Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

Forg-Cnstrctn-art - 4/28/02


"A Simple Portable Brake Drum Forge" by Master Magnus Malleus. Directions for building a simple forge and other information useful to the beginning blacksmith.


NOTE: See also the files: blksm-forges-msg, blacksmithing-msg, blksm-anvils-msg, blksm-welding-msg, bellows-msg, bladesmithing-msg, Non-Ferrous-bib, casting-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Fri, 26 Apr 2002 08:18:02 -0400

From: rmhowe <MMagnusM at bellsouth.net>

To: "- Stephan's Florilegium" <stefan at texas.net>

Subject: Re: A Simple Portable Brake Drum Forge


A Simple Portable Brake Drum Forge

by Master Magnus Malleus


The most basic forge can simply be a hole in the ground with

a pipe (tuyere) supplying air from beneath or beside it.




An easily made portable forge can be had with some basic 2"

pipe fittings, an electric blower, and a cast iron brake drum.


I have had three forges in my time, a brake drum forge

(actually my favorite), a very large commercial Buffalo forge,

and a cast iron band saw brazing forge in which large tongs

were heated to braze huge band saw blades together. I sold the

Band saw brazing forge because it got too hot to be anywhere near.

I traded the full size forge eight years ago when it became

impossible for me to hammer much anymore, with a few other

items to make a fair trade for a milling machine/lathe



To make an Simple Portable Brake Drum Forge you need:


A brake drum from a car. Larger car sizes are preferable.

(Truck brake drums are huge, deep, and have huge holes.)

These are found at any scrap yard.


Some fire clay, and some Hydraulic cement to mix it with

50/50, obtainable at a building supply place.

Something to mix it in. A plastic bucket for example.

Something to trowel it in with. (Plug your blower holes first.)


Some -soft- refractory brick to cut to fit the bottom

of the forge. You can cut this stuff with a hacksaw.

If your local brickyard/home supply place doesn't have

it try a pottery supply store.


You also need a set of -2"- (preferable) or 1 1/2" pipes:

A pipe flange for the bottom of the brake drum, where the hole


In my case I scrounged around and found an old cast iron

gear to put over this. The center of the gear had a one

inch hole in it and I drilled the outside of the gear with

a number of 3/8" holes at an angle tapering to the center

to create a focused air blast a few inches above the gear.

This is where you obtain maximum heat.

You could also use a cast iron drain plate or some holed

stainless steel to help cover the hole in the bottom of

the Brake drum over the 2" pipe, which is large enough to

allow chunks of coal/coke/clinker to drop down it.

Ordinary steel will burn through because of the carbon in

it. Cast Iron won't burn easily and stainless would have

to melt. To drill stainless steel you will need to buy

or borrow a cobalt steel (some say C or M42) drill bit.


Rest of pipes:

2 six inch long threaded pipe nipples to screw above and

below a 'T' connector. The upper one screws into the flange.

The lower one screw into the Pipe cap or oil drum cap.

An oil drum cap to screw on the bottom of the bottom 6"

nipple to function as a clean out. I used a piece of

strap steel bolted to the cap with a counterweight to

simply allow me to raise it with my foot to clean

the pipe out. You could just stick a nail in the lock

holes that are in these caps. If you can't find one

you can simply use a pipe cap. You need a way to clean

out the pipe either way.

A foot long piece of pipe threaded at both ends.

to screw horizontally into the 'T" fitting to connect

it to the blower.


Some bolts and nuts appropriate to what you are bolting



A Drill and a few metal bits.


A Piece of Sheet metal to make a blower cover out of.


A little knob and screw.


Most hardware stores have all of the above in stock.


A blower:

This can be a 120 volt electric blower with plug and

in line switch (buy and install it in the hot side of

the wire) or a 12 volt blower to hook up to your car

battery with a set of alligator clamps. Or both interchangeably.

In my case my initial blower had a square hole, I made a

wooden block to fit the opening, screwed the block inside

the square opening and drilled a hole I could thread the

1 foot long pipe into. (Alternately you could use a hair

dryer, or a vacuum exhaust. They just aren't as controllable.)


If you are going to be working on damp ground I recommend a

three wire system hooked up to a portable GFCI or plug it to an

in line GFCI, also known as a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor.

If you can't find a place to connect the green wire

to on your blower, attach it to a bolt on the outside motor


This is so you won't get a fatal shock. If you don't know

for sure what you are doing, ask an electrician or look

in an electrical book.


(I got my sophomore housing at college because my predecessor

at the house electrocuted himself with a vacuum cord he'd

dropped into a puddle he'd made washing his car mats.

I am told that can be a slow way to go.)


GFCI's can be had for as little as $10 or less. They only

work on three wire grounded circuits with Black (hot)/

Green (Ground) / White (Neutral) wires. GFCI's cut the

circuit before you can receive a fatal shock. This is what

is required within six feet of water outlets in your house

as well. Look in the kitchen and bathroom. They usually

have a test and an on switch on them.

