Pages about blacksmithing, my home forge and workshop, and related subjects.

Project Handouts

Suitable for handing out at the beginning of a project class. Please feel free to hand them out in your class if you want, so long as the class is taught in person (no distance learning classes, please), and so long as the document is not modified (my work, I'd like credit for it and I'd like it to look good). Also feel free to use them to for yourself. Drop me an email if you want to use them some other way or modify them, and we can discuss it.


The Home Forge

Ever since I was a teenager, I'd been fascinated by metalworking. I spent a lot of time in college in the student shop, learning how to use a lathe and mill, and making various things. Every time we visit a living history center, my family knows where to look for me if I disappear: at the blacksmith, bladesmith, or armorer. It's just something I really like.

Over the years, I've gradually put together various bits and pieces of a blacksmith's shop. I picked up a 50lb Chinese anvil back in the 1980s, along with a nice post vise. In the 90s I put together a brake drum forge, with fire clay across the bottom (I'd thought to keep it from burning through, but it mostly made the fire pot too shallow). Every once in a while I'd pick up some other tool; a few hammers, a nice handled hot chisel, a 1/4" round punch, a round firepot in a catalog sale from Centaur Forge, and a small collection of scrap steel.

brake drum forge old work area 2nd forge work area
The brake drum forge in action. The old work area. The forge table in action. The work area.

Then I took some classes at Adam's Forge. They have good anvils, good tools, good propane forges, and very good instructors. The classes (CBA Level 1 & 2, and a number of other classes) taught hot work, had us make several tools and other objects, and also introduced such skills as team striking and forge welding. I've learned a great deal. I've also visited Vista Forge at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum near Oceanside, which uses coal forges instead of the propane forges used at Adam's Forge. Vista is a long drive for me, but the people and knowledge there are worth it.

I'd had the Centaur Forge coke firepot for years, and finally, after working with coal at Vista, I had the confidence to build a forge for it. I went with a flat table made of half-brick firebrick, with a rod and mesh underlayer, and some forged supports for the firepot. For the transition from the table to the firepot, I used some A.C. Green refractory clay I had left over, and made it much deeper than the brake drum forge I'd been using. I had been planning to make a great bellows for this forge, but got impatient and instead made a sliding air gate and attached the blower from my brake drum forge. It's a lot easier to use than the brake drum forge, but I think I may have placed the firepot too deep, and I may need to have a foot pedal or some other normally-open switch for the fan, as it goes through charcoal much faster than I want. I may also want to add some walls around the edges to keep the fuel from falling over the sides. It's a big step up, but there's still improvements to make.

If there's any specialty within smithing I want to pursue, it's knife making.

I'll add more as experience grows and time permits.