Introduction: DIY Mini Forge

Picture of DIY Mini Forge

Lately I've been wanting to make some pocket knives for my friends and family.. So, I'm going to make a simple mini forge at TechShop to temper the steel...

This forge is meant to burn coal.. You can you lump charcoal and wood, but it will take a lot more of it to keep the heat at the right temperature for the duration of the process..

Step 1: Things You Will Need..

Picture of Things You Will Need..


-- 1 1/4" Scrap Black Iron Pipe..
-- 1/2" Scrap Black Iron Pipe..
-- 1 1/4" Scrap Iron Pipe Tee..
-- 1 1/4 Scrap Iron Pipe Cap..

-- 1/8" Scrap Angle Iron..

-- Small Scrap Plate of 1/8" Steel..

-- 11" Diameter Scrap Brake Drum..

-- Cheap Hairdryer or Other Blowing Device..


-- Horizontal Bandsaw..

-- Cold Saw..

-- Flow Waterjet..

-- Angle Grinder..

-- Lincoln 255xt (MIG)..


Step 2: Waterjet?.. Duh..

Picture of Waterjet?.. Duh..

We need to plug the five holes in the bottom of the brake drum, and also reduce the diameter of the main hole... Sooo?.. DUH! We're at TechShop, lets waterjet that piece! 

We'll cut a small plate with a 1.27" diameter hole in the center. This plate will allow us to mount the black Iron pipe to the bottom of the brake drum.

Step 3: Choppin' Some Pipe..

Picture of Choppin' Some Pipe..

Time to start cutting that pipe! we got a forge to build!!!

The length you cut on the pipe is up to you. Just think of how tall you want it to stand. This forge is a little over 3 feet..

-- Cut the 1 1/4" pipe down on the bandsaw so that you have two longer pices and one short piece..

-- Make sure the shorter of the pieces has a threaded end so we can attach a cap to let debris out of the pipe..

-- The longer piece that will be mounted to the brake drum should have a threaded end as well. This will allow the blower arm to pivot..

Step 4: Plug Doz Holes and Mount Some Pipe..

Picture of Plug Doz Holes and Mount Some Pipe..

-- Hammer the 1/8" steel plate onto one of the longer pipes that were cut..

-- Grab that brake drum and get it ready for some welding..

-- Position the plate and pipe so the that the pipe opening is in the center of the brake drum hole..

-- Weld the plate and pipe together..

-- Weld that plate to the brake drum.. Crank that MIG and make sure you get good penetration..

Step 5: Tee Time..

Picture of Tee Time..

-- Thread the tee to the pipe coming from the Brake drum.. Thread it enough so that it's almost all the way tightened, but will still let the blower arm rotate..

-- Weld the blower arm to the tee so that it forms a 90° angle with the pipe coming from the brake drum..

-- Weld the shorter pipe to the bottom of the tee..

-- Thread the end cap on.. This will allow us to release any ash or debris that falls into the pipe.. 

Step 6: Get Your Angle On..

Picture of Get Your Angle On..

-- Cut down some of the 1/8" angle to make a square on the base of the brake drum..

-- Weld up the little frame on the bottom of the brake drum.. Again make sure you get good penetration on this weld!! This frame will be used to help mount the legs to the brake drum..

Step 7: A Little Mo Choppin'..

Picture of A Little Mo Choppin'..

-- Cut down that 1/2" pipe on the band saw to the desired height of the forge..

-- Cut down some smaller pieces of pipe to be used as horizontal supports for the legs..

Step 8: Legs and Supports..

Picture of Legs and Supports..

-- Cut the ends of 1/2" pipe on the cold saw at a 75° angle.. these ends will be mounted to the frame and brake drum..

-- Weld the legs to the frame and the brake drum.. It's crucial that these are securely welded!

-- Weld some supports for the legs.. this will help with any wobbling..

-- If any of the pieces are uneven.. Cut them down with the angle grinder..

Step 9: We're Blowin' Up..

Picture of We're Blowin' Up..

-- Mount the hair dryer to the blower arm.. I just used duct tape and a slightly larger piece of pipe to mount the blower. I did this because I only want to affix this blower temporarily. I will find a more suitable one in the future..

