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C.Anderson

'Paint Can Forge: How To!'

17 posts in this topic

I was talking with a friend the other day, who asked me how my propane forge was coming along. I told him I'd been having issues with the Satanite (the burner cones in particular), and that with moving and everything...I hadn't had any real time to dedicate to it. He told me he still didn't understand why I was building such a large forge. I explained the dimensions and reasoning, at which point he asked me again lol...'why are you building such a large forge??'! I told him that using a single burner and a muffle, I'd be heating a 6"x9" area tops. He then told me his main working forge was made from a coffee can. He uses this for knives and swords. He has two other forges as well...one about the size of the one linked above (but with a single burner) for normalizing and heat treating medium length blades, and a 55gal drum deal for swords...but he said the little one is the one used for all of his forge work, exclusively (it will even weld small billets!). He used a disposable/tank adapter, and runs his off a barbecue propane tank...said it lasts forever lol.

 

This got me thinking of course. A trip to Lowes netted me the beginnings of my own Paint Can Forge.

 

All in all, the below pictures represent about 30 minutes work.

 

Seriously.

 

DSCF1810.jpg

Materials: Bernz-o-matic JTH-7 propane/mapp torch ($40...discontinued, the new style replacement is nicer, comes with a self start button, but is about $75), 1gal Lowes paint can ($4.95), 4' of 1 1/4"x1/8" flat strap ($4.95). Not pictured are the 2 square foot of 1" 8lb density Kaowool ($7.95 at Anvilfire Store...you'll only use about 1' square), and the 1lb or so of Satanite Refractory Mortar ($3.50).

 

DSCF1820.jpg

First, I lined the forge with one layer of the Kaowool, all the way around the internal circumference of the can. I pressed this into place by hand, ramming it as tight to the outer shell as I could. BE SURE TO WEAR A RESPIRATOR OF SOME TYPE WHEN WORKING WITH KAOWOOL. After that, I cut a smaller piece, and ran it around the upper 3/4 or so of the cavity. The reason for this is that a full 2" (it's actually closer to 3" as installed) of Kaowool per side doesn't leave enough internal area for the flame/heat to circulate, in a 6.5" diameter paint can. By leaving the floor flatter (I'll be slathering it with about 1/4-3/8" of Satanite for durability), and lower...it gives a bit more room for circulation. Additionally, using logic...heat rises. I wanted the majority of my insulation on the top and sides. You could always use just one layer of insulation (this has been done many times, and successfully)...but in all my research, it's almost universally agreed that MORE insulation is always better. Additionally, a smaller internal area, assuming you have enough room for an even heat...will get hotter (hotter is good!), using less gas.

 

DSCF1821.jpg

I used a 2.5" diameter Voss water bottle for a press/ram, to shape the inside into a smoother surface and pack the Kaowool tighter to the can/housing.

 

DSCF1823.jpg

Here you can see the water bottle inserted into the cavity. I continued to press it in a circular motion until I got things shaped roughly how I wanted. You can see the gap in the bottom, which will be roughly filled with a flat layer of Satanite (with rounded corners of course).

 

DSCF1824.jpg

I considered drilling the hole in the can, but the punches were closer and I wasn't really worried about the looks. Additionally, I intend later to screw in (and epoxy) a 3/4" nipple as a burner holder, and having the additional support from the punched metal will help with strength. I used the same punch set to open the hole in the Kaowool, working the punch in an angled, circular motion to press the hole into a somewhat conical opening. I then used my water bottle to reshape the interior, alternating back and forth until the hole was as I wanted, and the interior cavity was smooth and rounded. What you see on the inside is only a tuft of Kaowool that ripped loose.

 

DSCF1829.jpg

Next we mix up our Satanite. A heavy cream consistency seemed to work best for me. The butter knife is the mixer, the paint brush the applicator. This is what was left of the 1lb or so of Satanite I used. When you do yours, only mix about half at a time. I will need to mix more for the floor later, and what was left in the tub went to waste.

