Introduction: Paint Can Forge

For the longest time, I have wanted to try my hand at blacksmithing. However, if you have ever tried it before, you know that there is a decent amount of setup required before you can really make anything. I came across a video on youtube about making backyard scale propane forges and decided to take a crack at it and make my own. While there are some improvements to be made, I am still quite pleased at the results of making my first forge. Finishing the first basic design has got me really pumped to try forging something awesome.

Step 1: Supplies

Surprisingly, this project doesn't require much in terms of tools or materials. Depending on the size of the forge you are making, you will need to modify the amount of materials. You will need...

  • Plaster of Paris
  • Sand
  • Paint can (any other metal can) w/ lid
  • Water
  • Propane torch
  • Drill
  • Bolts
  • Washers
  • Nuts
  • Metal L bracket
  • Rubber gloves (highly recommended)

Step 2: Make the Mount

Using the paint lid as a base, I drilled holes on the bottom of the paint can and lid to use use the lid and bracket to mount the body of the forge. At first, I drilled the holes in the back without thinking about the space required to bolt the lid-base on so the top hole in the back of the can ended up not being used. Once the bracket was loosely fitted to both the back of the can and the base, I tightened everything down nice and snug. Now the back bracket alone would not be enough to hold the weight of the completed forge so I decided to incorporate the attached handle into the support structure. Folding the handle down, to see where it would intersect, I drilled a hole in the lid close to the edge. My plan was to pin the handle between the bolt in the drilled hole and the lip on the can. It just missed but after I added a larger washer to the bolt it was locked in beautifully.

Step 3: Mix the Insulation

Now that the outer structure of the forge is completed, its time to make the fillings. The most important part for this step is to get and even 50-50 mixture of sand and plaster of paris. The addition of sand adds heat resistance and prevents the plaster from cracking when at forging temperatures. Once you have both parts in a container, put your rubber gloves on and start mixing. You want to make sure that you don't leave any of the dry materials at the bottom or on the sides. Continue mixing until the ingredients are evenly distributed. At this point, add water, about 1-1 ad mix it in until the mixture is about the consistency of slightly runny mud. Once it is mixed, you will have between 10-25 minutes before it begins to set so you need to work somewhat quickly.

Step 4: Insulate the Walls of the Forge

Before the mixture sets, you need to start shoveling the material into the can. You want a minimum of 3/4 of an inch to protect the walls of the can. Build up the material and be sure to cover all sides of the can with at least this thickness. The more material you add, the better the insulation will be and your forge will retain more heat and therefore be able to reach higher temperatures. Once you have covered the interior of the can, moisten your hands and smooth down the interior.

Step 5: Drill Gas Port

Now you can do this before you fill the can if you don't want your drills to get coated in sandy plaster. If you do drill at this time, be sure that the insulation has begun to set but hasn't hardened yet otherwise you can ruin your drill bit. Find a place near the back of the forge (about 1") and drill straight into the can. Be sure that the hole that you drilled is large enough to fit your torch head in snugly but not to tightly that it gets stuck.

Step 6: Add the Torch, Start the Burn, and Let It Cure

So there's a lot going on in that title but it really is quite easy. Once you get the end of the torch into the port that you just drilled (be sure that the torch didn't get clogged), you can light your first burn. This is very important but it can also be a bit dangerous so be sure to wear safety gear. As the forge heats throughout, any moisture left from the insulation is cooked out. If there are any large air bubbles however, there is a risk that the gasses trapped within them can expand and explode out of the can. The burn will take some time, and until the moisture is cooked out, your forge will not experience exceptionally high heat.

Step 7: Finished!

You are now done with making your own backyard forge from a few materials from the hardware store! I have yet to try making anything yet as I want to see if I can make the forge a bit more efficient with a few modifications. I will keep you posted to them when they occur. Thanks for reading!

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