-- If you use a hair dryer, put a piece of tape over the cool button.. We don't need the blower to blow hot air when the fire will do that for us.. Plus I was worried bout this old thang over heating..

Step 10: Kick the Blower and Spark That Flame..

Picture of Kick the Blower and Spark That Flame..

-- Now you're ready to get that forge burnin'.. I'm not going to get into the details of how to use a forge yet.. I will post another Instructable soon showing you how I temper some of the knives I'm making.. But in the meantime here's a couple shots of it in action..


bennelson (author)2013-03-08

I built a similar forge recently completely from recycled and salvaged materials. A welder and angle-grinder were the only tools needed.

It was pretty neat to go from never having done any blacksmithing before, to building a forge, and starting to work on some metal projects in just one afternoon.

I had the Bob Rubert  blacksmithing video and made some little twisted coat hooks from old-fashioned square nails. I also tried a railroad-spike knife, which turned out ok. Not as great as I would have loved, but it was the first time I ever tried anything like it!

Thank you for the link - very nice!

MR.. (author)bennelson2013-03-08

Thats awesome!!
It really is amazing how easily you can build a forge and get going in one day.
I can't wait to show y'all the stuff i'll be working on..

vicarofrevelwood (author)2013-07-04

You can add a foot operated switch that the Hair dryer plugs into.

lykle (author)2013-03-08

Nice writeup, . Pity I can't get coal around here.
I think for now I will stick to my smelting furnace when I need high heat.
But the moment I find some coal, I will come back to this one.
Saved in my "Future Projects" folder.

Just thought i would mention making charcoal out of dense timber makes it last longer and burn hotter. If you can find the very base of a stump from a dense old tree and turn that into charcoal it makes a big difference.

Yes! Or you could use any kind of hardwood lump charcoal. Either way it won't burn as hot as coal and you'll end up using more of it. But in the end the same result can be achieved with charcoal as it can with coal.

MR.. (author)lykle2013-03-08

Check out

lykle (author)MR..2013-03-09

Yes, good site, but they do not ship to Cyprus.
And I think it would be way to expensive to ship to here as well.
Never mind, I will use charcoal.

MR.. (author)lykle2013-03-09

Ah, sorry! I didn't realize where your location was.

Pfarmkid (author)2013-04-27

I have a old brake drum forge leftover from the previous lan owners (twenty years ago) it used to run for us but then was neglected for years do you have any ideas for a blower??? besides a blow drier???

MR.. (author)Pfarmkid2013-04-27

Sure! Right now I'm actually running a Vacmaster 2.5-Gallon Wet/Dry instead of the hair dryer. I bought it used at a garage sale for 10 bucks! I also will be installing a valve so I can control the air flow. I'll either post the mods I do on this Instructable or make a new one just for the valve install. Let me know how that works out and If you need any other help. Have a great day.

cody.lomas (author)2013-03-12

really like the forge design ive been smithing for a couple of years my forge isnt nearly as well constructed all i used was half a propane tank exaust pipe and concrette the motor is just a air matress pump and i got a rail road track for an anvil

MR.. (author)cody.lomas2013-03-12

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed!!

cody.lomas (author)2013-03-12

also are you hammering your knives or just using the forge for heat treating

MR.. (author)cody.lomas2013-03-12

I'll just be using it for heat treating at the moment.

sseeterflamuelli (author)2013-03-10

forge ahead!

oppie (author)2013-03-10

Just for reference, look up induction furnace or induction forge. That's how modern heating of iron is done. Very clean and energy efficient. No flame though.

FFTravisM (author)2013-03-07

What kinda of temps are you getting? Anywhere near forge welding?
Great instructions.