 

DSCF1831.jpg

 

DSCF1830.jpg

This is the interior surface and face, after application of the Satanite. As you can see the coverage wasn't 100% (and is very thin where it is complete), but that's ok. I'll go over the whole thing one more time when I do the floor. Be sure to get the burner opening as well. Kaowool, once heated, is very brittle, and turns to a powder with simple air pressure. When inhaled, it acts like asbestos in your lungs. Not good.

 

DSCF1832.jpg

I reinserted the water bottle to keep the internal structure of the cavity secure while the Satanite cures. By tomorrow it should be dry enough to finish the floor and second layer.

 

There you have it! 30 minutes work, with another roughly 30 minutes work tomorrow...and I should be able to fire it up within a couple days. The last thing I will need to do is setup the door for the front. I'm thinking I will wait till everything else is dry. Then I'll use the lid, with a single layer of Kaowool attached with spray adhesive. I'll then cut my opening for the door, and apply a thin layer of Satanite around the portion of the Kaowool that will be exposed, then just tap the lid closed. The Kaowool will compress, making for a nice, gasket sealed door. At that time I'll also cut a small opening in the back along the floor as a pass through, then press one layer of Kaowool in there as well, slathered with Satanite.

 

Oh, also...the particularly observant among you will likely notice I didn't put my legs on first lol. I was pretty excited about this project and jumped right into the meat of it before I remembered doing the legs first would probably be a good idea lol. I was going to use short bolts (head inside the can) with a star washer on the inside, and a flat/lock washer paired up on the outside. Since that's obviously not going to happen now, I'll just use 3 or so self tapping screws per mount (12 total).

 

Anyhow, if you guys have any cool ideas, comments or critique, let me know. The whole purpose of this post, really...was to show that these forges don't need to be complicated at all, nor do they need to take up large amounts of room. If you had a portable anvil (weight, heavy rock...whatever!), you could setup in your backyard (or even possibly on a patio in an apartment complex to be honest), make your blade, and when you're done, store it all on a shelf in the garage or storage room. If using it at your apartment is impossible, this could easily be taken to a park or other wide, open area (we have a park near us that actually has an antique smithy, complete with coal forges, bellows, and 3 anvils for demonstration purposes. I believe it is open to the public as well). It really is that small. I wish I'd thought of this before starting on my bigger forge...because if I had, I'd have been forging over the last month, rather than screwing with a complicated, overbuilt, double burner deal lol =D.

 

Anyway, I hope this can be of use to someone!

 

Cris

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Nice, Pretty much what I did with a coffee can but I also added a layer of kaolwool on the outside and I actually got the metal to welding temp.

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Nice, Pretty much what I did with a coffee can but I also added a layer of kaolwool on the outside and I actually got the metal to welding temp.

 

Yeah I saw that Jared, while doing research last night =D. I was curious if you used 2, or 3 total layers of Kaowool?

 

I didn't actually see if you actually met your goal of welding temps though. My buddy says he welds in his as well so I expected you did.

 

I just ran outside to check, and the mortar is mostly dry (110* weather at 7pm has some use I suppose). I'll probably be able to finish the floor and final coat of Satanite tonight, and possibly fire it up by tomorrow evening. I'll certainly post up the results =D.

 

Cris

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I had actually had an idea to do this exact thing after the first time I went down and visited Tai, but since I live in an apartment it's just not practical for me, so I'm looking forward to seeing this all finished and functioning!

Edited by Noah M Legel

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I had actually had an idea to do this exact thing after the first time I went down and visited Tai, but since I live in an apartment it's just not practical for me, so I'm looking forward to seeing this all finished and functioning!

 

You should Noah! Like I said, it would be a very simple thing to take the whole setup to a park, or even someone elses house if you had access. Possibly you could make hand forged buckles, studs, or clasps for your leatherwork. You have a great sense of style, and I think you'd do wonderfully =D.

