Basic Brake Drum Forge for Under $40





Introduction: Basic Brake Drum Forge for Under $40

Just a basic run through on a tried and true standard.  The small scale hobbyist smith coal forge, with upgrades soon to come.  I spent many happy hours in my youth turning out dozens of leaf blade throwers hammered out of hydraulic lifters with a forge just like this and a scrap of I beam as an anvil.  I eventually expanded my horizons and started making more useful tools and articles in steel, began experimenting with forge welding and then broke my hand.  Six weeks later, with a no longer wounded paw and an average teenager's attention span, I wandered on to other hobbies and interests.  Now, many years later I find an urge to beat things with a hammer again, and wanted to make sure that I did it properly.  

***** EDIT ***** Please use safe methods when using galvanized piping around heat sources.  At high temperatures, the zinc oxide plating can vaporize and cause metal poisoning.  If you must use galvanized, the coating can be removed by soaking in a mild acid such as vinegar for several days and then mechanically stripping the outer layer. 

Step 1:

I wanted to make another start, but did not have the money to invest in anything large scale.  This basic forge was built for under $40 with only two stops for materials and a build time of approx 10 minutes. 

Materials needed...

1.  Brake Drum (size as you feel appropriate) from local wrecking yard or neighbors unattended vehicle
2.  Floor flange (size to fit brake drum)
3.  T Connection (size to fit floor flange)
4.  Nipples (both close, and long)
5.  Nuts and Bolts (sized to fit flange)
6.  Shower Drain Strainer

I picked up the brake drum at my local wrecking yard.  $10 for self service and there was no shortage of loose ones scattered about for the choosing.  I probably spent more time eyeballing potential new projects than I did choosing a body for my forge.  I then stopped by my favorite Home Depot for the rest of the supplies.  I picked up a 1" floor flange for the underside of my forge with a standard shower drain for the inside grate.  Went with a matching 1"close nipple, 1" Tee and another 6" nipple for my air supply.  Snagged some #10 nuts and bolts for the connections and headed for the house.

Step 2:

I'm not terribly concerned about looks on this guy, so I skipped all of the normal prep work I would do on metal work.  Just didn't feel the need to address the rust or cobwebs on this.  First thing was to place the shower strainer on the inside of the brake drum with the floor flange matching up on the outside of the brake drum.  Part of my reason for choosing the 1" fittings was due to the convenient way that the pre drilled holes matched up on the flange and the shower strainer.  Make the connections with the #10 fasteners and tighten them up so that the brake drum is sandwiched between the flange and the strainer.  I went all the way up to a 2" floor flange trying to match the predrilled holes in the drum, but no love was found.  I am leaving the empty holes alone for now, I'm not worried about burning anything underneath, and they may be useful as extra airflow.  Now moving on to my tuyere for airflow.

Step 3:

Now that the main body is built, it's time to move on to the air supply and ash dump.  Use the close nipple and the tee to attach to the bottom of the forge.  I ran the 6" nipple out the side of the tee for the future blower connection, and left the bottom open to let the finer ash and dust sift down under the forge.  Not ready yet to create a permanent work area for this, so it's time to look around for something I can set this on with some clearance underneath.  Since I made a trip to a not so local farrier supply before Christmas (for my traditional gift of coal for some friends) I've been sitting on almost 50 pounds of anthracite that I finally get to do something useful with.

Step 4:

I used my charcoal grill as a temporary base until I decide exactly what my work layout needs to be.  I will most likely go with a reinforced cinder block stand for a while.  I ran a stub of old garden hose and used the blow gun on my compressor to provide air for a test run.  I will definitely need to get my air supply up and running soon.  I forgot how hard it is to start hard coal without any coke.  I definitely remember how important it is to always save some back when the forge goes cold.  Took forever and three weeks (plus a little charcoal as a cheater) to get this guy started, but at least now I have some coke for an easier start next time around.  Now I just need  to pick up another section of railroad track, unless I finally hit paydirt on one of the trips I have to make with my wife to all of those antique stores and find that elusive high quality anvil for almost nothing.  After that I plan on pulling a 12 volt squirrel cage fan from another car at the salvage yard and wiring in a rheostat for speed control as my blower.  Then on to the important work, building some good tools.  The only decent looking wolf jaws I've been able to find cost more than my forge.  My final thoughts on this are that it will be a decent setup for some initial, basic work.  I know that I will not be able to resist tweaking this thing before to long, and I will be sure to add or update if I come up with anything wonderful.

This is the first 'ible I have ever published so thank you for reading.

Happy reading.
Happy building.
Happy making.