MR.. (author)FFTravisM2013-03-08

The heat gun I used during the first run topped out. So, I'm not exactly sure how hot it got. The metal was demagnetized at one point and glowed at a similar color as other metals I've worked with. I was able to hammer it down nicely. And I believe if the right fuel is used, this forge will be great for small projects.

oppie (author)MR..2013-03-09

Forge welding is quite tricky. You have to get the iron to semi-liquid state (about 2700 F) and have very little or no oxygen. If you do have oxygen at this temperature, you will see something that resembles sparklers - your workpiece is ruined at this point.
Low oxygen is achieved by building the fire very deep. This is best done with coke which you should make ahead of time. Idea is that by the time the air gets to the top of the fire, all the oxygen has been used for combustion of the coal and not the iron.
Here's a very useful chart

MR.. (author)oppie2013-03-09

Again, Thank you so much! Your knowledge is much appreciated kind sir!!!

RossThePiper (author)2013-03-09

That looks awesome mate :)

MR.. (author)RossThePiper2013-03-09

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

wakabi (author)2013-03-09

wow , creativity is devine thanks for the sharing heart.

MR.. (author)wakabi2013-03-09

It was my pleasure!!

oppie (author)2013-03-07

Always nice to see interest in traditional blacksmithing with a forge. First time I used a anthracite (hard) coal forge, was amazed at the amount of heat it produced.
For anybody interested there is a wealth of information on

MR.. (author)oppie2013-03-07

Wow!! That site is awesome, thank you for sharing it!

oppie (author)MR..2013-03-07

Several places sell a 50 pound cast iron anvil. One place is Harbor Freight. Bad thing is that cast iron is brittle and can shatter. If you can find it, a one or two foot section of railroad rail makes a great anvil. Railroad spikes and track plates are also good for making tools (as are used car springs). Local commuter railroad did a major track upgrade a few years back and there was a good deal of scrap to be found.
With a coal forge - especially with Anthracite, the idea is to turn the "green" coal to coke. Coke is almost pure carbon and burns much cleaner and hotter than green coal. You keep the green coal to the outside of the firepot where it will not only give off its volitiles but it will protect the walls of the firepot from the hotter burning coke in the center of the fire. Feed the green coal from the outsides of the pot and use a tool to push the coke down and towards the center of the pot into the airflow.
If you haven't done so yet, also check out

MR.. (author)oppie2013-03-08

I found a place nearby with railroad track.. I'll be picking some up soon!!

oppie (author)MR..2013-03-09

Nice thing about railroad track is that it has so many angles to it. You can use it straight up and use the crown or edged for round-overs. On its side, the hollow is good for forming wide bends. The side of the bottom edge can be ground to an edge for cut-offs (put your hot piece against the edge and hammer on it to make an indent, grab with a tong and break off).
Hammers: depending on your work size, a 1-3 pound ball pein and cross pein hammer is good for the small stuff you had mentioned earlier.
One wonderful thing about blacksmithing is you can make not only ornimental stuff but your own tools as well.
If you are a real traditionalist, you can do forge welding- something I've never mastered (and thus I have an oxy acetylene torch and a MIG welder in the shop).

MR.. (author)oppie2013-03-08 is a great site!!

3gghead (author)2013-03-07

Is there an advantage to the circular forge that a brake drum yields for the work you're doing? I'm led to believe that a square or rectangular multi-head bed to be more versatile and adaptable to smithing in general. In future designs will you try to accommodate longer and/or irregular-shaped pieces or is this a specific-purpose forge (for knives or whatever)? Are you using the brake-drum just because it's available and easy to work with or because it creates a hot-spot suited to your craft? This is the first "instructable" that's captured my attention and I'm just hoping to fill-in some gray areas. Even if my questions go unanswered, you still have my thanks for being the "everyday hero" that chose to share.

ElectroFrank (author)3gghead2013-03-09

Square things lose heat faster than round things, due to the ratio of area to circumference. But ultimately, ensure the longest dimension is sufficient for the longest object you want to heat all at once.

MR.. (author)3gghead2013-03-08

The reason I used the small brake drum was because it was easy to find. And it suited my needs at the time, which is just tempering small knives at the moment.

MR.. (author)MR..2013-03-08

I'm glad you enjoyed it!!

jell44 (author)2013-03-07

If you could take a parabolic piece of glass from a large screen TV like the older styled 50+" sizes, on sunny days or even partly cloudy days you can get temperatures in the 3000 degree range at the apex of the beam. And have some semblance of temperature control by moving away from the apex.

