Introduction: Dirt Cheap Forge

Picture of Dirt Cheap Forge

If you read my Instructable about making charcoal, then you know that I am on the path of making a froe, for free. The forge is the heart, which I guess would make the anvil the lungs. . . or would it be the other way around? Either way, the forge is important so I set out to build a dirt cheap forge. I didn't want to spend any money, so making my own refractory from kitty litter and plaster of paris was out, I don't have a break drum kicking around, so that was out. However, I do have soil that is extremely high in clay content, and maybe it will hold up to the heat. Let's find out.

Step 1: Stuff You'll Need

Picture of Stuff You'll Need

Clay soil, I would highly recommend not using sandy soil as it won't hold its shape, nor would I recommend rocky soil as rocks can explode when heated due to trapped water. This forge is not very durable, if you are going to buy stuff to make a forge get supplies to make a refractory, there are tons of recipes, instructables, and videos on the 'net on how to make your own.

A Shovel, although, I guess you could dig with a stick

Something to haul the dirt in, I used what I call a rough tote, a bucket would work to

A beating stick, I used a leftover scrap from a sledge handle I had cut down

A place to put your forge, I used a piece of scrap plywood and two by fours to make it moveable.

A section of metal pipe, mine is from one of those canvas carports, it broke years ago; I think with some ingenuity a series of tomato paste cans could work, just cut both ends off

Something fire resistant, preferably round, and with a bit of height, I used a flower pot, that I mutilated. you could also use a soup can. . I think

An air supply, I used a shop vac, I recommend something lighter powered, maybe a hair dryer

A hack saw

A small piece of flashing

Tin snips, heavy scissors might work.

Tape, I used duct tape to attach the shop vac hose to the forge.

Optional:

A garden cart or wheelbarrow, it makes hauling easier

A lantern burning citronella oil, I was working in the evening and the mosquitoes are already starting up.

A file

Step 2: Dig!

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I had a mount of nice clay based soil I dug up about a decade ago when trying to build a pond as a kid. I've spent quite a bit of effort filling that hole back in, but there was still some dirt piled up. I scrapped off the organic matter and tossed it into the hole, then dug out the dirt, a bit of organic matter won't hurt, just not too much.

I tried to keep the soil fairly level, but if you're just digging a pit have at it.

I filled my rough tote about half full, which was about twice as much as I ended up using.

Step 3: All About That Base, No Trouble

Picture of All About That Base, No Trouble

In addition to the tools and materials I listed earlier I used :

scrap 2x4, scrap plywood, some screws, impact driver, hand saw, vise, pencil, combination square, tape measure, and a snap line. I didn't list them before because this step if fully optional

Alright, a forge needs a base, but if you want you can plop it on the ground. My forge has to be able to move, I hunted through my scrap wood pile and came up with a partial sheet of 3/4" plywood and a 42" length of 2x4.

I cut the two by in half . . .no I didn't, half would have been 21 inches, I was so busy trying to take pictures I somehow managed to cut it 20" long, so I cut the other one the same length and it worked out, because the ply was about 20" wide.

set the 2x4s on the ground, set the ply on top and sunk a screw at each end of the 2x4 then snapped a line across the screws and put in a a few more screws. it probably would have been fine with just two screws each as it's only dealing with compression stress, I tend to either over build sometimes.

You might have noticed I inset the 2x4s a few inches on the sides, that way I have a grip all around the forge to pick it up.

Alright, the base is done! now for the hard part

Step 4: Building Up the Forge Underlayment

Picture of Building Up the Forge Underlayment

From here till I was done with the clay/mud I had to release my inner Hulk and smash.

Bassically, using fist sized clumps of mud/clay I set them on the board and pounded them flat. I started by using my fist but started getting tired quickly so I used a stick, actually a piece of a sledge hammer handle. I ended up with about an inch thick oval of compacted soil.

