August 15, 2001. Complete ready-made forges were widely available in the earlier part of the 20th century. Mostly made of cast iron and occasionally fabricated of stamped or drawn sheet metal. These were made in every price range, size, and weight. Most came equipped for blowers. Some had a firepot incorporated in their design while cheaper ones relied simply on a deep hearth to build up a deep bed of fuel to contain the fire. Additional forges will be added to this page as I have the chance to photograph them or others send pictures to me.
The forge shown at right is a Canedy-Otto made of heavy cast iron with a deep firepot and a Canedy-Otto Royal Western Chief hand cranked blower. Found in an old barn that had collapsed, the previous owner bought it years ago at a farm sale. This forge is made of cast iron with pipe legs and was made around the turn of the century. When properly set up, forges like this are so simple a kid can learn to use them in minutes. The hearth measures roughly 27" x 34" at the widest points inside. A coal trough is cast at the front of the forge which measures roughly 9-1/2" x 25" at its widest points inside. The forge weighs roughly 250 lbs. The hearth is roughly 28 inches above the floor on the original legs.
Inspected and repaired as needed.
Here is a rebuilt blower installed on the forge. I have several of these Canedy Otto Western Royals and I rebuild them before installing on forges if they appear to have had any neglect. The blower on this forge got a thorough cleaning and the inspection showed excellent condition. So I resealed the crankcase, added a new custom made wooden hand crank grip, straightened the handle, primed and painted the case, and added a wooden shim between the blower mounting flanges to correct poor flange alignment.
Forges that have been sold will often need repairs.
Forges that have sat unused for long periods of time will most often need some repairs before being put back into service. This despite the owners claims to the contrary.
In this case the firepot had some rust damage that needed repaired. The bolting lugs on either side of the firepot had long since rusted off, and the uneven contact area around the rim of the firepot and the seating area in the forge hearth caused the firepot to move around or rock allowing fuel fall through the gap. Grinding the rim around the firepot to match the contours of the corresponding ledges in the forge hearth corrected this. I added a new air blast pipe made of 3 inch aluminum sheet metal pipe and screwed the pieces securely together. The pipe was just a bit small for sliding over the blower outlet, so sheet metal screws were sunk through the overlapping edges in the seam of the pipe just outside the area where the blower outlet is inserted in the pipe. The sheet metal screws prevented the pipe seam from tearing open any further than around where the blower outlet enters. Hose clamps were then tightened around the pipe to secure it to the blower outlet.
This forge is very comfortable to use and is best employed in a permanent or semi-permanent shop setting as the weight and bulk make the forge difficult to move. However there is one fault this forge shares with the majority of other factory made forges, and that fault is the level of the lowest edges of the sides of the hearth are located about 2 inches above the top of the firepot. Long bars therefore require a very large fire in order to heat. To understand this problem one must be familiar with the use and operation of the blacksmiths fire and the location of the heart of the fire (see Using The Fire). This forge is best used for short or small items such as horseshoeing, knife making and small tool making.
Many of these older forges still can be found for sale at auctions and farm sales today.
Hoods for using the forge indoors.
To use this type of forge indoors, a hood or some other means of removing smoke needs to be built. These old antiques may no longer be counted on to support a great deal of weight so if the hood mounts onto the forge, it should either be light such as a half hood with a short chimney pipe, or the hood should be free standing or hung from ceiling or wall.
At right are two photos of the same cast iron Canedy-Otto blacksmith's forge I previously used in my shop. This forge was sold.
The photo at far right shows my original setup with the hood mounted about 35 inches above the forge hearth and we found this to be too high, indeed the smoke went everywhere except up the chimney. It was difficult to determine the ideal height while building so I took a guess and built it. What made things worse was that I made an error in measuring the parts for the hood stand during fabrication, cutting the upright frame members longer (taller) than planned. I needed the forge the next weekend but this excessive height would need correction as we would soon find out.
An optimum height for the hood.
