How to Making a New Forge and Hammering Metal

How to Make a New Forge and Hammering Metal: If you want to work with metal, you have to face one thing: you need heat. With its help, you can customize the hardest metal. Without it, you will never fully master this stubborn material.

Over the years, I have been frustrated by my inability to work on hot steel. I’ve bolted the metal together, welded it, and soldered it. But I could not shape it, and such large parts of the mechanical circle were too much for me.

But the blacksmith never felt alienated. My father is a metallurgist, descended from 19th-century blacksmiths and born in Germany to shipbuilders whose forges sent sparks across the Elbe and the shores of the North Sea. I grew up in rural Connecticut among Yankee mechanics who could build anything, build anything, build anything, fix anything—and I’ve been a fan of those old-timers all my life. I have been trying to stick to the standards. It wasn’t hard to finally decide to take another step, and teach myself some blacksmith skills.

Construction of the forge

Construction of the forge

Perhaps it is because our smokestack industries are in decline that more and more Americans are finding it necessary to repair metalwork in home workshops. The Artist-Blacksmith Association of North America has a membership of 4,000 hobbyists and professionals. Some estimate that there are more blacksmiths in this country today than there were in the 1800s. And you don’t have to poke around long to find dozens of websites offering handyman-friendly — even enthusiastic — advice, on everything from anvils and tongs to air-powered power hammers. with equipment of

First, I needed a fake. I considered buying a gas-powered model, but the reality was that I wanted to make my own. So I decided on a design that could be executed in an afternoon using parts purchased from a home center, a masonry supply yard, and an auto parts store. To make things easier, the forge will burn coal instead of gas. And the design had another merit, at least as far as I was concerned. It was based on plans published in Popular Mechanics in July 1941.

I enlisted the help of former Popular Mechanics senior auto editor and crack metal worker Mike Allen. He looked at the old plans and said, “Sure, we can make it.” Within days, Mike’s house and the shop behind it buzzed with activity as the UPS man shipped 275-pound anvils, tools, materials, and four 50-pound boxes of blacksmith coal from Pennsylvania in quick succession.

Once the equipment arrived, we set about building the forge, starting with its stand. I cut the steel parts and handed them to Mike, who laid them out on the shop floor, clamped them together, and temporarily tack-welded them to small globs of steel.

Hitting the stand, he flipped off his mask and handed me the welding gun: “You take it from here.” I slipped on a mask and picked up where he left off. As I worked, Mike leaned over my shoulder and rattled off bits of advice. “Get more weld metal on vertical surfaces,” he said. “You’re flirting too much; slow down your travel speed and stick out your electrodes.” When I had trouble seeing through the welding glare and smoke, he said, “Deal with it. Look at the weld bead, not the arc.” I learned more about welding in that half hour than I had in years of fooling around on my own. Fuel

Forge: A two-basin stainless steel sink serves as the centerpiece of our blacksmith setup. A basin is filled with water, forming a quench tank. The other is covered with furnace cement, then covered with firebricks placed in place without mortar. A cast iron floor drain cover laid over the sink drain forms the tuber, the port where a blast of air (supplied by the shop vacuum) enters the coal bed from below.

Refractory cement, brick: Rutland fire clay black furnace cement is poured into the sink to protect it. Fire bricks are sold at masonry centers.

Forge Fuel: Penn Keystone Coal sells clean-burning bituminous and anthracite blacksmith coal in 50-pound bags that are protected by cardboard boxes. One pound offers an amazing 14,373 Btu.

Hood and Vent: Base gauge sheet metal and a 5-in. galvanized stove formed the hood and vent of the forge. Materials are usually available at home centers.

After completing the stand, we attached the sheet metal to a hood and made a chimney from a 5-foot piece of the stove. Then, we poured refractory cement (the kind used in kilns and furnaces) into the sink. We ran steel and PVC pipe from the drain to the output port over the outlet gap. A single line will supply air to the sink (to feed the fire) and through a Y joint, another pipe leading to the chimney (to help push the smoke up and away). We have installed a valve to let us direct the air where we want it.

We also cut pressure-treated 4 x 4 lumber to make a block for the anvil, then hoisted the anvil onto the block using a tow strap attached to a ceiling-mounted electric winch. Finally, we strapped 1/8-in.-thick steel flat stock to attach the anvil to its block. Trust me, just 15 minutes of punching cold steel can convince anyone of the need for a forge.

Coal firing

Firing the Coal

I arrived at Mike’s shop early the next morning to find him milling about, a cup of coffee in hand and another, recently poured, waiting for me on the workbench. “Ready to fire?” he asked.

We took the forge outside and used a propane torch in the light autumn air to burn the crumpled shipping paper and kindling split from the pallet the anvil was shipped on. When the fire was bright and hot, we put coals on it and watched anxiously as it gave off a pale, yellow-green, sulfurous smoke. We added more fuel. The fire was burning stubbornly, but when we turned on our high-powered vacuum, a blast of air blew our small pile of coal out of position. We pushed the smoldering pieces back with a steel bar and tried again without success.

Mike grabbed an air hose and nozzle from his shop compressor and applied a slight draft. Now the coal started glowing. We added more fuel, and the smoke almost disappeared. We turned on the shop vacuum again. With that, an impressive shrill sound came from the forge, and the center of the coal pile glowed as red as a stoplight. Moments later, a bright yellow flame leaped from the fuel, and then a ghostly blue glow formed above it. As it hovered, the blue light looked like a living thing.

Once the coal was spontaneously combusting, I took a piece of scrap metal from the shop floor and rolled the steel into a bed of volcanic fuel. A few minutes later, we slid the metal out to find that it had only turned a faint shade of blue—still not hot enough. Mike turned the valve and forced the entire air output of the vacuum into the fire, feeding the flames. (This is where the old blacksmith term “full blast” comes from.) We watched in amazement as a pale white glow took form in the center of the coal, and the steel was lost in the glow. The light was too intense to see without the protection of shaded eyes.

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Steel working

A few minutes later, I raised my tongs and withdrew the steel. The end was now glowing bright yellow and spitting sparks—the temperature must have been around 1900 F. All it took was a few difficulties to put a neat twist on the bar.

After decades of struggling with saws and rivet guns, I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hammer on shiny steel and bend it like putty. Mechanical justice was done.

A long day followed Mike and I practiced the basics of the old blacksmith’s craft: bending, flattening, twisting, tapering, and distressing—hitting the bar to thicken and enlarge its hot end. We used angle iron to make the best coal handling tool I’ve ever seen—a curved fire poker worthy of a shipyard smithing shop. And we felt inspired enough to try our hand at making a demolition chisel from a 3/4-in.-dia bar of tool steel, a much harder carbon material than the stuff found at hardware stores. We had to soak the steel in the forge fire three times and swing the hammer for several minutes before it could begin production.

Some Basic Blacksmithing Skills

At sunset, we dropped it and let the fuel bed cool to ash. We swept the shop floor and put away our tools for the night, already planning plans. It was a good job to teach myself forging and blacksmithing in two days. But Mike had planned a serpentine iron rack for storing motorcycle helmets, while I wanted another step toward creating my tools uniquely designed for my needs.

Thus I imagine that the Iron Age began in prehistory, as archaeologists have found scattered across Africa and the Middle East. Some guy needed a better tool and figured out how to make one.

By the time I got into my car seat and headed home, it was already dark. As I merged into the highway and the traffic jam, I saw the taillights of the vehicles in a new way. Only for tonight, they represented no trouble. They looked like a huge bed of glowing coals, waiting for his steel.

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