Step 5: Starting the Bottom of the Fire Pan

Picture of Starting the Bottom of the Fire Pan

Continuing the smashing style of construction I built up a layer around the edge. I was kind of figuring this out as I went along, I had an idea of what I wanted to do with it, but I was kind of letting the materials guide me.

Step 6: Air to the Coals

Picture of Air to the Coals

I needed a place for the air to come up into the forge, I knew I was going to feed the fire air via a pipe, but I needed a place for that air to come up in.

I initially thought of using just plain dirt, but I wanted to lend some rigidity the structure here, so I chipped out a section of a small flower pot.

Step 7: Pipe It to Make It Hot!

Picture of Pipe It to Make It Hot!

I used a section of pipe I had laying around for this step, I also used a little bit of flashing material to make a blast gate. I will leave the pictures to do most of the explaining.

One neat trick I came up with, I needed to cut the pip half way through for the blast gate, so I took a piece of string, wrapped it around the pipe, marked a point on the overlap, then I took it off, folded it and marked the bottom of the fold. When I rewrapped the string, making sure my original marks met, I had two marks equidistant from each other and I sawed to them.

Step 8: Build It Bigger, and Make a Fire Pan

Picture of Build It Bigger, and Make a Fire Pan

With the pipe in place I started laying down more mud/clay up to the level of the flower pot rim, then I built a wall around the whole thing to keep the coals in.

Step 9: Cleaning Up the Surface and Making a Fire Grate

Picture of Cleaning Up the Surface and Making a Fire Grate

I used a shovel to clean up some of the edges around the base, then I cut some hardware cloth to create a grate. I'll be honest, the grate was a waste of my time, the heat ended up deforming the grate and the coals were actually in the flower pot. I think that actually worked out alright though.

The takeaway, don't make a grate like I did, infact, maybe don't make a grate at all.

Step 10: Low Temp Heating

Picture of Low Temp Heating

I wanted to dry out the clay/dirt as much as a I could before I fired up the forge for real. so I built a small fire and let it burn out. as I expected, the dirt cracked quite a bit, but not too much. success so far!

Step 11: Forging Ahead! Well, a Froe, But That's a Different Instructable

Picture of Forging Ahead! Well, a Froe, But That's a Different Instructable

After itching to use the forge for a couple of days I gathered my forging supplies

railroad track Anvil

shop vac with blower

Leather boots, cotton pants and cotton shirt (synthetics can melt to your skin)

Quench bucket, preferably metal

And of course my charcoal of which I prepped a quad batch

It's really hard to take pictures of myself forging, so there is only one picture of me hammering. I was attempting to make a froe from an old lawnmower blade. I am hoping to finish up that froe, and maybe create an instructable for it at some point.

It's a good thing I had the blast gate because the shop vac was way too powerful for this little forge.

Step 12: Final Thoughts

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The forge worked quite well, the only really important changes would be to remove the grate, and use a lower power blower.

I expect this forge will last a few more forges, but the flowerpot is already starting to melt.

I wasn't able to get a forge weld on the froe, but I think it's because it was too bright outside and I couldn't see the colors of the steel.

That thing ate charcoal like candy. I had about 2 gallons of charcoal I'd made and I burned through it in about 20 minutes, I think it might have been because of the air supply being so forceful.

This was my first forge build, and for the cost ($0.00) and time (about 2-3 hours) I put into it, I call it successful I did get steel hot enough to shape, and it was a decent sized chunk of steel too.

Comments

Bloody Cleaver (author)2015-03-27

Awesome! Now all you need is a real anvil... Check out my 'ible to find out how!

sixsmith (author)Bloody Cleaver2015-03-27

Haha, I read it when you posted it, very concise if I recall. From everything I've heard Railroad track makes a great anvil. It just needs a horn, but I tell ya, grinding on that thing takes forever.

cchristopher2 (author)sixsmith2015-03-29

Harbor Freight has some fairly inexpensive anvils that might work for you. The

CJStephens (author)cchristopher22015-03-29

I will tell you though that those anvils are nothing compared to a old London anvil. They can crack, chip, and spit. My dad works at grizzly and he has had tons of those types of anvils come back because they do not have a good top plate.

cchristopher2 (author)CJStephens2015-03-29

I haven't observed those problems, but I work with non-ferrous metals and all my forging experience is with cold forging brass, copper and silver. I probably stress my tools less a steel worker does.

