Forge Design
Home Up Blower, Firepot & Hearth Forge Chimneys Steel s-draft drawing Planning the forge Scans - Side Blast Forge Tools & Storage Styles of Forges Brake Drum Forges

 

Designing and building a blacksmith's coal forge.

How to design and build a high quality blacksmith's shop forge. Presented here are examples of forges custom designed and built by blacksmiths, descriptions of basic materials used, choosing a size and style based on work anticipated, descriptions of the parts of a forge and how they work together, and layout and location planning follow below. Also included are tips on selecting and inspecting forge equipment and links to other sources.

Latest update: Thursday, January 18, 2007. Text links on this page corrected to point to the new updated pages. Major rewrite for this page group is now in progress. Much of the material on this page and others will be moved and rewritten to make it easier to find specific subjects. More pictures and drawings will be added later.

Blower, firepot, and hearth - describes the selection and inspection and setup of these important parts of the forge.

Forge chimneys - most important of all parts of the forge is the chimney. Currently there appears to be a lot of misinformation about forge chimneys on the internet. This page was written as the result of my past years of experience working with coal forges as well as the adaptation and use of forges shared with us by professional smiths from many years ago. Here collected are theories of chimneys by smiths who have chosen to work permanently with coal forges.

Steel side-draft forge - an example of my latest fabricated small steel sidedraft forge.

Book scans, side-blast forges - examples of a style of forge blast that predates our modern firepots. Most of the examples on this  page show modern use of side-blast tuyeres. Most are from the UK at this time. This page was begun as a reprint of highlights of some of the email discussions I have had with other smiths about side-blast forges.

Planning the forge - under construction - basic beginning planning to help the new smith understand the thoughts and considerations involved before and during design of a custom shop forge.

These Forge Design pages are a work in progress so expect much change including additional text and photos. The direction of the subject matter has evolved into so many different ideas and approaches that for a while I wasn't even sure which way to continue it or what to add next. For now I will just continue adding material and worry about the way it is presented later.

How big do I need to build?

To begin this task, the builder must ask "what is this forge to be used for specifically?" This includes all work the smith wishes to use this forge for in the future. Think about the future. When first starting out, the beginner often sells themselves short by thinking "well I only want to make such and such so all I will probably need is a............" Well you get the picture. Forge building is a lot of work. Plan with an anticipation of projects you would like to build in the future so you aren't left with a forge of limited design for projects you want to make later on. It is also very important that the builder knows exactly how the fire works and how the iron is heated. This is the key to good design. If you don't know how to use the fire go here: Using the fire.

The type of work being heated has a direct impact on the shape and size of the forge. Some work is small and only needs a small forge and a deep firepot for convenience such as a horse shoe forge or a craft forge for making 'S' hooks or knives. Some work is large or very long so that it extends over the edges of the hearth while heating. Some forgings are extremely heavy and thick such as the parts of an anvil being forged, and a large hearth with great fuel capacity and access to a boom or crane is needed. Go to the Coal Forge pages to see some examples of general shop forges. Shortly I will add a new page detailing the actual setup or layout of a new forge and outline the actual steps of putting the forge design together. Here are some ideas and what they will mean to the size and style of forge:

bulletSword making. Seems like half the people I have met all want to make swords. The bars being forged are usually long and hang over one or both sides of the forge while heating. The level of the fire or height of the firepot must be level or higher than the sides of the hearth, so that the bar being heated may pass through the heart of the fire without being obstructed from laying through the heart of the fire. An enclosed forge would work if it is long enough or large enough, otherwise a hole or opening in the side of the hood will be needed to pass the long ends of the bar through. Hoodless and  hooded style forges would handle this work easily. A portable might have problems since the sides are usually higher than the heart of the fire. A custom built shop forge is the best solution for this work. This explained below in the Styles of forges section (later).

 

bulletHorse shoes, "S" hooks, knives, chains, and other small items. A small forge works fine for this stuff and can fit easily in the corner of a small shop. If the smith does nothing but small work then enclosed style and small forges are just right. Small work can be done in just about any type of forge. Most factory made forges are fine for this type of work and they can be picked up at auctions,  farm sales, and heavy horse sales.

 

bulletGates, railings, general repair and agricultural tooling. Most of these items require a large open area to maneuver bulky and awkward sizes and shapes of work in and out of the fire. Even individual scrolls can get quite large. Hearth size is a matter of preference but a small enclosed chimney or hood simply won't work for large items. Large hoods are ok for making parts for large railings but some provision is needed to be able to swing a large bar or forging into and out of the fire without obstructions. At left is an example of a forge used for general agricultural repair. A large custom built shop forge is of necessity for doing this type of work. And again this type of forge requires that the level of the fire or height of the firepot must be level or higher than the sides of the hearth.

These are just a small number of forge building suggestions to help give the new builder some idea of what they may need. The key point to remember when building a forge is to try to anticipate the types of work you intend to produce later on.

This page under construction. Lots more on the way. The goal of building this page is take the beginner all the way from learning about the different styles of forges, to understanding what ideas to plug into the formula for building his/her own shop built forge, to finally going into their shop and building their own forge.

Latest update January 18, 2007.

The author can be emailed at address in picture below:

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Page begun April, 2000.