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Benjamin Gitchel

Lively Forge Questions

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Hey there, you can call me Ben. This looks like a great forum full of knowledgeable people, I glad a place like this exists. I've recently decided to try my hand at some bladesmithing because, afflicted as an artist of types, once I get an idea into my head I'm insufferable until I can make it a reality. That said, I've done a little research and think the Lively washtub forge is a good place for me to start. But I have some questions, and I tried searching for the answers but still have some to ask.

 

I've included a picture, hopefully it helps.

 

forgeplan.JPG

 

So I'll start with the washtub itself --

 

  • it's galvanized, so do I need to worry about the heat vaporizing the zinc and killing me? Should I paint it with some furnace cement on this inside or will it not really be an issue?
  • Do I need to cut a place where the handles are on either side, or is it better to keep the lip in place?
  • how high off the bottom of the washtub should the opening for the pipe begin?

About the 'refractory cement' ...

  • I bought 2x 25# bags of unscented clay cat litter ... 'all natural'
  • I also picked up a bag of playbox sand, 50# bag
  • and a small bag of perlite I saw at the garden store, but it's not a large quantity. Should I pick up some more? [edit: it's 8 qts.]
  • Is there anything else I should add, such as wood ash? [edit: I have plenty if need be, as I have a wood burning sauna -- I burn off-cuts of kiln-dried alder, oak, mahogany, cherry, poplar, pine as well as filbert branches]
  • what ratios to mix the above (or other) ingredients in, and is there a 'cure' time or just build a fire over it for a few hours?
  • Also, how wide across and how deep should the U be of the clay? Just lay the pipe in at the right height, and sculpt the U down so the pipe holes are just exposed?
  • Should I include some firebricks along the sides of the U shape, and in doing so, avoid cutting the lip of the tub? If so, should I just set them in the clay when I make it and how deep?

And the pipe ...

  • I have a 2" black steel pipe with a cap on one end, 3 ft long. Once set in place, I think it'll be about 4 or 6 inches past the tub face. [edit: it's long enough that I can actually have 3 or 4 inches sticking out of either end -- that way I can uncap the end and clean it if need be]
  • how many holes should be drilled and how far apart? what size hole is best? [edit: I read somewhere that the hole should be smaller the closer they are to the blower, so overall the pressure is the same throughout the length -- anyone with insight here?]
  • Is it fine to just lay it on some bricks or something before putting in the clay mix?
  • should I drill the holes before hand, or could I wait until the clay is cured? Might be better since I don't have a drill press on hand, just a hand held drill.

I appreciate any insights that will save me trouble in the long run. Have I left anything out? I will be attaching a hair dryer to the pipe, though I have access to an old hand cranked one at a friend's farm.

 

Ben

Edited by Benjamin Gitchel

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You can go to a masonry supply company they carry 50# bags of fireclay which ive used to make ducks nests successfully in the past. Granted i'm a noob - but if i were doing it i would mix the fire clay with straw....However i have read somewhere that a guy finely sifts ashes and mixes it with sand and water to pack it in. Let me just add encouragingly, stop having Gabriel's over analytical disorder and just do it! LOL

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What Geoff said . . .

 

There are a ton of tutorials on the forum for building a propane forge for very little $. I'd highly recommend going that route.

 

Welcome to the forum. This place is great.

 

Dave

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. Let me just add encouragingly, stop having Gabriel's over analytical disorder and just do it! LOL

 

I appreciate the encouragement, Gabriel! However, I don't agree that have an analytical approach is necessarily a disorder -- unless it impedes productivity. "Analysis paralysis." Since I'm not on a timeline and am doing this simply for the thrill of doing it, I enjoy the process of planning. If even meticulously.

 

I'm just going to mention this. Why work in solid fuel? Why not gas?