CJStephens (author)cchristopher22015-03-29

That is a good point. I have always used mine for heavy blacksmithing work. and It takes good hard swings to shape the steel fast. So what do you cold forge out of brass?

cchristopher2 (author)CJStephens2015-03-30

Jewelry, sometimes when I'm planning a piece in silver, I make a brass or copper model first to ensure I have the techniques I'm using practiced enough not to ruinmy attempt at the silver work. Also, I love Mokume Gane, but my only success with it involved brass and copper.

CJStephens (author)cchristopher22015-03-30

That is neat. I have only ever done forge work when the steel is really hot. Do you have to ever worry about splitting or cracking with the silver. I have never worked that much with soft metals. I use brass a lot, but silver and copper I have not done to much with.

cchristopher2 (author)CJStephens2015-03-31

In general, when working non-ferrous metals, they get harder as they are forged. When the metal is hard enough that it isn't responding well to hammer, saw, file, etc. it is time to anneal it. Annealing is just heating the metal to a dull red then either letting it air cool or quenching it in water or pickling (typically a sulfuric acid solution). This process expands the molecular structure of the metal leaving it softened and ready for further working. Jewelers often refer to this state as "dead soft." Dead soft silver alloys can, some times, be worked with bare hands.

fenikkusu (author)cchristopher22015-03-31

Question?

Oh btw I totally agree with CJ I also would love to see an ible on working silver... that would be incredibly cool! Please do that for us consider yourself to be formally requested!

Yeah question... If you're annealing don't you want a nice slow cool ? Would quenching before full cool stage upset the annealing process. I was under the impression that is exactly why we often find those weaker shatter points in old chunks. In other words I thought they were created in one of two ways (maybe both ways) of not bringing the temp on the metal high enough and then starting to cool it when it hadn't reached that (there's a name for each heat you want to bring it to and hubby is under a horse right now...phht :^( )

Anyway not heating it to the proper level and the other issue being the quenching because quenching increases the hardness and makes the metal more brittle as well. I always looked at them as sort of opposite things the annealing creating more conformity in the alloy and more ductility and the quench creating more hardness. I'm talking ferrous metals here.

I know all metals are very different in terms of how you want to treat them overall. For me I know my issue right off is not getting the metal to the right temp. I'm too inexperienced for that to tell when that metal is glowing at just the right shade!

ShopHazard (author)fenikkusu2015-05-07

When you say that quenching hardens the metal, what you're thinking is that quenching hardens (many kinds of) steel. Things work differently for other kinds of metals, due to the way they change under heat.

fenikkusu (author)ShopHazard2015-05-07

Ty

Jah3-Maniac (author)fenikkusu2015-04-28

This is easy to do without any experience at all!

Use a magnet . When the steel loses its ability to attract the magnet it's at the right temperature.

fenikkusu (author)Jah3-Maniac2015-04-29

wow really?

okay!!!!....

I love simple!

thanks for that

CJStephens (author)cchristopher22015-03-31

That is very interesting. I have to anneal leaf springs and saw blades before I do any work on them as well. You should post some things on your silver smiting. I would love to see it. And thank you for the info I learn something every day. :)

cchristopher2 (author)CJStephens2015-03-31

There is a book titled, "The Complete Metal Smith" by Tim McCreight (I think I spelled that right) which does a better job of instructing various metal working techniques than I can. Also look for "Jewelry Artist" magazine for tips on tools and techniques for working with many metals, as well as stones, bone, plastics and other materials.

fenikkusu (author)cchristopher22015-03-31

Gasp Mokume Gane!

You need to make an ible!

That's all I'm saying!

markw8 (author)CJStephens2015-03-31

sometimes you can get a small bitt of rail from a train track without being arrested.

They have a very, very hard cap on them.

CJStephens (author)markw82015-03-31

Ha I know what you mean. I started with a piece I found at a scrap yard. and now I have a 130 LB anvil. that is over 50 years old I would say.

fenikkusu (author)sixsmith2015-03-29

blacksmiths wife here....

I'm going to post here some tips etc for people who want to play in the fire. Where a good place to get an anvil is...and a few actual tools that are indispensable for safety reasons.

I think making a froe is a fine useful way to get started in a forge btw. It's reasonably simple in terms of shape, yet stretches your skill level to create the eye for the handle. I think this would be a most recommended place to start... very reasonable and good choice.. and not an overwhelmingly large project as well!

Blacksmith's wife here....

but don't kid yourself I do more than bring him lemonade on a summer day when he's playing in the forge. I too have had my time playing in the fire. Most of what he does is make horseshoes. I occasionally simply practice some basic skills making a horseshoe that matches the one he just made. Yes it takes me infinitely and frustratingly longer. Well I'm a girl and I don't have his big muscles so that's reasonable. I don't have the strength he has for one thing and my skill level is one step beyond "never picked up a rounding hammer in my lifetime". Well at least it seems that way when I compare myself to my husband!

I know a few things though that perhaps could be helpful in your forays here.

First of all dirt cheap anvils can be picked up at those country style flea markets with truly a sprawling number of stalls. there's always some old codger out there with really great, nearly ancient tools that have sat in his barn for several decades, sometimes even a century or two. Do NOT be put off by rust on a big chunk of metal like a rounding hammer or a ball peen and certainly don't be put off by an old rusty anvil. Just working on the anvil will take the rust away!. These big old chunks of metal are often made much better than any modern tools. The same wouldn't apply to a froe perhaps being a much thinner piece, the rust could have done too much damage and then again too a little grinding and sharpening and you very well may be ready to go after reconditioning an old froe. We've picked up anvils occasionally at such places for a mere 5 dollars... obviously its not something you want to order from ebay the shipping is stupid ridiculous of course. Look for barn sales and yard sales being host from a barn! Those are excellent places! We have one small anvil made from rail. Its quite functional whoever made it originally put a decent horn into it. Oh yeah we have anvils... we have I think 6 or 7 different anvils. Each one is unique! Every horn is different. Turning cams on the sides are different. And yes of course my husband has his favorites. I'm not sure how you might go about this but if you had a chance to work on different horns it may be nice to be able to figure out what you personally want for a horn in that rail. Wish you lived around here, hubby could let you try out several anvils. A horseshoer in your area may be kind enough to allow you to do such a thing but they can be a surly lot.

Be aware at all times and this is a funny thing. Hammers at least some of them have a warning label attached saying that the metal can fracture and become shrapnel etc. That REALLY does happen. Most of us don't hit hammer to metal often enough to know this, but my husband has had a few injuries of this type, none of the them serious, mostly catching some shrapnel in the hand, but that's a matter of luck alone. Children shouldn't be near a forge and anvil really. Their lower height puts them even more significantly in harm's way. And know too ANY metal can be unstable! Especially the older pieces that have seen lots of rounds of heating and cooling over decades. hammers themselves get very hot during long hours of forge work and should not be quenched!

Do invest in at least a used leather or used kevlar apron... its a purchase you will live to be grateful for and happy that you did. It will save you from a host of small burns and flying chunks of metal that are those stupid accidents WE ALL HAVE! yes we do. Even the pros do incredibly stupid things occasionally. My hubby one day was working some small round stock, properly held and gripped in his round tongs and not wearing an apron (which he usually wears, which is of course why the accident happened) and he pressed the end nearest him into his thigh to feed it down the tongs. yep it burned through his jeans in less than a second and he branded himself. It's always the black heat that injures a person. And of course if its the red heat that's injured a person, its time to pick another hobby! Because we can see that heat.

