Building a propane forge at home

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I'm about to start a project building a propane metal forge. This is the latest in a flurry of activity brought on by tragedy. I recently lost a very good friend at work when he unexpectedly passed away. This left a coveted opening on day shift that I was able to move to. This change in working hours has had an unexpected effect on me after working night shift for 14 years: I have energy again. My wife just thinks I've gone crazy. Maybe it's because I build a spud gun last week, I dunno.

The first week, I begain by drawing up a bill of materials for the 12' X 14" shed I've been talking about for six years. Four weeks later, after it was done, I decided that I wanted to build a forge of some type so I could scratch a very old itch.

When my dad passed away in '99, among the things I inherited from his barn were his dad's vise, vintage 1909, and a full size anvil, about 110lbs, as well as a couple of hammers and a shaping tool that fits into a square hole in the anvil. I put the anvil in the corner of my garage and left the vise outside because I already had a vise on my bench. I really didn't give either of these too much thought, I just went about my life. Three years ago, I went to Europe on a business trip and was in Dresden Germany for two months. I took a trip to Prague and while walking around St. Vitus Cathedral, there was this guy with what looked like one of those old BBQs from about the 60's, you know, the flat pan type? It had a pile of coke burning and he was hammering out small doo-dads like hinges and drawer pulls, etc. As I watched him work, I became intensely fascinated with it. I stood there for probably a couple of hours. He didn't speak english and there was no-one to translate my questions, so there was a lot of pointing and grunting going on that day. I had always liked working with metal, I learned welding a long time ago, but also sheet metal fabrication methods, but I never had the chance to do the work of a blacksmith and have always wanted to.

When I got home from Germany, I took off the $35 AllTrade vise and got out grand dad's 75lb vise. It was rusted when I got it, and after 8 years sitting outside in the Oregon rain, it wasn't too much worse. I took it apart with no problems, nothing stuck. I wire brushed it with WD40 until the metal just barely began to see through. Then I put a fresh coat of grease on the screw and put it together, and that vise is now butter-smoothe. I never knew.

With grand dad's vise squared away and now mounted where the made-in-china vise used to be, my attention focused on the anvil. Two hours of the same treatment yielded a fresh new tool, ready to go. All I needed was a project. I came across some plans to build a propane gas forge for small garage use on the web, and after much deliberation of forge type, I think that's what I'll build. I don't have any materials for the forge yet, but I've contacted a company in Portland, OR that makes and sells fire bricks that I'll use, and I need to get some angle iron for the frame.

So I guess my next post should be after I've bought materials. We'll see how it goes, wish me luck!

Wayne


Rob Sigafoos's picture

Wayne- Many of us here have

Wayne-
Many of us here have built home-made forges. Someone quite knowledgeable here is Rich, who I am sure you will hear from soon if he is not under water…
I made my gas forge from stainless steel sheet (only because I got a great deal on some heavy sheet scrap) and I used two commercially made burners ("T-rex" burners) only to avoid the hassle of making my own. My burners are "atmospheric" type burners, but one can also use the forced air type. I am not sure of the advantages of one over the other.
You also may consider lining your forge with a Kaowool/refractory liner rather than the fire brick- much more efficient that fire brick for gas forges.
Good luck!

Rob


Rich Waugh's picture

Welcome to ArtMetal, Wayne!

Welcome to ArtMetal, Wayne!

As Rob said, many of us here have built forges. I've built several, of both the atmospheric venturi type and also the blown-burner type. If you poke around here on ArtMetal you'll find some pictures of my latest one, I believe. It has proved to be my best design so far. I used burners made by a friend of mine, Steve Gensheimer, and they're about the simplest and best atmospheric burners I've found so far. In side-by-side tests they outperformed the T-rex burners by a bit. I can provide you with contact info for Steve if you want to go that way.

I'll second what Rob said about using Kaowool for the forge insulation - much more efficient and lighter, too. You'll want to coat it with a slurry of refractory plaster to make a durable surface. I use Plistix 900F, which I get from Larry Zoeller of ZoellerForge.com.  Larry is a great guy to work with.

For your first forge, keep it simple and relatively small.   You will undoubtedly find that, after you've used it for a few months, there are things about it you like and things you wish you'd done differently.  If you invest too much time and money in the first one you'll be discouraged from improving it, so keep it simple and economical.  

 If you have specific questions as you progress, just ask and any of us will be happy to offer advice and guidance.  Heck, some of it may even be useful!  (grin)

Rich


nick such's picture

propanity

nick such

Wayne: i like your "how I started smithing" story. There are a lot of those stories and they would make a good book, illustrated with photos of people in their shops (the shop-another favorite of conversation among metalsmiths). Anyway, I wanted to recommend a book: "Gas Burners for Forges,Furnaces & Kilns" by Michael Porter. Published in 2004 by Skipjack Press, Ocean Pines, Maryland. This book can only add to the excellent comments you've already received from others here. By the way the owner ( the guy who picked up the phone) at Skipjack Press was a man by the name of Jack Andrews- famous as the writer of a seminal book on blacksmithing :"The Edge of the Anvil". You should have that too! Nick