaner hose into the pipe.
2. Connect it to an outlet and try it out. You should feel a strong air flow from the pipe outlet in the bottom of the hole. It should be blowing into the hole, not sucking or drawing. Be sure that the hose is attached to the "blower" or "exhaust" of the vacuum cleaner. (If you don't, you can draw fire into the tuyer, and hot coals into the vacuum cleaner: it should go without saying that this is BAD.)
Note: a fairly loose fit of the hose into the pipe is fine: vacuum cleaners usually create a much stronger draft than is needed for our purposes. Some even drill a few holes in the pipe above ground to reduce the air flow into the bottom of the hole.
There really isn't much to constructing a forge. If you completed everything correctly, you should have a 6" diameter hole in the ground with the tuyer pipe coming up from the ground about 18" from the hole. The vacuum cleaner bellows should be hooked up and connected to the tuyer pipe and when it's on there should be a strong draft at the bottom of the hole.
You may find it inconvenient to work directly on the ground. We describe the in-ground configuration because it is the simplest, but it does have the disadvantage of making you work a lot on your knees.
For your first forays into smithing this configuration will be more than adequate for many.
If that is not a configuration that works well for you, some alternatives are:
- build a forge on legs
- there are a number of ways to do this some possibilities are:
- using an old brake drum connecting steel plumbing to the hub hole to create the tuyer and use a steel drain plate to keep the coal from falling down the air hole, the legs of pipe can be bolted on.
- building a 2' square by 12" deep wooden box on legs at a comfortable height, fill the box with dirt and build the forge the same way as described in this section: basically you're bringing the ground up to a workable height.
- get an old tire rim. Place it on cinder blocks (pack dirt into the hollow of the blocks for heat insulation). Use a drain cover to keep coal out. Take a dryer vent pipe (it is flexible and doesn't conduct heat) to channel air from a leaf blower to the bottom of the rim. You add a butterfly valve to the pipe to better regulate air flow.
- buy a commercially made forge used or new
Next Chapter: Constructing a Down'n'dirty Anvil