DO invest in a pair of proper tongs. For this project you would need flat tongs. And use the right tool for the right job (yep using flat tongs to hold a round piece of metal results in injury as well) Being able to hold that red hot piece of metal properly without it zinging out of your grip when you strike it with a hammer is EVERYTHING!

Finally be aware that there are many types of metal that can be worked and many grades of steel and they are not all the same and are not conducive to being used for every project. My husband shoes horses and at professional lectures and conventions they do actually speak very specifically about the exact numbered type of steel etc. So be extra careful when you used salvaged metals. They may not be what your expecting. They may not have the exact tempering abilities you were expecting. Again if its an older piece it may have at some point been partially tempered creating a weak spot, It may have been tempered so many times that its simply become brittle and shatters easily. You never know the history of that piece of metal and if some bozo quenched the hammer head in a bucket of water and made it brittle. My hubby uses a home depot plastic bucket to quench in. Metal really isn't that important if you want to go cheaper. You shouldn't be quenching very often anyway. it's much more important for instance if you are hot shaping a horse shoe and then have to nail it on an animal. There are also a variety of quenching techniques. I know some blacksmiths quench in oil occasionally for specific reasons to temper the metal in particular ways. If you have any desire to make a piece like a sword you will need to have a forge that is big enough to get the whole blade in the fire at once or it won't temper properly. A friend of ours is currently making his own forge out of a truck rim (yeah like an 18 wheeler rim) my husband tells me that is done by people reasonably commonly. apparently the thickness of the rim is enough.

My husband's forge is a metal box with a pour in liner and propane burner. The box is open at the front and there's a door at the back that opens and latches closed so he can get bar stock into the fire down the entire length of it but not all at the same time, which would be necessary for a sword for instance. But this is somewhat different because his forge has to travel with him to the barns and it is mounted in his work trailer.

I had discussed him building a real stationary forge at home once when we had taken down a massive old oak tree. The trunk log pieces were perfect for a huge anvil and we have one over 200 lbs. So I started questioning what it would take to have a stationary old fashioned forge. As we have had many people in our lives interested in learning how to play in the fire, just like you! He said that you couldn't get a glowing red heat on the metal with a wood fire and that coal was necessary... that's why its called a coal forge, but it wasn't charcoal, it was actual mined coal. I know people order it and have it shipped to them. His propane setup also gets a glowing red heat on the metal. I think he said it gets to 600 or 700 degrees, but I can't remember now. I've been in the fire a couple dozen times now. Very honestly and truthfully unless its glowing at least a dull orange I don't find it any easier to shape the metal than if it was dead cold. I'm sure my husband who has vast experience can likely distinguish several temperature gradients in relation to workability. But steel CAN be worked cold and it often is. In fact my husband often shaped horse shoes on a stall jack right beside the horse. I attached a picture of a stall jack that resembles my husband's.