The photos at right and above left show this forge with the hood mounted 18 inches above the forge hearth. The 18 inch height above the forge works well and is comfortable to use, all smoke goes up the chimney now, but now having built and tested it I feel 16 inches above the hearth would have been ideal.
The last photo at right shows this forge in use with the new 18 inch hood in place. The lower hood placement proved to be comfortable to use. With this type of hood the path of the smoke is still vulnerable to being blown out from under the hood when breezes blow through the shop when for example, the doors are open or a fan is being used in the shop. Blocks placed under the feet of the forge help raise it to a more comfortable level for working. A sheet metal panel placed behind the forge helps deflect such breezes. Photos are from an animal heads making class in summer of 2001.
All the photos above are of the same forge. Some outdoors without a hood and more recently inside my shop with a hood in place. The forge was in good shape when I bought it and the blower was promptly disassembled and thoroughly cleaned and reassembled. I paid about $250 for this forge at the time of sale about 4 years ago. This is about an average price of a forge in fair condition and needing only minor cleaning of the blower.
Buffalo Forge & Tool
A stamped sheet metal forge made by the Buffalo Forge company early 20th century. This forge originally came with a hand cranked blower.
Constructed of a stamped or drawn sheet metal hearth, cast iron firepot, model 200 blower, angle iron legs, and a sheet metal half hood. The original hand cranked blower was removed by the current owner and a small electric driven oil-burning furnace boiler blower was installed. This latter blower has not worked very well. The original hand cranked blower was a good match for this forge. The firepot is a buffalo Vulcan and is about 4 inches deep with a dumping ash gate.
The edges of the firepot are about 3 inches below the sides of the hearth and a very large fire is needed to heat long bars that rest across both sides of the hearth. This is a medium size or medium-small forge and very light weight. Okay for horseshoeing and other work using short bar stock. Otherwise a poor choice of forge for heavy work or long work. This forge isn't very comfortable to use as a result of some modifications. For someone with no forge though, this will get them started.
Also the chimney pipe used on the half-hood was only 6 inches diameter. The small size of the pipe along with two right-angle bends in the pipe where it exited the building through a nearby wall, resulted in none of the smoke exiting the building through the chimney. We had to keep the large garage doors open all the way up in order to get rid of the smoke. The shop was very uncomfortable to work in with this setup since we were always exposed to extreme cold in winter, and smoke always filled the room. Anyone who acquires one of these forges would be well advised to cut open the hole in the top of the half-hood and expand it to take a 10 inch pipe or larger and run the chimney pipe straight out the roof.
Here is a very nice medium small size cast iron forge with a sheet metal half hood. The centrifugal blower is lever cranked and connected to the flywheel with a leather belt. Shown in these photos with all the machinery of a line-shaft driven machine shop of the early 20th century. The suggested use here is for a source of blacksmith's fire in the machine shop to be used in hardening and tempering of tools and making small odds and ends needed quickly in the machinist's trade. This style of forge is quite comfortable to use and still small and light enough to make it somewhat easy to transport to distant job sites or moved around the shop. The half hood is riveted together and of a square style or shape which would be very easy to repair or copy if smiths would like to make their own half hoods for their own existing forges at home. The chimney pipe on this forge appears to be about 6 inches in diameter. After seeing this style of half hood I wondered why I bothered making the rolled style in my own steel forge seen at http://www.beautifuliron.com/steel.htm
Overall this forge would well for occasional work and for some shop work. The lever crank would be rather uncomfortable for extended heavy work but the forge would perform the jobs expected of it. The hood might not draw that well though due to the large opening above the fire and the comparatively small chimney pipe diameter. A liner of firebrick along the back of the hood might help some but a chimney pipe of at least 8 inches or better would be needed. I don't know the maker of this forge.
To learn more about the Old Threshers' museum where pictures of the forge at right were taken, go here: http://www.oldthreshers.org/
More examples of factory made forges will be added in the future.
Latest update August 15th, 2001.
September 11th, 2000.
The author can be emailed at address in picture below: