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I am about to put together a Lively washtub forge. I have kitty litter, and play sand, but have yet to track down the wood ash that all of the recipes seem to call for. Can sawdust be used in place of wood ash? Does anyone have a particular adobe mix that they like?

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What you use may vary considering what's locally available.

 

To get wood ash seems simple, though - build a fire and collect what's left. Its purpose is to insulate, and does so by trapping little bits of air in whatever mix you have holding it all together. Vermiculite works for this too, as does chopped straw, or anything else that will "burn out" upon firing and leave small voids in your clay. Nothing insulates like "nothing", which is why gas forges use inswool blanket for insulation, it's all the trapped air in it.

 

Having run a Lively forge off and on over the last decade, I can recommend giving the surface a light coat of Satanite or some other furnace cement, even ITC, just to make it a little more durable. The rest is just holding your charcoal in a convenient shape, and keeping some of the heat where you want it. While I love a nice charcoal fire for forging, it does come at a large cost in time as one must manage it from lighting to dousing, adding fuel, and paying attention to the heat output of the fuel. All that takes away from the actual act of smithing, but allows you a slower, more contemplative experience. Some days I miss it, but then I can just flip on my fire-breathing propane forge and be working in 5 minutes, and no sparks to burn holes in my shirt either... but it's admittedly a more sterile experience.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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I know what you mean, Chris. I too miss staring into the coals as I pump the bellows and waiting for the steel to heat. It can provoke a rather comptempative mood but I was spending too much time tending fire and not enough time beating on steel.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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What you use may vary considering what's locally available.

 

To get wood ash seems simple, though - build a fire and collect what's left. Its purpose is to insulate, and does so by trapping little bits of air in whatever mix you have holding it all together. Vermiculite works for this too, as does chopped straw, or anything else that will "burn out" upon firing and leave small voids in your clay. Nothing insulates like "nothing", which is why gas forges use inswool blanket for insulation, it's all the trapped air in it.

 

Having run a Lively forge off and on over the last decade, I can recommend giving the surface a light coat of Satanite or some other furnace cement, even ITC, just to make it a little more durable. The rest is just holding your charcoal in a convenient shape, and keeping some of the heat where you want it. While I love a nice charcoal fire for forging, it does come at a large cost in time as one must manage it from lighting to dousing, adding fuel, and paying attention to the heat output of the fuel. All that takes away from the actual act of smithing, but allows you a slower, more contemplative experience. Some days I miss it, but then I can just flip on my fire-breathing propane forge and be working in 5 minutes, and no sparks to burn holes in my shirt either... but it's admittedly a more sterile experience.

 

Well, I have sawdust, and grass clippings available. Would crushed up charcoal be another good choice? The only problem I had with wood ash is I am afraid it would take a lot of burning to get just a little wood ash. That being said, I really don't know exactly how much I need anyway. I am assuming that a mixture (by volume) of about 2 parts clay, 1 part sand, and 1 part ash would be about right? I have seen just about every possible ratio given, but I would love to know what you use.

 

I do plan on building a gas forge (probably around tax return time next year). But I am tired of waiting to forge when I have everything I need except the forge. This seemed like the cheapest and easiest way to get started.

Edited by Justin Barnett
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It's been forever since I mixed up a liner for mine, but a small-ish campfire ought to yield enough ash for your needs. Even a load of wood in a bbq grill (not gas, of course) would probably do it. Heck even the ash from briquettes might do, seeing as they have some clay binder in them as well.

 

For a regular sized washtub, which I think are about 3.5 gal, you're not trying to fill more than half the volume. So maybe 4 to 8 cups of ash, just off the top of my head, lumped in with whatever else you've got. Your other suggestions sound about right, though I never added sand - there was enough in the clay soil I was using.

 

Good luck, take pictures, and let us know how it goes. Just make sure when you mix, you mix on the dry side - you don't want it to all slump flat - you need to be able to pack it in at an angle and have it set there pretty well.

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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As promised here are some pictures of my forge. I used kitty litter, play sand, a little bit of wood ash, some fine sawdust, and a bit of dried grass clippings. (I forgot the kitchen sink)

I didn't mix enough in the first batch, so it just covered the bottom. The second batch on the sides I made a bit too wet and it kept wanting to slump down. I kept a fan on it and pushed the sides back up periodically.

 

Due to my complete lack of patience I decided to build a fire in it less than 2 hours after I finished it. I then added some charcoal, then added some air. At this point I figured why not try to use it, so I heated and cut a piece of hay rake tine. I then drew out a long rat tail handle, and forged a small (2 1/4") drop point blade. I then bend the handle to a shape I liked.