 

Speaking of...did you ever finish your little knife?

 

Cris

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Well, everything dried up enough tonight to go ahead with the final overlay coat, as well as laying the floor down. I used roughly another half pound of Satanite, so my estimate of 1lb was about right. If you make your own though...I'd advise ordering 5lbs. First, you'll have some to repatch up your forge when you ding it, and second, you'll have some nice refractory for Japanese style blades if you're so inclined =D. Anyhow, here's the results (keep in mind I didn't take the time to make anything pretty lol...just slathered it in there and called it good!):

 

 

DSCF1841.jpg

 

DSCF1838.jpg

 

In the second picture you can see the opening for the burner. I'm unsure if this is the proper dimension lol...but it looks doable. I tried to make it a bit wider than tall, to sort of 'flatten' the flame and spread it to each end of the forge.

 

Anyway, there we go. Tomorrow I'm doing the bulk of the remaining moving (I hope), but I should have some time left in the evening to finish up the door and back, if all goes well. There will of course be pictures and some discussion =p.

 

Cris

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You should Noah! Like I said, it would be a very simple thing to take the whole setup to a park, or even someone elses house if you had access. Possibly you could make hand forged buckles, studs, or clasps for your leatherwork. You have a great sense of style, and I think you'd do wonderfully =D.

 

Speaking of...did you ever finish your little knife?

 

Cris

 

There's something I hadn't thought of--taking it somewhere! I don't really know anybody who has a place I could do that at, but my grandpa did make me a little railroad track anvil (and I mean little, I don't even know where he got a piece of track that small) and that would probably work for forging fittings, which I've wanted to try doing. I never did finish that knife, unfortunately, since I don't have anywhere to forge it, but I do still have it sitting in my storage room, along with a big piece of either O1 or 5160 that a buddy sent me along with a piece of antler that I'm supposed to make a knife out of for him "someday" :P

 

Now fire that forge up, take pictures, and get hammering :)

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There's something I hadn't thought of--taking it somewhere! I don't really know anybody who has a place I could do that at, but my grandpa did make me a little railroad track anvil (and I mean little, I don't even know where he got a piece of track that small) and that would probably work for forging fittings, which I've wanted to try doing. I never did finish that knife, unfortunately, since I don't have anywhere to forge it, but I do still have it sitting in my storage room, along with a big piece of either O1 or 5160 that a buddy sent me along with a piece of antler that I'm supposed to make a knife out of for him "someday" tongue.gif

 

Now fire that forge up, take pictures, and get hammering smile.gif

 

That would do the trick =D. Keep in mind though, that something heavier would certainly work better. Like I said, looking at your leatherwork you've got plenty of creativity, as well as patience. Both traits are wonderful virtues in a smith of any type, and a bladesmith in particular!

 

For the forge...I put it under a ceiling fan last night, and it's almost completely dry (all that's left is the thicker floor). I then set it outside this morning and by the time I get home it should be set. I think I'm going to go ahead and fire it without cutting the back. Best case I get a nice outline showing me where it's safe to cut =D. Worse case it'll blue the whole back tin lol.

 

I'll let you guys know how it turns out this evening. I'm pretty excited about it. I spent all evening last night sketching out 6.5" overall length users, and kitchen knives lol!

 

Cris

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Well, I fired it =D.

 

DSCF1857.jpg

 

The picture was RIGHT after I put the tip in the forge. Soon as I snapped the picture, I set the camera down and hit record:

 

 

Mostly, I wanted to get some heat into it to finish curing up the Satanite. Tomorrow I'll rig up some kind of more permanent setup for holding onto the burner, and probably finish the doors. At that point though...it'll be a functional forge =D.

 

I've got a couple questions though. Even though the flame was obviously swirling (you can't see it in the video completely, but there was almost a 360* swirl)...the forge ran for 5 minutes or so, and only really heated up the area directly in the flame path. Is this normal? I know adding insulation the the front and rear will help...I'm just not sure how much. It would be nice for the whole interior to be a toasty orange/yellow of course =D. I don't really plan to do any forge welding as of yet...but having the availability would be very cool.

