Retrotechtacular: Blacksmithing To The Stars!

When most of us think of forge work, the image that comes to our mind is likely to be a rather traditional one, of the village blacksmith’s shop, roaring coke-fired hearths, and an anvil ringing to the beat of hand-wielded hammers. Iron and steel, worked through the sweat of the human brow.

Precision metalwork probably doesn’t figure in there, yet there is another type of forging used to create some of the most highly stressed components on rockets, missiles, and aircraft as well as the more mundane ironwork of your garden fence. Drop forging allows reproducible shapes to be forged while maintaining tight control over the metallurgical properties of the finished product, exactly what is required for such high-performance applications.

The video below is a promotional film about drop forging in the aeronautical industry from the late 1950s, made for and about Wyman Gordon, still specialists in the field. With the charming optimism of the period and a very catchy title it goes into the detail of the plant, development, and quality control of a range of parts for the missiles and rockets of the day, and along the way shows the cutting edge of machine tooling in the days before CNC. A whole Periodic Table of metals are forged with an expertise probably not seen in many other places in the world.

There are also some sights you’d never see in today’s safety culture, for example a running press with men darting in to adjust the position of a forging while it is still moving. It’s not a short video, but definitely worth watching all the way through.

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Blacksmith Forge Made From the Bathroom Sink

The sweltering heat had finally moved on and Giant Tick season was coming to a close (not kidding, they are HUGE here), when I decided to fire up my hacked together blacksmith forge made out of an old bathroom sink and aquarium stand.

In the age-old formula I needed to supply an air source to a fuel to create enough heat to make iron malleable. I got the idea that this particular bathroom sink might be a good candidate for a fire bowl after I banged my shin with it and then cursed at it. It was clearly made of cast iron and as proof it was clearly unfazed by my tirade of words which I hope my son has learned from the Internet and not from listening to me remodel the bathroom.

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From Broken Drill Bit To Knife: Backyard Forging Basics

One of our tipsters sent in a great video showing how to make knives out of old broken drill bits. It comes from [The Art of Weapons] YouTube channel which is run by a 15 year old from the UK. He’s applying old techniques to modern technology and it’s awesome to see someone young with these skills.

The beauty of this hack is aside from the tools you’ll need, it’s practically free to do. Worn out drill bit or other steel tool? No problem – heat it up and make something new. At the heart of this build is making your own forge. There’s lot of options, from using firebricks, to making a soup can forge like he did. From there, it’s really just a matter of annealing the steel (heating it up to red hot, and letting it cool down slowly in sand), and then heating it up again and forming it with a hammer and anvil.

But he doesn’t stop there: he also shows us his method of making handles for knives out of hardwood — its a pretty cool process and the finished knives are beautiful. The video below is a bit long, but well worth the watch if you’re interested in trying your own hand at forging.

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Mini-Forge on a Budget

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Feeling a little black-smithy? Ever wanted to hammer some red-hot steel into a new shape? Turns out, it’s well within your reach!

We’ve seen soup can forges, paint can forges, and even full blown coal fired forges — but none quite as simple as this. All you need is a fire brick — and some tools.

The problem is, fire bricks are kind of fragile. In order to drill into it without cracking the brick [Mike] advises us to clamp it in a wooden jig to help support it. Slowly drill a long hole lengthwise in it, slightly oblong to allow for your work piece to go inside. Flip the brick sideways, and add a second perpendicular hole in order to insert your gas torch of choice.

Now before you go heating it up, it is wise to reinforce the brick by wrapping some wire around it to prevent it from falling apart when it inevitably cracks due to temperature changes. A more permanent solution is to encase the entire brick in concrete to make it more durable, which [Mike] plans on doing next time. Continue reading “Mini-Forge on a Budget”

Propane forge built from a soup can

propane-forge-from-soup-can

It doesn’t look like much, but this easy to build propane forge is just what you need to try your hand at blacksmithing. [Code Cowboy] took on the build after watching this how-to video which shows the fabrication of a small knife after completing the forge build.

The first step is to eat all of the soup (or beans if you prefer). With an empty can in hand the stand — made of two angle brackets — and inlet are attached. Next comes the heat proofing for the walls of the forge. At first glance we thought that cat litter was one of the ingredients, but that’s just an empty container used to haul playground sand. The sand is mixed with equal parts of plaster of paris before adding water to achieve a clay-like consistency. This is packed into the can, with a small opening to receive the metal to be heated.

The torch itself can be used to cure the heat shield. After letting the mixture harden a 30 minute burn will force the rest of the water out of the heat proofing.

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Brake drum and plumbing parts get you started with Blacksmithing

brake-drum-forge

If you’ve ever wanted to do some serious metal working you’re going to need a method of heating the stock. Here’s a build that combines a brake drum and some plumbing fittings into an entry-level forge. It’s a pretty cheap start to see if Blacksmithing is for you.

[Asuka] says that the parts cost him around $40. The brake drum was sourced from a local salvage yard for ten bucks. To that he added a shower floor drain plate to keep the fuel from falling into the air inlet. We have doubts about how long that thin metal screen will last once the coal really gets going, but heat rises to who knows? On the bottom of the drum he mounted a pipe flange with some nuts and bolts. Galvanized pipe fittings connect to this to inject air into the forge. Right now he’s using a compressor and some garden hose to fan the flames, but plans to get a fan from the auto salvage for a more permanent setup.

A note for beginners. Blacksmith work can be dangerous. We’d like to point you to this discussion thread about injuries.

Build your own forge inside a gallon paint can

If you’d like to try your hand with the art of Blacksmithing but don’t want to go all-in on your first project this may be for you. It’s a forge which you can build for under $100. [Mike O’s] creation has some great features, like the option of using the forge as a pass through, and he finds it’s possible to heat metal up to 4″ wide.

He bought an empty paint can at the home store (we guess you don’t want fumes from any paint residue). The business end of the forge is actually the bottom of the paint can. He cut a small opening, then lined the inside of the can with Insulwool, a fabric used as heat shielding. From there the inside was lined with several layers of Satanite Refractory Cement. The same applications were made to the paint can’s original lid, which serves as the back of the forge. This way it can be removed for that pass-through we mentioned earlier.

A propane torch brings the heat for this project. [Mike] mentions that you’re going to want to do the first few firings outside as the cement really stinks until it’s been through a few heating cycles. This creation should get him started but we bet he’ll upgrade to something like this coal forge before long.

[via Reddit]