If you go to popular mechanics on line and search for an article called "Blacksmithing 101: How to make a forge and start hammering metal." I am not suggesting here that what you've done is anything less than brilliant and cool. It is brilliant and cool! But too here you are at that stage of learning and trying and that's the point we all get to where we start to think in terms of building a better mouse trap if you know what I mean. For instance, my husband's steel box forge that is mobile has some definite advantages! Being a box with only one opening it keeps the heat in! In that fashion its highly desirable in terms of low cost and efficient use! Propane also is not expensive. So these things would be reasonable considerations as you explore this hobby, maybe someday turn it into your own business. There's certainly a whole cottage sort of hobby craft sort of thing creating working ornate hinges and hooks with an elegant turn in them of twisted square stock. Twisting is easier than one would think! A red hot 1/4 inch square stock simply secured in a vice and the other end held by the tongs and its easy even for me and they come out lovely! One never knows where starting down any particular path in life may lead eventually. But also and more importantly I have learned things about where to hit a piece of metal to get the desired effect on shaping the metal and its not nearly as straight forward as it would seem in many cases. I have the benefit of having a pro to teach me! But this article teaches some of the basics on how to move that metal to where you want it to go using a hammer. Its a very decent read! I'm not sure where your skill level sits and I hope this may acquaint you with some other techniques that you may not be currently practicing with this particular project. For every single thing there is in life there is a whole world unto that thing, with people doing that thing who LOVE doing that thing. I hope you continue to grow with this hobby. It's a cool hobby! Well no... its a hot hobby! You may find great ideas by looking through a farrier supply catalogue. A cut up old pair of jeans with some leather patches sewn on can suffice as a makeshift apron for little cost for instance. So take a look on line at a farrier supply catalogue. And if you make an apron with low to little cost for the hobbyist, post that as an instructable as well! There are a lot of guys out there and even girls out there that would benefit from you sharing your own path with all of us, people who don't want to sink big bucks into something to try something new.

This has been a ridiculously long post, sorry about that! Do be safe in your hobby. Very nice "ible" indeed! And if you ever want to pick my brain or my husband's then contact me and we'll do what we can to help you with your hobby! Two thumbs way up. Keep hammering away at it! And a very nice job on your first project and the intelligence on the choice! Very smart!

madenairy (author)fenikkusu2015-03-30

very nice comment! and a great 'ible to go with it - something i found online a while ago and is well worth a look is a thing called COSIRA - it was a correspondance course in the 50's (i think) - the idea behind it was people in different parts of the uk with access to blacksmithing equipment could learn how to use it properly and it really starts at beginner and goes up to quite advanced, if your interested i think you can download the complete course for free from the university of cardiff's website (that's where i got it from anyway, but it was a couple of years ago), if not then just have a look for COSIRA online, you'll probably come across the original books (which are ridiculously expensive in some cases), but with any luck you'll be able to find the information without having to buy the books! good luck and great 'ible!

madenairy (author)madenairy2015-03-30

sorry just found the link to it

http://www.hlcollege.ac.uk/Downloads/craftpublications.html

Kuberkoos (author)fenikkusu2015-03-29

This letter should have been a separate 'ible! Very interesting and I learned a lot from it. Thanks!!!!

fenikkusu (author)Kuberkoos2015-03-29

Yeah I'm so sorry... but hopefully it helps the author of the ible too. He's so young and such a magnificent start down this path... very cool! And hopefully people who come here have like interest and will also gain something ... anything from what I said! Its great when we can all converse and share with one another and build our knowledge!

sixsmith (author)fenikkusu2015-03-29

Thank you for your well thought out comments, I love learning from people who are knowledgeable in their fields.
This isn't actually my first foray into blacksmithing. working for the boyscouts I actually was involved in teaching groups of scouts how to make something simple, such as eye hooks, jay hooks, and S hooks. on occasion I would help a group make something a little more interesting such as a caged rock by forge welding a bundle of square stock together.
but that was all with coal and always with a proper anvil, and with a squirrel cage blower.
These instructables I'm creating right now are experimental in nature. I ran out of charcoal and wasn't able to fix some of the mistakes I made while I was trying to get used to the anvil.
regarding tongs, one of the reasons I am starting at home with a froe is because it's a long piece, and most of the work goes at the end where the eye is. so I was able to avoid actually needing tongs.

If I hadn't had such a hefty blower I might have had enough charcoal, and if it had been darker I would have better been able to see what level of heat I was at.
I've cheated the forge weld by riveting the eye of the froe, and I have an angle grinder to help speed up cleaning up some of the things I would have prefered to do in the forge. I know the rivets won't hold up as well as a forge weld, but! by the time it breaks hopefully I'll have enough fuel to fire the forge back up and make the weld.

