Hot Work Made Easier or How to Make a Cheap, Workable (I Didn't Say Pretty) Forge Turig Noyam If you are one of those select group of people who go through life with neat looking tools, who never get dirty hands, who find that everything works the first time, read on and see how the other half lives. The rest of you (the other 99% I figure) can get involved. Throughout history there have been a great many different ways to heat iron or steel to facilitate working it, welding it, or shaping it. The place where this heating occurs is called the forge. I have made two forges, one from a manhole cover and one from a truck gas tank; and I have seen a great many more. What I am going to do is distill the essential elements of forge construction and let your imagination do the dirty work. The first thing a forge needs is a source of air. This can be anything from two slaves through a long copper pipe (a little extravagant), to a great bellows or an electric blower. Of these choices I am afraid that the blower is by far the most practical. What kind of blower, you ask? A cheap one!, I reply. You can use any of the following: a squirrel cage with a round outlet, a heater fan from a wrecked auto, the exhaust from your wife's vacuum cleaner, the exhaust from an old/cheap/secondhand vacuum cleaner (this makes for a happier wife), ANYTHING that will provide a steady stream of air through a two inch pipe. If the electrical appliance that you choose does not have a means of controlling the speed of air flow, get a rheostat and put it into the circuit so that you can slow down the flow of air into the forge. Next, you need a way to get the air from the blower to the forge. Use plumbing pipes (metal ones silly) and fasten them to the blower. If you want to be inventive, this is one of the times it pays off. One smith I know simply made a wood box that fit over the front of a large kitchen fan, cut a hole in the bottom front of the box and ran his pipe from that to his forge. Now for the forge--essentially a forge is a place to hold a VERY hot fire so that it will not burn the house down. There have been forges made of dirt, wood, clay, brick, any thickness of steel, and probably anything else which does not burn at room temperature. The first rule is that you do not make a forge in your living room. Make it wherever you plan to use it. The second is never make the forge from something that will catch fire easily. The third thing to remember with the cheap and quick forge is INSULATE. Remember that hot air rises, so that if you keep the area where the fire is below the flashpoint of the component material of the forge body, it will work. Most importantly, never fire up a forge without an enormous supply of fresh air -- CARBON MONOXIDE IS POISONOUS AND WHATEVER YOU BURN GIVES OFF CARBON MONOXIDE. The shape where the air is entering the forge should be the bottom of a bowl at least four to six inches deep and twelve to eighteen inches wide. The air coming into the bottom of this depression leaves room for cleaning out the air pipe. Burned out cinders have a way of falling down. The bowl of a professional forge is usually cast iron, thick and heavy. But to keep things cheap and easy for the amateur I suggest clay (you could also use dirt, and it is dirt cheap if you want to be that chintzy). Take about twenty percent of the clay (NOT CERAMIC SLIP) and heat it until dry. Break this dried clay into tiny chunks. Mix these chunks with the rest of the clay and fill your forge form. It really does not matter what form you use as long as these four things exist. 1.) Air can flow in at the bottom of the bowl. 2.) There is adequate insulation (4-6 inches). 3.) The air pipe can be emptied. 4.) The bowl must be at LEAST four inches deep. NOW YOU HAVE A FORGE. Funny looking isn't it? But it will work. Now what to burn it? If all you need is enough heat to bend metal then store-bought charcoal briquets will suffice; however plan on using at least ten pounds, perhaps twenty. Do not start the blower until after the fuel has caugnt. Other fuels like coke or smithing coal also work nicely. Regular heating coal is also good with one caveat -- there is too much sulfur in regular heating coal for a weld to take afterwards. But if all you plan to do is bend then use the cheapest fuel you can procure. FOR THE MODERN SMITHS WHO ARE SCREAMING ABOUT THE USE OF CHARCOAL, I REMIND YOU THAT CHARCOAL WAS THE FIRST FUEL USED IN BLACKSMITHING. It is no longer as economical because of the amounts needed to produce heat, but it is still one of the easiest fuels to find. HAPPY HAMMERING!