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Lively Forge Questions


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gabriel~ indeed, discouraged is one thing I don't do very well!

johnW~ I'm admittedly very new to this and learning more every day. I suspect I'll try several different approaches before finding the one that's right for me and what I hope to accomplish. Charcoal should be no problem to get a hold of, I'm thinking I might drive to one of the many local Oregon wild fires that have been extinguished and load up some barrels and break it down back home. Has anyone here done that?

Any idea how long I should let this clay set up before putting a fire in it?

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A problem i ran into when i was working with bottom blown charcoal forges of that design, was that after awhile, the build up of clinkers and solids on the bottom, and whatever else the forced air couldnt blow out, would eventually diminish the airflow and reduce the potency of the fire itself. Its good for short projects, but when you are first starting out things take a little longer.

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That much clay i would let it rest for a week depending on how dry your climate is i guess? I make my own charcoal using a steel drum and a lid. Light a fire let it burn until it stops smoking and put it out with the lid. The only potential problem with the wild fire charcoal is I would think it would have to be put out in some fashion or meet some criteria to not just smolder and oxidize and turn to ash? Would be something worth investigating for sure. You might could walk out there and fill a truck bed full i have no idea lol! You can also just buy the country hard wood charcoal from walmart for 6$ a bag. I like coal better because it seems to last longer despite being harder to light and requires more airflow. It holds a "ball" or hot area which makes things a bit easier for us newbies to judge. I ruled propane out only because of the initial price to start the forging process and that i can scrounge most of my fuel for free.

 

I mentioned the discouraged thing only because when i first started i was over ambitious with my projects and nothing went right on any of them :( LOL

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Yes, I think just about any wood fire leaves usable charcoal. Sounds like you're thinking of picking up big hunks. That would be fabulous if it's chared all the way through, like the fire was so hot some poor tree got roasted with out even catching on fire that much. I've never seen a forest fire, but undoubtedly there'd be lots of charcoal laying around, and even very unlikely looking stuff, like it would be just ashes, will have plently of good charcoal if you just sift the ashes out.

 

I say charcoal should be sifted anyway, just to get all the fines out of there.

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I have to disagree on the charcoal from a wild fire. Charcoal is made when wood is allowed to smolder for long periods driving out the moisture but leaving the lignins intact. It burns cleaner and hotter than the same piece of wood. This is done with a controlled process which excludes O2 during the burn. This is not what happens in a wildfire. You might be able to make charcoal out of partly burned wood, but it won't be as good as the real deal.

 

Another issue is whether the Forest Service is going to allow you into a recent burn to start dragging off burnt trees. We had a big storm in the PNW in '06, and they are still in litigation about whether to allow harvesting of the MILLIONS of bf of timber the storm brought down.

 

Geoff

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the barrel is a lot easier to control - I've done one huge control burn with the dozer and putting out that entire fire is a real chore otherwise. Granted it was a fire the size of a medium sized garden plot.

Burn >> wet >> spread to dry >> gather and break into usable sizes. Ive done the same thing for years for my charcoal grill using my pruned pecan wood. I refuse to pay for that crappy glued together paper with chemicals to control the team

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I'm not really sure about the different woods. The fact is that people make charcoal out of what they have, but all for the same reason, pretty much. Charcoal is lighter by volume, but produces more BTU's, and much less waste. Think about a city the size of London. The transportation cost, plus the cost of disposing of the waste products was huge. It was much more efficient to make charcoal elsewhere and bring in into the city. OTOH, they nearly deforested England in the process. Coal fixed that, but has it's own environmental costs (like the killer smogs of the 1950's).

 

One of the Japanese makers will have to weigh in, but I think the Japanese smiths prefer(red) pine charcoal, but again, that might be because that is what they have.

 

Geoff

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Perhaps it's better to move the discussion to another thread, as the Lively forge in question has been (more or less) completed ... I'm new to this forum and want to respect the rules.

 

That said, this is what I've read in Yoshihara's book:

 

"For several reasons, charcoal made from pine wood is used in forging. First, pine charcoal contains very little phosphorus and sulfur. These elements, if worked into the steel from any source, could make the steel brittle and keep it from welding together properly during the folding process. Pine charcoal is also soft and light. This is important during yaki-ire, when the blade is covered with a thin clay coating that will define the hamon. If the charcoal is too hard, it will damage the clay coating when the blade ismoved through the charcoal during heating. Any scratches or holes in the clay coating will affect the final hamon, and could even ruin it."

 

This is right in line with what Alan was saying. I think that for the experiments that I want to try, since I've gone the charcoal route for now instead of the propane, it might be good for me to make my charcoal out of pine. I have a bunch of western red cedar off-cuts just sitting around (I part-time at a wood-turning shop) but those might be better used to make boxes. Dunno. "Pine" sort of covers a lot, doesn't it?