Again, thank you for your comments!

fenikkusu (author)fenikkusu2015-03-29

Oh one thing God I'm answering my own reply. I discussed with him wood vs. coal. He said you CAN actually get mild steel to glow with wood but it takes forever. (Of course that would be a concern to him since he has to heat the horseshoes at job sites... that makes sense) He said you have to let it sit in the heat for a long time called a soaking heat and it gives you a deeper heat and more working time but the reheat is going to be slow as well. (Aha that's exactly why we see at those medieval fairs, the blacksmith with three swords in the fire and he hammers one briefly, returns it to the heat and picks another out to work on and keeps them rotating through. So I just wanted to correct that bit and make sure people understood that. Sorry for the misinformation, but it makes sense in terms of his job and obviously we had a miscommunication. I was speaking in terms of a stationary forge at home. He also said it requires a lot of fuel in terms of wood and of course some serious bellows work as well.

CJStephens (author)fenikkusu2015-03-29

That was a good write up. You should consider posting a ible like Kuberkoos said. even if it was just a blacksmiths guide for starting off. How long has your husband and you been forging? I have only been doing it for about three years, I mostly make blades and tools though.

Jah3-Maniac (author)2015-04-28

Next time make the air inlet on the side not the bottom. Really old forges always had side inlets because they used charcoal, as do you.

I believe the horizontal inlet also helps to limit the blowing of ash from the forge.

A modern vertical tuyere type forge is designed for using coal (mined).

kabira (author)2015-04-20

This is awesome! What I like most about your work is that even though you might have used the power tools, in the end the products go back to the basics. I am not a prepper, but our electric grids going offline is very real possibility due to solar flares and the projects like yours would be the one to rescue.

There is something to be said, it's all about the base and no trouble :).

sixsmith (author)kabira2015-04-20

We actually came close to having some trouble from a solar flare late last year. I like to have numerous skills and tools, including those that don't rely on electricity. Just last night the power went out, I was hungry, so I grabbed my multi fuel camp stove and cooked some chilli :D

ChrisC6 (author)2015-04-06

I remember seeing a national geographic with some indigenous people making clay pots, while clay is fire 'proof' and/or resistant m if you plan on exposing the pot to fire and heat again it has to be fired in a special, slower way. Not to mention all the pores and space in that kind of clay. You may have been lucky it was surrounded so it did not explode on you. You might be surprised to find the natural clay would make a better foundation. It will probably have been 'protected' from the pot (like how the back side of a Samurai sword is formed softer than the edge making that wave in it). The natural clay you made is more dense and if you baked it slow would be awesome probably.

CJStephens (author)2015-03-31

That is so cool! Forge welding aluminum! I never have heard of that. Welding it is hard as it is but forge welding wow. :) You are one of the people I could talk to for hours and learn something new every time.

fenikkusu (author)CJStephens2015-03-31

No, no, no CJ I'm sorry no not forge weld aluminum... Gas weld aluminum.

One of the horseshoe companies, GE, put out a rod of the same aluminum for the shoes. It's real important when you're trying to make egg bar shoes which are a complete oval instead of the usual shape that we all know, with open heal. I'm sorry I didn't even realize what my fast fingers had typed until you commented. Trying to weld aluminum in forge creates this really cool silvery glob that one can only use as a light paperweight. It IS cool looking, but useless for our purposes... ;^p

Alderin (author)2015-03-30

Nice cheap way to go. I believe a similar approach was how the Romans forged their weapons and armor.

If you dried your clay-full dirt and crushed it, you might be able to sieve out good clay similar to bentonite without the impurities. You can also use vermiculite as an insulator and filler (I used vermiculite and refractory cement in my foundry, 2 gallons of charcoal lasted about an hour and a half of melting aluminum).

Nice cheap way to start out with metal working!

sixsmith (author)Alderin2015-03-30

I have a couple of gallons of vermiculite, the only reason I didn't try mixing it with the clay was because I wanted to see if it was possible to make a forge out of just dirt.
2 gallons lasted an hour and half? dang, must be I just have too much air going to my forge. Thank you!