MR.. (author)jell442013-03-08

I know, there's some sick videos of solar welding and people melting steel by focusing the suns rays...

jerbear1978 (author)2013-03-07

I would love to see a video of this thing in action.

MR.. (author)jerbear19782013-03-08

I'll definitely will post one when I upload the Instructable of me tempering my blades.

wdsims63 (author)2013-03-08

Not that I think the use of the waterjet is a bad idea, but why didn't you just use a threaded pipe flange and weld/bolt that onto the brake drum?
It is handy when you have a waterjet machine, but a pipe threader is much easier to work with and most home improvement "depots" will thread the ends for you when you buy a length of pipe. They usually cut it down for you at the time as well.

MR.. (author)wdsims632013-03-08

I certainly could have done that, but I'm lazy and I literally built this next to a Flowjet so... I just cut it out real quick. But you're totally right, if someone wanted to thread the pipe and get it cut at Lowes or somewhere it would be extremely easy to piece together without the tools I used.

Kuberkoos (author)2013-03-07

Nice 'ible. Just remember to get yourself a pair of gas pliers or even a cheer multigrip to handle the hot metal with... Do NOT use your normal pliers to handle the hot metal, the heat will Kill it!

Contentment (author)2013-03-07

Looks good to me. I just went a got a blow dryer myself. I have to get some coal and then I can get going too.

MR.. (author)Contentment2013-03-07

Nice! I found a place near me that sells coal. If you're having trouble finding it check out . They seem to have some good prices.
Good luck!

Green_mantle (author)2013-03-07

Great Instructable!

May I make a couple suggestions? I've built a number of brake drum forges and have learned a couple of tricks for them...

First, try to find either a full-size pickup truck brake drum, or a tractor-trailer brake drum, much larger, and think about cutting a U-shape down the side. That way your stock doesn't have to be angled down/in, better heating that way.

Try to find a tub of "refractory cement" at a fireplace store or hardware store, and line the bottom and sides of the forge. It will help hold in the heat better, for a while anyway. It (the cement) will eventually burn out, but it isn't a huge deal to hammer it out and replace it. We've even used regular cement in a pinch.

Think about using a baffle on your blower (hair dryer, scrap squirrel cage blower). Cut a thin (or not, 3/16", 1/4", whatever) disk of whatever is handylarge enough to cover the air intake on the blower and use a single bolt or screw to attach it so that it will rotate over or off the intake. Don't make it too tight, you want a little air to escape past it to prevent backfiring. This saves a lot of fuel, and allows you to control the heat better than just using the Hi-Lo-Off switch. You could also use a rheostat I think...

For mdelray: Propane is a great forge fuel, but you definitely need a blower and baffle setup, but the baffle, controller, or whatever needs to be a "set & forget" type since with gas you have a narrow optimal fuel/air ratio, so if you have more gas, you need more air. Less gas, less air. Other wise you get more scale/oxidizing. Also with gas fuel you really need to make it a mini-furnace with firebrick or fireplace brick to hold the heat.

Thanks for the Instructable, Good Luck!

MR.. (author)Green_mantle2013-03-07

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
I appreciate all the helpful suggestions. This was my first forge build and I learned a lot through the process.
I am planning on building a larger forge soon, and incorporating a lot of elements I missed on this build on a future Instructable.
Again, Thanks for the help!!

Mex5150 (author)2013-03-07

Been thinking about building something like this for a while now, have you had any problems with the size of it? I've only ever used much larger forges.

MR.. (author)Mex51502013-03-07

The reason I made this forge was to work with smaller pieces like knives or tomahawk heads. So the size really hasn't been a disadvantage at all. In the future I would like to build some larger forges and share them on Istructables

handy157 (author)2013-03-07

If you could find a cast iron drain cover (that has holes in it), you can put that over the opening in the bottom of the drum and keep bigger chunks of wood or charcoal from dropping down the pipe.

About This Instructable



Bio: Designer and Co-Owner of Krank Empire Design & Printing.. I love to experiment and tinker. Most of all I love meeting other creative makers!
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