I did a rough heat treat (heat to non-magnetic, quench in water, draw temper back by holding blade with hot tongs).

 

Unfortunately while finishing it this morning I managed to break the blade in half by sanding on the side of the handle while the blade was clamped sideways in the vice. Probably a combination of my poor heat treat and being really dumb about my clamping method.

photo (3).JPG

photo (2).JPG

photo (1).JPG

photo.JPG

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Too bad, that was going to be a nice looking smith's knife. I would probably lay the blame for breaking on tempering with hot tongs. The temperature is really an unknown and would be hard to get even. A toaster oven works well and they're not all that expensive, especially if you can find one used.

 

Doug

HELP...I'm a twenty year old trapped in the body of an old man!!!

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I would blame the water quench, personally, for the failure. Too harsh. Try warm oil next time, same material, and then temper in the toaster oven for a couple hours at 400. Might not be the end-all-be-all of hardness, but it would likely stay in one piece. Otherwise, it looks like you know how to forge a knife, and the forge looks almost exactly like mine. No problems rushing it, either, if your clay cracks a little, you just fill it in with ash from the charcoal. Self-healing and it doesn't need to be perfect to work perfectly well.

 

 

Keep up the good work!

Edited by Christopher Price

The Tidewater Forge

Christopher Price, Bladesmith

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I would blame the water quench, personally, for the failure. Too harsh. Try warm oil next time, same material, and then temper in the toaster oven for a couple hours at 400. Might not be the end-all-be-all of hardness, but it would likely stay in one piece. Otherwise, it looks like you know how to forge a knife, and the forge looks almost exactly like mine. No problems rushing it, either, if your clay cracks a little, you just fill it in with ash from the charcoal. Self-healing and it doesn't need to be perfect to work perfectly well.

 

 

Keep up the good work!

I think you are right about the quench being the problem. Upon further examination I found a dark spot at the corner of the surface of the break that tells me there was already a small crack there. I then found another micro-crack on the spine about a half inch from the break. So either a pre-existing flaw in my stock, or the spine cracked during the harsh quench (more likely).

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Nice 'Lively'...looks much like my forge as well (mine has a notch cut in one end so a long workpiece will lay flat in the fire, otherwise they look identical). I lined mine with just straight mud from my yard, no sawdust or ash added, and it's held up fine. Depending on your soil, results may vary...

 

A couple things I love about these forges: the fire length is adjustable, you can add more mud to make a shorter fire (saves fuel, good for most forging) or chip some out to make it longer (when heat-treating larger blades). You can also burn small chunks of wood instead of charcoal for forging...free fuel!

 

Sorry about the blade (oil's much safer, I never water-quench unless something just won't harden in oil at all) but the forge looks real good. Keep banging them out!

My hand-forged knives and tools at Etsy.com: http://www.etsy.com/shop/oldschooltools

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Nice 'Lively'...looks much like my forge as well (mine has a notch cut in one end so a long workpiece will lay flat in the fire, otherwise they look identical). I lined mine with just straight mud from my yard, no sawdust or ash added, and it's held up fine. Depending on your soil, results may vary...

 

A couple things I love about these forges: the fire length is adjustable, you can add more mud to make a shorter fire (saves fuel, good for most forging) or chip some out to make it longer (when heat-treating larger blades). You can also burn small chunks of wood instead of charcoal for forging...free fuel!

 

Sorry about the blade (oil's much safer, I never water-quench unless something just won't harden in oil at all) but the forge looks real good. Keep banging them out!

I wish I had cut a notch in the ends of my forge. I tried forging a long piece of rebar last night and it was a huge pain. The only reason I didn't cut a notch is I wanted to keep my handles.

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Justin,

 

Looks really good. I built my Lively forge last spring and my recipe was about 30% clay, ~65% coarse sand and ~5% Perlite. It's worked really well and last night I quenched my first three blades myself. I've been making useful things, like a tool rack for my anvil can and I'm working on a dinner bell for a friend.

 

Newtoolrack1.jpg

AnOperatingForge.jpg

 

I found an old coffee maker to keep my oil in and used Canola oil, here a are a couple pics:

Oilwarming1.jpg

ThreeQuenchedknives.jpg

No temper yet on the knives, I gotta get ready to leave on a long weekend tomorrow, so I'll get them tempered next week. :D

 

Regards,

Tim

Edited by lordcaradoc

I am as free as nature first made man,

Ere the base laws of servitude began,

When wild in woods the noble savage ran.

From The Conquest of Granada by John Dryden

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Tim, you sure you don't want to toss 'em in the kitchen oven at 300 for a couple hours before heading out? You don't want to leave home with 3 pieces of metal on the stump and come back to 6.

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