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    24 Discussions

    You can buy those fancy-dan propane forges for a few hundred bucks, but building your own from a brake drum, I think, gives a guy a sense of accomplishment that you can't get from just typing in your credit card number on eBay. I'm on my way to building one of these, but the bugaboo for me is WHERE DO YOU FIND COAL? There are places that sell it online, but jeezaloo, they want a buck a pound plus shipping. There has to be a better source. Suggestions, anyone?

    6 replies

    Tractor Supply Co., which claims to operate in 49 states may have a store close to you. They have nut or rice coal, though it is anthracite, at $6.29 a 40 lb. bag. Comparing that to Lowe's $5.99 for Royal Oak 15 lb. bag of briquettes, that's pretty cheap. Less than half the price if the nearest store to you can get it, and according to what I've read, it's one of the cleaner options. I was given a couple of brake drums here recently and am planning to set up a couple forges at my school, and I'm considering some anthracite from a local store at just over $12 for 40 lbs., which is still a good price. The closest Tractor Supply is too far away to save $6 on that. However, maybe there's one nearer you, or if you live anywhere it gets cold, it should be possible to find locally. It's still used for home heating. Just look around. If you get lucky and live in the South, I think Alabama has a bituminous coal mine, so maybe you could scare some of that up at a reasonable price. Rumor has it it cokes better and you can cover the heart of the fire with it to protect your eyes from the glare. Anyway, have fun forging!

    Use hardwood charcoal, they should sell it at most hardware stores. I use the brand Royal oak, and it works great

    Thanks for the tip. I've seen that brand at Walmart and other places. I'll try it!

    I haven't done this myself but you could also make your own charcoal. To use the old methods leaves you with quite a bit of waste but if you can make a charcoal retort you will have more charcoal to use. again I haven't done this myself but I would like to

    I HAVE done this (Charcoal Retort) in my backyard and it's real easy - and can be done safely and easily without smoking out the neighbors or burning down the house - for the cost of a surplus 55gal drum, a smaller sealable inner drum a steel pipe from a junk yard, and minimal welding knowledge.

    I haven't used it (charcoal) in a brake drum forge yet (i'm building one for my son this weekend) but I've used it for other applications and feel that it would work out just fine.

    Thanks for the tip. I've seen that very brand at Walmart and other places. I'll try that!

    hey nice project! A really simple way to slow a DC fan down is to get two crocodile / alligator clips and a length of stainless mig welding wire. break the live wire feed to the fan, clip the feed to one end of the wire and attach the other clip to the wire a few inches along move the other, then move the clip along and watch to see the fan speed or slow depending in the direction you move it. you can also measure the resistance of the welding wire. It's 'poor boy' resistance wire.

    Nice instructable... I am going to use it to give new folks who ask me a good idea of how to make a forge...


    Can you provide pictures of the nipples? I can't picture what you are talking about. Thanks. Good simple Instructable. I like it and will probably build one. I've thought about making a forge for some time and trying it out.

    1 reply

    A close nipple is one that has threads on both ends, but little or no unthreaded pipe in between... If you look in the picture above it is directly below the tee fitting... Long nipples are ones where there is more unthreaded pipe in the middle, in the picture the one to the left of the tee is a long nipple...


    indeed. im hoping to build a small forge kind of like this one, and wiuld love to see some forging tools actually forged. ..might even have a small market on that. id buy lol

    love it ...i'm going to go the same way as your instructable , keep it coming if you are making tools as i am completely new to forging . thanks for this .

    listen and listen close , not to be blunt , but you need to edit the main post right now and warn people to not use any galvanized materials ANYWHERE on a forge. People die from this. ventilation or no ventilation its an extreme danger. even if you have pro level ventilation you are going to have heavy metal dust everywhere and its extremely toxic.

    Unless yo have a source for an inexpensive heavy duty rheostat I'd grab some blower motor speed control resistors and switches while at the salvage yard.. They are made to run all day without problems.

    1 reply

    My electronics skills are sub par. At the moment that project might be beyond what I could pull off. (Practicing my solder skills when I can, so maybe soon.) I need to put eyes and hands on the blower itself so I can see if I could maybe fab some kind of hand crank. I could just buy one, but that's no fun.

    Edit...The floor flange and the air pipe were galvanized. We were out of the black pipe in those two items at my Home Depot(I work there), but I did use black for the nipple and tee.

    The flange and the tee are both galvanized. I do not have any kind of shelter for my workspace at the moment, so plenty of ventilation. Also,ZnO decomposes into zinc vapor and oxygen at around 1975 °C. Heating with carbon converts the oxide into zinc vapor at a much lower temperature (around 950°C). I don't think I will be getting the base or the tuyere anywhere close to those temps, so I should be safe from metal flu. Thank you very much for the concern though, and a safety tip I should have included.

    i would suggest for your air supply to use an old hair dryer!