 

Just askin'

 

Geoff

 

Hey Geoff. Really, for only one reason (I was originally going to go gas) -- because I'm interested in differential heat treating / hamon lines. The research I've done, here and elsewhere, seemed to indicate that there are times when heating the spine first is preferable. Again, I have an incredible amount to learn, but this seemed important for what I hope to accomplish, and I wasn't sure that I would be able to target that area as specifically with gas. I may be wrong!

 

 

What Geoff said . . .

 

There are a ton of tutorials on the forum for building a propane forge for very little $. I'd highly recommend going that route.

 

Welcome to the forum. This place is great.

 

Dave

 

Hi Dave, thanks for the welcome. Again, what I said before -- I ended up making a decision based on knowledge which may be partial (the idea of heating parts of the blade differently to either relieve pressure or protect the blade edge from getting too hot) and while that decision may have been incorrect, it would now be more expensive to go with the propane set-up, since I have everything on hand to go ahead with the Lively forge!

 

So, without sounding ungrateful, I hope someone will address the questions I've posed -- I tried not to ask anything that I could find by searching the forum.

 

Thanks again,

Ben

Edited by Benjamin Gitchel

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Hamons can be had quite easily on propane. I would wager that quite a few of the hamons that you see on the knives here are done with propane forges. You are correct about it being harder to heat smaller regions of the blade, but claying the knife will achieve what you are looking for.

As for cost, coal and coke are expensive. I have a 100 lbs propane bottle that costs about 50 bucks to fill up. That tank will last multiple long forging sessions, and my burners are nowhere near as effecient as the forced air forges that Geogg builds. Something to consider. The cost for propane might be cheaper in the long run.

Either way, good luck!

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Hamons can be had quite easily on propane. I would wager that quite a few of the hamons that you see on the knives here are done with propane forges. You are correct about it being harder to heat smaller regions of the blade, but claying the knife will achieve what you are looking for.

As for cost, coal and coke are expensive. I have a 100 lbs propane bottle that costs about 50 bucks to fill up. That tank will last multiple long forging sessions, and my burners are nowhere near as effecient as the forced air forges that Geogg builds. Something to consider. The cost for propane might be cheaper in the long run.

Either way, good luck!

 

Well, it appears as though this forum is very pro-propane! And with good reason I'm sure -- cost effective and fuel efficient. Easy and inexpensive to set up. By the end of this, I'm sure I'll have both set up and will be able to see with my own experience.

 

Perhaps I made a mistake -- I get it. I would however like to continue and take it to completion, for what it's worth.

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There is a fairly steep learning curve to all of this stuff. You should ask yourself if what you are trying to learn is the skill of making and maintaining a fire, or if you would like to learn how to forge metal. It's not that you can't learn both. or learn both at the same time, but whether one is more important than another.

 

I can diff harden a Damascus blade well enough to withstand a 90 degree bend test, and I have learned the bare minimum of how to run a coal fire. If I spent a year in coal I might get pretty good at building a fire, as for the rest, who knows?

 

The steel doesn't care how you heat it, with the right steel and the right process, you can get hamon. Then all you need to do is learn how to polish it.

 

Welcome to the madness,

 

Geoff

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There is a fairly steep learning curve to all of this stuff. You should ask yourself if what you are trying to learn is the skill of making and maintaining a fire, or if you would like to learn how to forge metal. It's not that you can't learn both. or learn both at the same time, but whether one is more important than another.

 

I can diff harden a Damascus blade well enough to withstand a 90 degree bend test, and I have learned the bare minimum of how to run a coal fire. If I spent a year in coal I might get pretty good at building a fire, as for the rest, who knows?

 

The steel doesn't care how you heat it, with the right steel and the right process, you can get hamon. Then all you need to do is learn how to polish it.

 

Welcome to the madness,

 

Geoff

 

Thanks for the reply, Geoff, welcome to the madness indeed! To be fair, right now I'm trying to learn what the best way to build a Lively-style charcoal-burning forge. That said, I would think learning how to make and maintain a fire would be a good skill to have but then, of course, forging metal. Philosophy aside, I am just looking for some practical answers here.