 

Cris

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I've got a couple questions though. Even though the flame was obviously swirling (you can't see it in the video completely, but there was almost a 360* swirl)...the forge ran for 5 minutes or so, and only really heated up the area directly in the flame path. Is this normal? I know adding insulation the the front and rear will help...I'm just not sure how much. It would be nice for the whole interior to be a toasty orange/yellow of course =D. I don't really plan to do any forge welding as of yet...but having the availability would be very cool.

 

Cris

 

 

Burner to small

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I've got a couple questions though. Even though the flame was obviously swirling (you can't see it in the video completely, but there was almost a 360* swirl)...the forge ran for 5 minutes or so, and only really heated up the area directly in the flame path. Is this normal? I know adding insulation the the front and rear will help...I'm just not sure how much. It would be nice for the whole interior to be a toasty orange/yellow of course =D. I don't really plan to do any forge welding as of yet...but having the availability would be very cool.

 

Cris

 

 

Burner to small

 

Man...I hope not =/.

 

Right now though, the chamber is 2" rounded at the top, 2.5" rounded at the bottom, and about 3" tall. With no front or rear insulation, it's 7.5" long and losing a ton of heat out the front, I'd assume. I figure I'll lose an inch at each end with insulation (when I do the doors), which leaves 5.5"...and makes for a roughly 36 square inch area.

 

I really, really hope that isn't too big for this little burner.../sigh. My friend is out of town for the week, but he told me he's using a smaller burner...with only a slightly smaller chamber (2.5" round).

 

Another thing...does the length of the 'burner port' through the Kaowool have a big impact on chamber heat? As it sits it's about 2". I can't help but think that if I got the burner closer to the chamber it would help...but it could be sort of counter intuitive I guess, and not make any difference.

 

Guess I just won't worry about it till I get the doors finished up. I'll deal with any issues with heating at that point. Worst case, I'll widen my burner opening and add another burner.

 

Cris

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Doors make a huge difference, my vertical forge was a dissapointment when I made it with a 4x4inch front opening, then I closed off half of it with some scrap kaowool and it hit welding heat at 4 psi less than at first..

 

But still, your burner looks to be too small.. building a cheap venturi only takes an hour or so and 10bucks at a hardware store

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But still, your burner looks to be too small.. building a cheap venturi only takes an hour or so and 10bucks at a hardware store

 

Yeah, the 1 1/4" mini mongo I built was $14...so I know they're inexpensive. If I were to build one...I'd think 1/2" should do it. Thing is, this burner 'should' be more than enough for the area. It's the JTH-7 everyone talks about. My friend is using a smaller TS4000 if I recall, and has no issues...even reaching welding temps.

 

Looking at the video and remembering the forge while it was running...I wonder how much of my flame is impacting the burner inlet, rather than entering the forge chamber. The burner inlet was at a light yellow heat. I know it's a smaller area of course, but it does make me curious if that was part of the problem. I think when I make the doors, I'll take a small half round rasp, and widen the burner inlet as well...just to remove it as an issue.

 

Thanks for the input guys. Hopefully the thing turns out as useful as I'm hoping it will be =D.

 

Cris

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Well, I feel much better.

 

I took a few minutes to fire the little forge up while I was cleaning up my work area in preparation to move. I messed around some with the burner tip to burner inlet positioning, and man did it make a substantial difference. I didn't take the time to 'tune' it, since it's being packed up tomorrow anyhow, but I did make sure to center it, as well as stand it off the forge a half an inch or so.

 

MUCH more effective.

 

I now feel that with doors, and some fine tuning...it'll easily reach forging temps, as/is...though I'm not sure if it will weld, guess we'll see. There was a clearly visible 360* vortex, and even a bit of dragon's breath as well =D. I'm going to order a pint of plistix 900F also, just to give it a little boost. Additionally when I make the doors, I'm going to clean up the burner inlet to make it a little easier to center the flame without issue.