 

[edit: okay, cedar is from the Cupressacea family and pine is from the Pinaceae family -- 'needle-like' foliage ... duh]

 

[edit2: Geoff, I think you're right -- Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) is the prefered charcoal, according to "the Craft of the Japanese Sword," from Kuji City in Iwate Prefecture ... though it also grows on the Korean Peninsula, northeastern China and the extreme southeast of Russia.]

Edited by Benjamin Gitchel
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Here is one important point, it was raised earlier, but I want to mention it again just in case. There is so much in this, it may be missed by someone who reads this thread.

 

point: heat treating with a long pipe and solid fuel works really well. It is a whole lot like a ribbon burner, only you have to blow air into the stack of solid fuel instead of just having several little flames. In service, though, it works great! I made an in-ground forge (Lively forge minus washtub) and used it to heat treat blades for 2 years.

 

When forging, all but 3 or 4 of the middle holes in the pipe, so that you have a focused hot spot sort of like what you would get with a duck's nest and coal/coke. You can clean the holes out with a toothpick when heat treat or another need for longer flame arises (and Tim does this in one video - he used to stop by this forum some, too).

 

Welcome! Any time people work to type and present info, even if it isn't exactly what you asked for, with this group, it is a sign of kindness. That is the way my comments are intended, anyway. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with for forging and heat treating, and also what you make from it.

 

Another person to share our obsession with is always good!

 

By the way, do you think you will become afflicted with the most virulent form of the hamon sickness, which manifests as hamon + hada? If that is likely (almost all of those afflicted progress to this morbid state), then you should give consideration to the almost-inevitable forge welding.

 

glad to see you here.

kc

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I do wonder about the the statement

 

 

First, pine charcoal contains very little phosphorus and sulfur. These elements, if worked into the steel from any source, could make the steel brittle

 

Some S and P is often present in steel, and we are told that forging in high sulfur coal is bad, but how does S get absorbed by steel, at what temps and in what amounts? This may be a kind of "Just So" story, but it would be interesting to know for sure.

 

One last note, I hope. An even charcoal burn requires charcoal of an even size, 1/2 inch cubes is what sticks in my head (my copy of Yoshihara is packed). The big Japanese shops have apprentices who do, guess what? Cut mounds of charcoal into 1/2 inch cubes.

 

Geoff

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for general forging i dont think its that crucial. You can actually get crappy match lite charcoal brickettes hot enough to move metal! Sometimes i take construction debris and throw it on top of my fire pot and turn it to charcoal while im forging on something else - its not "efficient" but im not forge welding and i'm ages away from perfecting my craft by tweaking my carbon loss by however marginal or a percent :( Am i the only one that thinks Carbuerizing in a home setting is just not feasible or effective at all? Or maybe i'm misinformed or under educated :P

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Carburizing takes a closed box, some organic material (leather or dung is commonly used, bone as well) and dwell time at temp. I've never done it, only read about it, so if someone with better info will step up, we can all get edumacated.

 

g

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I only meant that any hardwood is burnt of impurities and water and will be suitable for the sort of forging that a beginners skills can produce myself included. The addition later, after a big increase of skill, will be when tweaking a knife to be as good as it humanly possibly can be! Sorry im puny today and nothing i reread makes sense so maybe i should just sleep instead of make crazy posts >.>

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oops - thanks for catching that one Geoff.

 

yeah, I meant CLOSE all but 3 or 4 holes. You can clean them out with a toothpick when you need them again. It is that simple.

 

thanks for the fix!

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I'm late to this, sorry.

 

I used a Lively forge for years before I got Ron Claiborne drunk one night and stole all his gas forge secrets. It still sits in a place of honor in my shop (ok, under the used belts at my grinding bench).

 

1) Galvanized tub not a problem. Black pipe for the air. 1/4" holes, about an inch or so apart, precision not needed.

2) If you cap the back end of the pipe and let it poke through, you can uncap it to clean out easy enough without removing your air source. Also, if you rig your air on a "T" fitting, so it's coming from the side, you can make an air adjuster by drilling a 1/4" hole in another cap up front, and making a disk of sheet metal that just barely fits inside the pipe, with a 1/4" hole drilled in the middle of it, with locking nuts either side - secured to a long threaded rod that comes out the front pipe hole. Push it all the way back, and you have full length air flow. Pull it out towards you, you cut off air to the back of the forge, for a smaller hot spot.

3) You can "tent" the thing with kaowool to create a very hot working environment without burning a ton more fuel. Nothing permanent, just pile on the fuel, and lay some blanket over the fire. Use gloves, of course. If you really want to you can apply some satanite to help preserve a shape, but it won't last. A satanite or mizzou wash on the clay will help refract some heat, too, but the thing about solid insulation, is that it takes a long time to heat up to a point of equilibrium, and a long time to cool off. Place it in a very fire-safe location while in use.

 

Make a little charcoal rake, and have fun. I probably made my first 100 knives in it, and a sword. It's not the most efficient tool in the world, but it'll do, and you'll learn a lot. I do still like working in charcoal occasionally, because it does force you to pay attention to the whole fire management thing, takes longer, and lets you get in touch with what you're doing better than just "fast work" that propane allows.