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Well, it appears as though this forum is very pro-propane! And with good reason I'm sure -- cost effective and fuel efficient. Easy and inexpensive to set up. By the end of this, I'm sure I'll have both set up and will be able to see with my own experience.

 

Perhaps I made a mistake -- I get it. I would however like to continue and take it to completion, for what it's worth.

 

Haha, actually, quite a few of the members use coal; I know that Alan loves it. I think that it is part of the allure and I totally get that, I really do. I just like how clean propane is, and I like the price too. I wouldn't say you made a mistake; I just wanted to clarify about propane.

 

*edit* - Here, although I cant answer your questions since I use propane(and built my forge), I found an article for building your type of forge for you. Maybe you have seen it, but it might answer your questions. Why reinvent the wheel?

 

 

Edited by Wes Detrick

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Thanks, Wes! Yes, one of many articles I've come across while doing my search. From what I've read, cutting the tub in this way greatly reduces the strength of the forge overall, and many have said that (like the illustration) by putting fire bricks in place on the sides, one can avoid cutting down. It's not a matter of re-inventing the wheel, just making it better. I sure am glad we don't still use wagon wheels on everything.

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The style of solid fuel forge you plan to build is a specialty tool. You need to be able to heat the entirety of the blade for heat treating but, for forging that is really inefficient. Heat the whole blade up and hit it in one spot and the rest of the blade moves. Heat a short section, say two inches, and you can do your work without having to go back and do as much re-work. The other point is that the long forge, like the Lively design, burns an inordinate amount of fuel for general forging.

 

Were I trying to start over, and work in solid fuels, I would want two forges. One a Lively style, for heat treating, and the other something with a small diameter firepot to take short heats for general forging. Like the picture below of a paint can forge. You could easily build something like this inexpensively. I would just dig some clay up somewhere and line the paint can with it. It will not last as long as a store bought refractory but, it was free and you can easily do it over. The only thing you might have to buy would be a blower and a pipe to get the air into the forge.

paint can forge.jpg

 

~Bruce~

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Good idea -- I will consider that option if I decide to get into forging. As it stands now, stock removal and heat treating is exactly what I'm looking to begin with.

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Well, it appears as though this forum is very pro-propane! And with good reason I'm sure -- cost effective and fuel efficient.

tumblr_mvjgbaYcFM1slmwfho1_500.jpg

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I do like my coal forge! It's dirty, expensive, and highly inconvenient, but it's what I'm used to. Charcoal is cleaner, but you will need to chop it into walnut-sized chunks to get an even heat. You want around six inches of charcoal below the steel and two above. Your design is fine, no need to worry about the galvanizing. I prefer 1/2" x 1.5" slots over holes, they don't clog nearly as quickly.

 

The clay mix is usually equal parts clay, sand, and ash or peat moss. It will crack and spall the first few times you use it so keep some extra on hand to patch it with.

 

As for hamon, well, it's far easier when you can see the blade and don't have to worry about knocking off the clay (the problem with solid fuel). Whoever told you it was important to heat spine-first has been absorbing too much of the ample mythology that surrounds Japanese style blades.

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I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this, unless I've just missed it, don't use the galvanized tub. The fumes as you thought are very harmful and could potentially kill.

That aside, I'm reading this with interest because I just picked up a blower, and now need a forge!

Good luck!

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I feel I have to chime in on this one, especially about fuel type. I personally run a coal forge simply because for me, it's cheaper. I live in SW PA and I get my coal for free other than having to go get it (gasoline cost). I have been wondering about gas forges and the expense, and to me, it seems to be a little more expensive, besides, I love the smell of burning coal, so I guess its more of a question of what's easily available and cost-efficient. And coal burns cleaner after it turns to coke, but it's just the process of getting to coke that's not so clean.

