Picture of Brake drum blacksmith forge
My son caught the blacksmithing bug while he was at summer camp so we investigated building our own blacksmith forge and found that brake drum forges are a very popular way to get into the hobby.  We built our blacksmith forge out of a brake drum, 2" pipe, cinder blocks, a light dimmer switch and hair dryer.  Here is a video with all of the same pictures in this instructable plus a short video at the end of the forge in action.

Step 1:

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This is the basic design.  A 2" floor flange was bolted to the underside of the brake drum to which a 2" coupler was used to attach it to a 2" T-connector.  A longer coupler was attached to the side to accept the hair dryer and a bottom pipe was attached to the bottom to collect the ash.  This is usually capped with a 2" cap so the air can't escape that direction but I didn't want to have to wait until the forge cooled to unscrew the cap and empty the ash and I was concerned the cap would become permanently attached by rust since the forge would be stored outside in the rain.  I'll show you how we handled that part.

Note: The brake drum was free but it took visits to several garages to find it because brake drums are harder to find now that disc brakes are becoming more common on the rear wheels of new cars.  A large brake rotor with a large hub will work but the hub will still not be as large as even an average-sized brake drum.
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LesterM314 days ago
nwonharp1 month ago

You might try an auto-wrecking yard where they sell used auto and truck parts for your brake drum . If you explain to them what you need it for , they may have some that are " worn out " and not useable on a vehicle , or even an odd-ball size that they probably couldn't sell anyway , but would work just fine for your forge ! They would likely give you a good price . Also , some shop-vacs have another hose connection so that you can use it as a blower ( for your " bellows " ) You may have to experiment to get the airflow right , just a thought .

Anon123452 months ago

Is charcoal an viable replacement for coal? It is much easier to find in my area.

well, it worked for me:


This was using my barbecue as a forge :)

E. BryanR made it!4 months ago

Haven't had a chance to fire her up yet but she's beautiful!

atluft made it!8 months ago

Thank you from another father and son back from camp. Found 5 hole drum at a towing company for core price of $6 and blower came from a water heater. Doesn't need much air flow (like you wrote), dimmer is adjusted way down. Drilled 3/8" holes to mount the 4 hole flange onto the 5 hole brake drum. Our floor flange accepted 3/8" hex bolts. Stoker coal around here is $13 for 100lb.


Nice tutorial, I made mine with inch and a half black iron pipe. I heard galvanized when heated can actually kill you. Another adjustment I made was laying an old circular saw blade in the inside bottom of the brake drum to plug up the out side holes. I also drilled a bunch of small holes in the center of it to create a grate for good air flow. Now Im just working on the base. I wanted to have it stand taller so im trying to figure out a way to do it. Any suggestions?

Welding a few metal posts to the drum would let it stand properly. Alternatively, I have seen someone who happened to find an old table with a glass top. They removed the glass top and the drum just so happened to fit perfectly. Theres a lot of luck in that last one, but hit up a few yard sales maybe?

AaronY889810 months ago
building one asap, thanks for the tutorial
That's something I had not considered... Are there any coal mines in the US?
I suppose we just take coal for granted here in the UK.
Good 'ible - thanks.
From Wikipedia: "The United States was ranked as the 2nd coal producing country in the world in 2010, and possesses the largest coal reserves in the world."

So, yes, lots of them. It is mainly used by industry here (power production). It and isn't something you can run down to the local corner store and buy.
Eirinn Goodluck2 years ago
I'm guessing BBQ coal wont work?
Cant Hardly Eirinn12 months ago

Yes, it will work. Use the lump style hardwood charcoal, and not the briquettes. It burns up faster, so you use more charcoal that coal, but it works well.

better watch out guys. Obammie and his mammy don't like the coal. Reminds him of what he got in his stocking for Ramadan

just kidding. This is really awesome project. I liked the idea of welding steel plate to RR track. Seems like it would work well.

bbq coal works ive also used pallet wood
why briquettes are a bad idea is due to the clay binders used to hold them into shape. it heats up unevenly as well as sticks to your work which causes excessive pitting. natural hickory charcoal lump is much better.
BBQ charcoal is just charred wood pressed into briquettes, not nearly enough heat is produced.
I use BBQ coal to melt aluminum in a small blast furnace I built. It is just fine for providing enough heat. I have to make sure I don't get it too hot as a matter of fact.
So.. do you know who is the biggest coal producer in the world?
I believe the Wikipedia article said China.
I don't know about the area you live in but I know that a lot of the landscape supply businesses around here that sell bulk mulch also sell bagged and bulk quantities of coal.
Somewhere in E/Mt. You should be able to Yahoo some up.
I live in west virginia u.s.a. and all of our electric power comes from burning coal along with most of the entire east coast.

