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JoeM

Starting a smithy...

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Just starting to build my smithy and I need some advice.  I recently abandoned my previous hobby of home brewing and after selling some of my equipment, I would like some experienced direction on where to spend wisely.

I’ve managed to find a few anvils, make an anvil stand and purchased a decent MIG welder.  So now I’m looking for a forge and possibly a belt grinder?

-        Forges

Would it make sense to purchase a professionally built gas forge?  If so, what would be a worthwhile investment?  I’m located in British Columbia, Canada and its not something that is locally available.  I understand that forge that uses a blower is far more efficient.

If building is a better option:

1.      I’ve read that soft firebrick (kiln brick) is the best choice IF taking the brick route.  I could probably weld a frame together to keep the firebrick together, but should I mortar them together using refractory?  And should I be using a harder brick as the floor of the forge?

2.      I have a few stainless-steel quarter kegs left over from my brewing days, which I could convert into a forge.   Would this make a good forge body?  In this case, should I use kaowool and refractory cement?

 

-        Belt Grinders

I’ve seen belt grinders being used extensively. Is this something that is worth purchasing?  Over the years, I’ve been collecting electric motors and managed to find a 220V adjustable speed motor recently.

I think that’s it for now, thank you for your help.

 

Joe

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I take a try at sorting this out

Forges.

Do not automatically assume a blown forge is "more economical". Construction and tuning of the burner(s), the forge body, and its efficiency, all have a great effect on how "economical" the forge is.

IMO if you are serious about economic efficiency I would forget the bricks. Again IMO a metal shell, kaowool or simiar with a refractory coating will be the most efficient to run, again assuming good design and construction. I will caveat the "bricks" comment by adding a trade-off may be needed if you plan on forge welding. It might be a good choice to put a hard brick, not soft, bottom in the forge to avoid the flux damage. You would have to balance the overall interior size vs insulation, vs burner output to try to hit a good, efficient balance.

Google search "forge build site:bladesmithsforum"

For detailed info

The same search for "grinders" will yeild a ton of info. Between home build and reliable brands the only constant I have to offer is "go with a 2X72 because of availability and variety and more work per belt as opposed to smaller belts.

If you are headed towards bladesmithing/knifemaking I suggest reading the "So, you want to make a knife" thread pinned at the top of this section.

ETA: if you are going toward forge welded,pattern welded, damascus, then strongly consider a power hammer.

Edited by Vern Wimmer

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2 hours ago, JoeM said:

I’ve seen belt grinders being used extensively. Is this something that is worth purchasing?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: definitely yes.

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Vern, thank you for the information and your thoughts.  I'll read all that you have suggested and post back any questions.

D. Giangi, thank you for the clarifying the long and short of it. :)

Joe.

 

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Empty propane tank forges are good to, just cut the sides off and wrap  the inside with Kaowool and cover the Kaowool with a mixture of Satanite and water. Then cut a hole in the propane tank and put a burner into it weld some legs on. At least thats what Im going to do.

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15 minutes ago, JoeM said:

Thanks Conner.  Do you have any plans you are working from? 

Imagination I guess.. also I asked around on this forum if it would work and everyone said it would so I decided to start doing it. I just have not had the time yet.

Edited by Conner Michaux

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Before asking, just google site:bladesmithsforum.com gas forge. There is plenty of information here. Please have a look around and read the pinned threads especially.

Edited by Charles du Preez

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I don't have much to add that others already have. I've experimented with brick forges on a small scale for HT before moving to a round full-sized forge body. It's one thing to read on here about a flame swirling around for an equal heat and another to see it in action. I always remember the brick forges not being since there was always an obvious hot spot where a cylindrical body does a better job of spreading the flame. Just my preference though, built properly both should work.

As for grinders, if you know for certain that you like bladesmithing and will stick with the hobby, a good 2x72" grinder is probably the safest investment you can make. Outside the forge all the work I do on a blade revolves around the grinder. Profiling, beveling, polishing, handle shaping, just about everything I can do besides drilling holes and fine file work. You WILL get your money's worth out of them. If you have the motor you can throw in a VFD or pulley system to adjust the speed. The only question left is are you going to make your own chassis or buy one. I didn't trust my welding skills, so I bought the one from Oregon Blade Maker. High quality and good price. If you want to save a few bucks and make your own, there's plenty of designs out there.

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I'm going to put something out there that I think some overlook. 

I am a big fan of the two-wheel bench grinders. I have several. My Grandfathers is a big old industrial that I started on. It has a hard wheel on one side for profiling and a wire wheel on the other which is great for removing scale. Both of these functions done on the bench grinder save a lot of wear on the disposable belts of a belt grinder. The stones and wire wheels last a long, long time. I have a couple of others, on one I used a dressing wheel to shape the stone to a convex profile to get into tighter places profiling.

They are not a substitute for a belt grinder but I got both my "extra" ones on sale seperately for less than the cost of a dozen mid-quality belts and they will do a whole lot more profiling. Add the wire wheel to one side and they will out last several dozen belts for scale removal.

Edited by Vern Wimmer

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As for forges, I have a propane tank forge. Works great. I cut a 4x4 square out of each end for doors, then 3 layers of 1" inswool, and some mizzuo (same idea as satanite). I ended up purchasing enough stuff to make my forge twice, and it all cost about $120 with shipping. Also incredibly easy to build. It's been going for about a year and is still working great.

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Vern, thank you.  I've already picked one of those up on sale.  Its only a 110V, but it should do fine to do as you suggested.

Ethan,  thank you.  I was going to use one of my old stainless kegs to build the forge, but I think it'll be too thin and wobbly for the body.  I have a  30lbs propane tank that I'll convert.  What burner set up did you use?

Joe.