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Tim, the tub will not get hot enough to burn off the zinc. No worries there, but you don't want the air pipe to be galvanized.

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I feel I have to chime in on this one, especially about fuel type. I personally run a coal forge simply because for me, it's cheaper. I live in SW PA and I get my coal for free other than having to go get it (gasoline cost). I have been wondering about gas forges and the expense, and to me, it seems to be a little more expensive, besides, I love the smell of burning coal, so I guess its more of a question of what's easily available and cost-efficient. And coal burns cleaner after it turns to coke, but it's just the process of getting to coke that's not so clean.

 

:lol: Free fuel definitely brings the cost down. I don't think there is a compelling argument for you to use propane because of that.

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As for hamon, well, it's far easier when you can see the blade and don't have to worry about knocking off the clay (the problem with solid fuel). Whoever told you it was important to heat spine-first has been absorbing too much of the ample mythology that surrounds Japanese style blades.

 

Well, that makes sense. Is knocking off the clay really a problem when using solid fuel? I hadn't considered that -- is this a problem many people run into? Thanks for addressing my questions.

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It can be a problem, especially if you are using a traditional rice straw ash/charcoal clay mix and your blade is too smooth. It is not an issue with Rutlands furnace cement, and not as bad with Satanite/charcoal. A lot of it has to do with surface prep and experience.

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Okay, well, I was planning on going ahead with the Rutlands but was hoping to experiment with some traditional or other formulas (I'm just a geek like that, I guess). In Yoshihara's "Art of the Japanese Sword," he uses two separate clays, a darker one (I'm guessing is riverbed clay and charcoal and ...?) he uses to define the hamon edge first, and then a red clay (it said "contains ceramic clay, ground omura-to [what's this?] charcoal, and iron oxide") to meet up to the edge of the black, over the spine, and then also to do ashi with. It seems like people are pulling off really beautiful hamon work here, I read the whole hamon thread before joining, it's partly what sold me, so I understand there's a line between useful and effective vs. needlessly more complicated for what you might potential get. But I'm interested in the process and understanding the principles.

 

[edit: okay, reading back a few pages in the book mentioned they say the darker clay is composed of "ceramic clay, ground charcoal, and ground stone (from a rough sandstone called "omura-to")."]

 

[edit2: "omura-DO" turns up a fine grained sandstone used for polishing]

Edited by Benjamin Gitchel

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Alright, I took my best stab at it and I think it turned out alright. I ditched the idea of the bricks and put a slight (2") cut in the lip. From the tuyere to the rim is 6". I also ditched the idea of cat litter and went with Lincoln 60 fire clay. The mix was equal parts clay, playbox sand and finely sifted wood ash (I clean out my sauna, a friend's sauna, my fireplace, a friend's fireplace, and an old wood burning furnace at a local community farm -- I just used a pasta strainer, worked like a charm to get out the nails and charcoal). I kept about a one gallon container full of the clay mix to fix cracks. One thing which I think was a huge oversight was I didn't secure the tuyere pipe, figuring the cement would keep it in place ... now I realize that may have been a big mistake. Anyways, I'm overall pleased -- thanks again. My steel shipment should be arriving any day!

 

(sorry the lighting is bad, I just finished it about 20 minutes after sundown)

 

DHHdq0x.jpg

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I think you need to come up with a way to block off about half of ur tuyere towards the end temporarily so you can maintain a smaller fire pot and conserve fuel. Besides the fact that i looks like it would suck up the fuel it looks great and functional! Maybe a test fire in a few days or a week? Keep us posted don't get discouraged on us! :P

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Doesn't seem like it could be too terrible if the pipe was loose and completely removeable. It would still lay there and deliver the air.

 

I think you should be very generous with charcoal when forging. Pile it on. I've heard a complaint with charcoal, that it's hard to get local heat. That's been my small experience too. Every heat gets most of the blade hot, and all must be hammered straight. Maybe others have a etter idea.

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