I'm building one of these brake drum forges and beware anyone looking to purchase the black iron pipe, I bought an actual 2 inch thread flange, they are very expensive for actual 2 inch thread flanges (47 dollars, I was discounted about 70%) keep this in mind, go a bit smaller and more common.

aenewton1 year ago

will this work with 1 3/4" diameter pipe because i cant find any 2" pipe in my area

for both pipe amd wood, the measurements are in whole inches, yet the actual dimensions of a 2" diameter pipe is 1 3/4"
aenewton1 year ago

This works great, even if you don't use coal!!! I love it excellent project.

Great brake drum forge plans with the bucket of water for an airtight ash dump. Although, I am not sure about the electrical mechanics for the hair dryer since it uses an electrical transformer for the plugin voltage, but some fans require their own especially made dimmer switches for them. I know that the bathroom ventilator, being a 50~55 CFM air supply source for my forge, is more than enough air flow to get a heat of metal to over forge-welding temperatures and so I had found a dimmer switch especially made for them by Lutron for somewhat of a similar price. By any chance, would a 1" thick, 6" x 8" Steel flat-bar plate suffice for an anvil just until I can get the handle on blacksmithing without going to the 'soft as lead' Harbor Freight cast iron?

yes the plate will work until you can find a more suitable anvil I use a piece of railroad track for an anvil and it works great its just really loud

Great idea with the water in the bucket. Nice project

Slim491 year ago
WoW! nice job.
found a great info link on all sorts of traditional rural craft including the,
COSIRA Black Smithing course.
Good Luck to all.
As for an anvil anything that is big and heavy and hard will work. I try to stay away from the harbor freight stuff. I used one and not too keen on them. Unless your son finds he really needs the horn you're better off going to a scrap yard or a steel dealer and just getting a 100lb block of steel and using that. A bladesmith that i know uses a waist high 4"dia round bar cast into a 5gal bucket of concrete buried in the ground and that works as well as my 200 year old 208lb anvil for making knives. When using a block of steel "thickness" is better than the size of the surface. I hit gold when i found a block that was 2"thick and was a foot square at 50cents/lb. i used the 2" side as my working surface and it worked great until i got my current anvil.
ive got a 4 inch peice of RR track in a coffe can with concrette for an anvill it works for knives i also use a foot long i beam for big stuff its just really loud
for stuff that is really loud try sticking a few magnets to the side. Got my wife a cast steel anvil a few years back and it was painfully loud to use. Stuck one of those industrial sized magnets (think small paperback book) I got off ebay to the side and that quieted things right down. On occasion it is even useful for keeping things in place.
zacker2 years ago
Great job!!! I have a RR track anvil, unless you can find one that isnt rounded on the top its a bit hard to use. I am toying witht he idea of getting a 4" wide piece of 3/4" thick steel welded to the top of it. Buying a real anvil is almost like buying a car these days, they are so expensive its crazy, as is finding a good Blacksmiths leg vise, At least over here on the East coast. I like this idea, I have a home made Propane burned for now but the coal seems to be a better heat and less money.
my freind found a nice anvil for 20 buck at a yard sail and he doesnt smith im using rr track to
$20.00??? wow. That was a steal! Every time I see one its at least $300.00! I did see on Craigs list once, a guy was selling a steel top work table, he said it was 4 inches thick and somethinglike 2 feet wide by 4 foot long and like 1300 lbs! lol... that would have been the ultimate, a work table / Anvil all in one.you could even sit your forge right on top of it and stick a vise on the side, youd never have to move to do any work...lol
If you run out of coal, you can use lump charcoal.It burns VERY hot.
It's usually pretty cheap and you can normally find it at Walmart or other places that sell grilling stuff.
To start it, just soak it in lighter fluid and light it.EASY!!!
But don't use briquette charcoal, it won't burn hot enough.
Coal is hard to find these days, and is usually expensive, so for most people lump charcoal is the best alternative.
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