 

 

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1 hour ago, JoeM said:

Vern, thank you.  I've already picked one of those up on sale.  Its only a 110V, but it should do fine to do as you suggested.

Ethan,  thank you.  I was going to use one of my old stainless kegs to build the forge, but I think it'll be too thin and wobbly for the body.  I have a  30lbs propane tank that I'll convert.  What burner set up did you use?

Joe.

 

 

search google bladesmithsforum venturi burner James Spurgeon. His design uses venturi but can easily be converted to blown if need be. I've been using it for the past months and it works very well. 

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1 hour ago, JoeM said:

Vern, thank you.  I've already picked one of those up on sale.  Its only a 110V, but it should do fine to do as you suggested.

Ethan,  thank you.  I was going to use one of my old stainless kegs to build the forge, but I think it'll be too thin and wobbly for the body.  I have a  30lbs propane tank that I'll convert.  What burner set up did you use?

Joe.

 

 

I also used an empty propane tank.....still stunk so bad that the local pd and fire department showed up. Amazes me when a neighbor would rather call the cops than come knock on my door.:angry: I used 2" of wool and cast o lite (like satinite)

I didnt feel like the learning curve on the burners and bought 2 burners,regulator, and lines with quick disconnect for 225.00. Not sure how much I could have saved doing them myself.

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Thank you Joel and Kreg.

Kreg, when I would brew beer, one of my neighbors would take pictures.  I'm guessing he thought it was a still and want "proof" in case something blew up.  I would offer him a drink but he would skitter away.  Never phoned the coppers on me though.

Joe.

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I threw together a blown burner based on the one shown in the blown burners thread by Geoff Keyes, he was super helpful with my dumb questions. A friend of mine has helped me make a few modifications to be able to run things more efficiently, but the basic blown version will work just fine. Try to avoid having too many connections and pipe-size changes, it messes with the steadiness of the flame a bit.

This is most of the modified setup (the blower is kinda cut off there...) With a ball valve (which i need to change to a gate valve) for fine air control, and needle valve for fine gas control, with interchangeable nozzles for different temp setups, but thats a whole other thing.

IMG_20171219_114335.jpg

Edited by ethanknott

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20 minutes ago, JoeM said:

Thank you Joel and Kreg.

Kreg, when I would brew beer, one of my neighbors would take pictures.  I'm guessing he thought it was a still and want "proof" in case something blew up.  I would offer him a drink but he would skitter away.  Never phoned the coppers on me though.

Joe.

It was on Halloween. I typically get zero tricky treaters so I didnt even buy candy. About the third knock I opened the door to say sorry I have no candy and there was 2 cop and 2 firemen. I took em out back and explained I was making a forge for blade making.

The one fire man looks at the chief and says "charges?" ...at which I got a little weak in the knees.

The chief say naaaaaa....then looks over at my neighbors and says "its ok...he is just making knives. lol

I made beer for a long time....mostly hefe's.

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Ethan, thank you for the picture and the information.  I've started roaming Home Depot and Princess Auto for the burner parts.  

Kreg, mostly stouts and dark ales, until my liver said "No more ... please..."

 

 

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Helps to have a wife who's a medic with the VFD. :rolleyes::ph34r:

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The forge is a tricky question with a lot of variables.  Firstly, do you want to just hop to it and go at forging - if so, buy one, a small one. To build one, to be simple you don't need as much as what you may think but you will need time to devote to understanding how it works.  A small "clam shell" style of forge can do a lot of work (but it has a big trade off too if not properly closed up when you don't need the sliding door). I do more decorative stuff, and the forge I built is 10" deep (x) about 4in across.  It is actually much deeper than what I need at times, most of the time I'm using half of that space and there's a lot of waster energy in there.   One of the professional smiths I learned from had a forge 8in deep with a clam shell design and it was his main working forge for everything accept welding.

If your going to build a gasser - don't worry about attempting to get it to welding heat at first.  If you're just getting your hands dirty make it so it can get to a bright orange/yellow heat.  A good rule that may get you there is minimize hard refractories.  coat your wool with just enough to keep the fibers from becoming airborne and survive the occasional poke.  Soft refractories tend to reflect heat,  hard refractories eat heat.

Belt grinder . . . err um . . . a big 2x72 is nice, but you can get by with a nice little metal working belt sander - I recently gave up on the idea of building one because I really didn't see the need for it. On knives, the old sander I got gets me down to 120 - and then I hand sand the rest of my knifes (but this is small work, I'm not making swords for quite some time).  Decorative work, well you just try to train yourself to leave a nice finish and never sand, and with determination, hot rasping defeats any sander.  

 

I would also add, if this is you're first time thinking about forging, look around for a local guild/club. Even if their far off, it is worth the time to jump into a class (if offered).  Learning hands on from someone is invaluable if you can get it and the clubs are out there, you just gotta find them. 

 

 

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The first question is:

What do you wish to make?

Your tools and techniques go from that.

Ric

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Daniel W, thank you for the great advice.  

Richard, at first it will be decorative work for an iron fence I'm building around my property, followed by some decorative / functional kitchen equipment for my wife.   Knives and axes will be in there too.

 

 

 

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So an engineer friend of mine has been combining ideas and playing with a few things, and he's managed to make a blown forge that welds at 1 psi. It's about time for me to rebuild my own forge, so he and I will put something together, and once I know a bit more of what I'm talking about, I'll toss some info up somewhere on here about the build.

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Check out the Build a Gas Forge attachment at the Forge Supplies page at www.WayneCoeArtistBlacksmith.com.  For information on blown burners check out the Ribbon Burner attachment on the same page.

For info on belt grinders watch the video on the Grinders page and the DVD on the DVD page.

Let me know if I can help you.  I prefer e-mails.

 

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