Building the Forge-Part Two

Complexity hiding within

Like most all Japanese tools there is certain amount of complexity hiding in a simple design. But before we dive off into the building of a traditional side blast charcoal forge-lets examine our choice of fuel.

The three main forging fuels available today are coal, charcoal and gas-primarily propane. The first two,  coal and charcoal are known as solid fuels. Propane is known as, well-gas.

Gas is the way to go

Of the three, gas is by far the easiest and cleanest fuel to use. With help from the Internet you can make a forge from a paint can that will forge small blades. Bigger forges are not that difficult or expensive to build.

The fuel is available almost everywhere. It is the same fuel and tanks used for gas barbecue grills. Other than the noise of the anvil, running a gas forge is no more invasive to neighbors than grilling a steak.

There is virtually no fire maintenance skills needed. Once the forge is built and tuned there is little need to fiddle with it while working the steel. Forge welding is easier in a gas forge as well.

So, why are we using charcoal?

‘Tis a fair question. There is really only one answer that counts-Because I like it. I like the fire it makes and the smell it gives off. I like the rhythm and sounds of fuigo and fire breathing. Most of all I like feeling connected to a long line of smiths before me. They as I, dealing with the idiosyncrasies inherent to the fuel. As you will see later we will even make our own charcoal. A fun but rather labor intensive way to have fuel for the fire.


In the first picture above I have used brick to create a cavity in the dirt.

Here I have pulled the brick after compacting the dirt around them.

It is about 2 inches deep. Eventually this cavity will be filled with charcoal powder and ash. It is the base for the fire.

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Here I have started building up the sides and inserted PVC pipe to serve as hole molds in the stoneware clay that I used. Once everything sets up a bit I will pull the PVC and insert the 2″ iron pipes.

The pipes are angled down slightly. The idea is for the air to come in and be directed away (below) from the steel. This is one of the ways to limit the amount of oxygen that comes in contact with the hot steel. This all part of the effort to reduce oxidation and it’s resultant loss of material.

This next picture shows the forge finished and a commercial refractory put on the surfaces.

A better view of the air pipes.

In the next picture I am burning scrap wood to create ash and charcoal bits for the forge floor. It also serves the purpose of heating up the refractory gently for the first time. The bricks I am using have followed me for 30 years. I got them out of a 100 year old boiler that was being torn down in 1981. They have built multiple forges.

And finally a real forge fire with the last of the charcoal I made some years ago. Initial burn was great. Extended use will tell the tale.

Next-Making Charcoal

63 Responses to “Building the Forge-Part Two”

  1. kevin says:

    dan, i have to agree with you, there is just something about charcoal.gas is all well and good, but the smell and the historical connecttion, irreplaceable.

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  4. arizona says:

    where i am, i can get a 40 lb bag of mesquite charcoal for about $14 compared to about $26 for a 20 lb bag of lump coal or $3+ per gallon for lpg. charcoal is my fuel of choice.

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