 

Anyhow, here's some video. It had only been burning about 30 seconds when I grabbed the camera, and started recording:

 

 

The burner tip isn't actually glowing...it's just reflected light from the burner inlet. When I pulled it away before shutting it all down the brass was still black.

 

Anyhow, off to the new house for the first night. Hopefully once I get my shop moved over...I'll actually be able to make something with this =D.

 

Cris

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I messed around some with the burner tip to burner inlet positioning, and man did it make a substantial difference. I didn't take the time to 'tune' it, since it's being packed up tomorrow anyhow, but I did make sure to center it, as well as stand it off the forge a half an inch or so.

 

Cris, I forgot to mention positioning the burner relative to the burner portal... half an inch is about what I do also... My burner portal is about an inch in diameter. The chamber is about 2" - 2.25" and, believe it or not, is based on the diameter of a Vienna saugsage can!

 

Another tip.. the JTH-7 does not contain a choke, i.e., the fuel/air ratio is preset, however... one can make a choke with about a one inch wide of thin aluminum, from your favorite cold beverage can, wrapped just loose enough to slide easily, wrap a strip of masking tape around the alumimun and you have a slide choke. place on the burner tube between the torch head and the air openings.

 

The ITC-100 or the Plistix will add more 'heat' to the forge.. both are emmissive products meaning they aborb energy till a threshold is reached and then they emit the excess energy via heat, i.e., the material incandesences. As small as the two brickers and paint can forges are, they really have no thermal mass and rely completely on the heat from the fuel/air mixture.. so the emmissive products are the 'booster' in the smaller forges.

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Cris, I forgot to mention positioning the burner relative to the burner portal... half an inch is about what I do also... My burner portal is about an inch in diameter. The chamber is about 2" - 2.25" and, believe it or not, is based on the diameter of a Vienna saugsage can!

 

Another tip.. the JTH-7 does not contain a choke, i.e., the fuel/air ratio is preset, however... one can make a choke with about a one inch wide of thin aluminum, from your favorite cold beverage can, wrapped just loose enough to slide easily, wrap a strip of masking tape around the alumimun and you have a slide choke. place on the burner tube between the torch head and the air openings.

 

The ITC-100 or the Plistix will add more 'heat' to the forge.. both are emmissive products meaning they aborb energy till a threshold is reached and then they emit the excess energy via heat, i.e., the material incandesences. As small as the two brickers and paint can forges are, they really have no thermal mass and rely completely on the heat from the fuel/air mixture.. so the emmissive products are the 'booster' in the smaller forges.

 

All excellent pieces of advice Randy. I'd already considered that solution for a choke...but in use, I don't seem to get any scale as/is. I guess I just got lucky =D.

 

Ha!!

 

Anyhow...all done, and the thing works beautifully! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

 

DSCF1941.jpg

The burner opening SHOULD be about 1" in diameter I think (as you mentioned Randy). This would allow me to center it easily (centering wouldn't be as critical either...), and still allow it to draw air. I will fix that sometime this week I think.

 

DSCF1940.jpg

And there it is! That's a 12" long piece of 1 1/2"x1/4" 1075/1080 at a high orange/low yellow heat. Reheat times seem to be less than a minute...which is pretty decent for a chunk of steel like this I think. They certainly seem to take no longer than my old charcoal forge.

 

And here's the video (be sure to watch the end to see the actual results!):

 

 

So there it is =D. It's SO nice to be back in the forge doing something. That little 12" long piece of 1080 is going to be at least one, maybe two or three little user knives...depending on how much stretch I get in shrinking the diameter and drawing out tapers etc. Who knows...maybe one user and one kitchen knife. It's SO cool to have the choice lol.

 

I'll keep you guys posted =D!

 

Cris

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