Alderin (author)sixsmith2015-03-31

Yes, it sounds like you are overdoing the air, I'm using a repurposed hair dryer for my blower. The insulation of the vermiculite also means that I don't need to add as much fuel once the temp is high enough.

Still, an aluminum melt foundry versus a iron/steel forge could account for some of the difference: mine doesn't get steel to yellow heat, only just barely past red into orange.

clistul (author)2015-03-28

that is a good idea using an I beam as an anvil

sixsmith (author)clistul2015-03-28

thanks, it's actually a piece of railroad track I found in a dump about 10 years ago. I've heard it makes a decent anvil, I can't disagree, although I really need a horn of some sort for round objects

CJStephens (author)sixsmith2015-03-29

About a horn. I just got my anvil last year. but before I took a 3 inch piece of round stock and tapered it down. Then you can put it in a vise and it works quite well for basic shaping. I now use it to make my axes.

sixsmith (author)CJStephens2015-03-29

ah, that's a good idea, I've been trying to figure out how to attach a piece of round stock to my track, but that idea is better. If I get the heat high enough I might even be able to scratch by with a heavy pipe section.

CJStephens (author)sixsmith2015-03-30

Yes a heavy pipe might just work. I hope it works well for you. I have seen guys cut there track with a torch and then grind it smooth to make a horn. and it works quite well.

sixsmith (author)CJStephens2015-03-30

I'm going to have to ask around and see if anyone has a torch I can use. Although, I might be able to pop up the road to my old community college and use theirs.

theegghead (author)2015-03-30

nice!

acoleman3 (author)2015-03-30

your air source is too powerful if you're burning through fuel that fast, and is the main reason why your welds weren't taking. too high of a blast introduces more oxygen than the fire can consume and will prevent the weld from taking, no matter HOW hot the metal is.

NanoRobotGeek (author)2015-03-28

Friendly tip: turn your track on its side, gives you more mass underneath. Other than that, great instructable. Would really like to see more from you =3.

sixsmith (author)NanoRobotGeek2015-03-28

I don't quite understand what you mean, as it is I have the entirety of the rail below my workpiece and hammer.

NanoRobotGeek (author)sixsmith2015-03-29

http://www.anvilfire.com/21centbs/anvils/making/RR-rail_anvils.php
This is a great resource and should explain everything. Just a tip, ignore this if you choose and you will still have a great anvil. Hope this helps.

P.s Still looking forward to more from you =3

sixsmith (author)NanoRobotGeek2015-03-29

gosh! I forgot about that method. I must have seen it 10 years ago and completely forgotten.
I hope to have my next instructable up tomorrow, alas it won't be as good as I would have liked, but barring a mishap it should be good to froe.

NanoRobotGeek (author)sixsmith2015-03-29

XD love it. Ill keep an eye out for it

fenikkusu (author)2015-03-29

Oh yeah ... one other thing.... like I didn't write enough already.

On you tube I saw a man who did re-enactment cooking and he made an earthen oven. It was very similar to what you created except it was shaped like an igloo. One of the things he did was he allowed it dry for some number of days slowly and under a makeshift roof and I think the purpose was to prevent cracking. You may try that technique. I believe you can still go back even at this point and fill in the cracks with more of the clay and then leave it to dry slowly and I think you may get over the cracking problem to at least some degrees!

Um let me see if I can find the video... Okay yeah so its on Youtube and its title is:

How to build an earthen oven Jas Townsend and son cooking series

This knowledge may help your own construction... I kind of wonder if you could build it in the shape of a simple closed toe slipper sort of shape with one half of it having a top sort of to hold in some heat... not sure... but its a thought... I think you'd have to figure a way to support the opening maybe some metal embedded in about 6 inches of the clay? Anyway its a thought...

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Bio: I dabble a bit in just about everything, electronics, gardening, metalworking, backpacking, photography; but my real passion is in wood working. I have recently started ... More »
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