 

And, Tim Lively lives in the Eugene area - I bet if you find him on Facebook, he'd be happy to chat you up about building forges, making knives, and all manner of other interesting things.

 

Good luck.

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point: heat treating with a long pipe and solid fuel works really well. It is a whole lot like a ribbon burner, only you have to blow air into the stack of solid fuel instead of just having several little flames. In service, though, it works great! I made an in-ground forge (Lively forge minus washtub) and used it to heat treat blades for 2 years.

 

When forging, all but 3 or 4 of the middle holes in the pipe, so that you have a focused hot spot sort of like what you would get with a duck's nest and coal/coke. You can clean the holes out with a toothpick when heat treat or another need for longer flame arises (and Tim does this in one video - he used to stop by this forum some, too).

 

Welcome! Any time people work to type and present info, even if it isn't exactly what you asked for, with this group, it is a sign of kindness. That is the way my comments are intended, anyway. I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with for forging and heat treating, and also what you make from it.

 

Another person to share our obsession with is always good!

 

By the way, do you think you will become afflicted with the most virulent form of the hamon sickness, which manifests as hamon + hada? If that is likely (almost all of those afflicted progress to this morbid state), then you should give consideration to the almost-inevitable forge welding.

 

Thanks, Kevin! I'm a functional obsessive-compulsive, I've learned to channel it over the years so hopefully I learn to make some beautiful knives. I can't say for sure how my affliction will manifest in the long run, but I have the personality type that likes to take things to their right and proper conclusions ... whatever that is. I've learned to be led by forces larger than myself, whatever they may be! Glad to be here, thanks for the tips.

 

 

I'm late to this, sorry.

 

I used a Lively forge for years before I got Ron Claiborne drunk one night and stole all his gas forge secrets. It still sits in a place of honor in my shop (ok, under the used belts at my grinding bench).

 

1) Galvanized tub not a problem. Black pipe for the air. 1/4" holes, about an inch or so apart, precision not needed.

2) If you cap the back end of the pipe and let it poke through, you can uncap it to clean out easy enough without removing your air source. Also, if you rig your air on a "T" fitting, so it's coming from the side, you can make an air adjuster by drilling a 1/4" hole in another cap up front, and making a disk of sheet metal that just barely fits inside the pipe, with a 1/4" hole drilled in the middle of it, with locking nuts either side - secured to a long threaded rod that comes out the front pipe hole. Push it all the way back, and you have full length air flow. Pull it out towards you, you cut off air to the back of the forge, for a smaller hot spot.

3) You can "tent" the thing with kaowool to create a very hot working environment without burning a ton more fuel. Nothing permanent, just pile on the fuel, and lay some blanket over the fire. Use gloves, of course. If you really want to you can apply some satanite to help preserve a shape, but it won't last. A satanite or mizzou wash on the clay will help refract some heat, too, but the thing about solid insulation, is that it takes a long time to heat up to a point of equilibrium, and a long time to cool off. Place it in a very fire-safe location while in use.

 

Make a little charcoal rake, and have fun. I probably made my first 100 knives in it, and a sword. It's not the most efficient tool in the world, but it'll do, and you'll learn a lot. I do still like working in charcoal occasionally, because it does force you to pay attention to the whole fire management thing, takes longer, and lets you get in touch with what you're doing better than just "fast work" that propane allows.

 

And, Tim Lively lives in the Eugene area - I bet if you find him on Facebook, he'd be happy to chat you up about building forges, making knives, and all manner of other interesting things.

 

Good luck.

Thanks, Christopher. I look forward to getting started ... once this clay dries ... and my steel shows up!

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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?

 

 

I'm a newbie and a coal user. Why? 1) Because the coal was free. I loaned a friend my trailer and he shoveled it all in. 2) I'm on a REALLY tight budget and couldn't shell out for even the propane. 3) We had a propane leak from the tank to our house a few years ago. Catastrophic explosion, and no more house. I haven't had a lump of coal explode yet.

 

Although there is a learning curve with coal, and the fire needs to be watched. Do you have enough fuel? Is it coking up right?

 

And there's the traditional factor, and I admit, to me, the smell of burning coke isn't too bad. Once it gets going.

 

As for coal and hamon clay, I haven't successfully created a hamon yet, but I have tried, and it is true you have to be careful putting your blade in the fire with clay on it, but I imagine if you weren't careful tossing it into a gas forge you could knock the clay off as well.

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We had a propane leak from the tank to our house a few years ago. Catastrophic explosion, and no more house. I haven't had a lump of coal explode yet.

 

Holy shit. I hope no one was home...

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Truly! I have had a lump of coal explode, but it just set a box of kleenex on fire and was easily put out. Then there was the time I watered down a green coal fire without the blast on. When the fresh air hit the coal gas generated it blew the 3" aluminum duct air pipe apart with a noise like a 12 gauge shotgun. That was exciting for sure, but easily preventable. Charcoal can pop out of the fire as well, not to mention the lovely sparks it throws. All fire is potentially dangerous. You just have to pay attention.

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