Portable ones are $10-35.


Hot black wires go to brass colored screws, White to the silver

colored screw, green to the green screw or wire or to the bare

wire without any insulation inside the wall box.

(My wife could have easily died when someone hooked these up

incorrectly and hot-wired a new stove case. She did get a shock.)

If you are wiring in a GFCI wall box remember to cut the power

at the main panel. Test to make sure it's off. A radio or light

that is turned on will tell you when it is off if you don't

have an electrical circuit tester.


Northern http://www.northernstores.com/

and stove supply stores sell 120 volt blowers.

So does American Scientific Supply or Surplus Supply

usually. Look in the back of Popular Mechanics for

Surplus Supply's address. or try this page for

another. Bottom Left: http://www.73.com/a/0701.shtml

See bottom of page of


for an idea of what I am referring to. Just smaller

and cheaper. Can be had for $15 if you look around

or scrounge your local scrap yard. Frequently ours

has huge bins full of motors and fan motors.


Blowers also exist within old air conditioners.

These can be 120 or 240 volt in larger ones.

(The problem with old air conditioners is that they

also contain freon, and if you rupture a pipe getting

one out you can blind yourself with the spray. I don't

recommend this, but if you dig one out of one of these

at the very least wear eye protection, with or without

a face shield.) Getting one out can be difficult, so

I recommend a different source. Call around.


12 volt blowers can be picked up at any auto scrap yard.

They are used in the car heater system under the dash

board. Alligator clamps may be had at Radio Shack or an auto

supply place. Make sure you put the insulators back on their

handles. Or put a lighter receptacle plug in instead.


A blower's blast is simple to control by simply putting

an egg shaped piece of metal over the intake hole with

a small bolt in the small end of the egg shape to pivot

on. I also put a little knob on mine opposite the pivot.

Sliding it to cover or uncover the intake hole changes

your air blast to the forge immensely. I never did like

my hand cranked blowers. You get too hot entirely.


When you are not heating metal switch the blower off.

This saves fuel, the fire won't go out. Leave it on

and your steel will blister or burn away in an instant.

You may want to keep several thick pieces heating as

you work on one.


In my case I mounted the whole thing on some old metal stool

legs bolting the leg tops to the bottom of the brake drum.


Basic set up:

Brake drum on top, thick rim horizontal.



|_____         _____|

|     \ _  _  /     |-- fire clay/cement

|______|_| |_|______| infill here.

       '-|__|-'  bolted together

         |  |


        |    |_<Tee fitting|___________

        |      |-----------|            \

        |     _|-----------|    blower   \

        |____|             |---(  (  )   |

         |  |                   \  --   /

         |  |                    \_____/

hinge  _|__|_   locking

     (o|______|0) pipe tank cap / clean out.


Alternately you can set it up on blocks instead of putting

legs under it. The blocks go on either side of the bottom

of the brake drum. Mix the fire clay/hydraulic cement

and cover the area inside the bowl on either side

of the blower hole(s) in the bottom. Plug the holes

first. Any bolting/assembly should be done before

you lay your fire clay/cement. Especially if you put

some steel stool legs under it. I did.


These things make an interesting place to have a

cookout/party session around as well (when the wind

doesn't shift your way). A hot dog can be done

over wood scraps in about half a minute, or a

marshmallow in about five seconds. My blower at

full opening would produce a wood fire about a

foot wide and four feet long. Coal/Coke is a bit

more controllable. Coke is coal with the impurities

burned out of it. Charcoal briquettes are easily

obtained. Just get an adequate supply.


That in-line switch really helps save fuel.

You can obtain an in-line cord switch anywhere

that sells electrical supplies.


You also need a little can with holes in the bottom

and a steel strap handle bolted to it to control

the fire as a sprinkler. You need a water bucket

anyway to quench your steel in.

A piece of 5/16' iron made like a poker with a 90

degree bend at the end to pull out clinkers.

Clinkers are what is left when the coal burns itself

out. I bent the other end of mine to make a handle shape.


This forge will get hot enough to easily burn steel up,

so watch your pieces. A beginner also needs thick leather

gloves, a real pair of American made Vise-Grip pliers

(trade name, better than the softer Chinese imitations)

(round jaws style recommended) and a smooth faced hammer.

Other hammers with crossed straight and ball peen heads

will help. Any damage to the hammer face or your anvil

will transfer with each blow to your piece you are working.  

Leather gloves will smoke before you feel the heat.


Use some eye protection. Red hot steel produces scale.

Hot scale or embers hurt. For a smoother finished item,

brush off the scale each time with a long handled wire

brush before you hammer it. Natural fiber clothes are a

*lot* safer than synthetics.


Steel anvils tend to ring. Cast iron kind of clunks.

Good steel ones rebound hammers well. Cast iron anvils

are a lot more prone to spalling or throwing off chunks.

Hitting it with a hammer and listening might help you

find a better one. Some have steel welded to a cast

iron base. A good quality anvil is about $4 + per pound.

Centaur Forge http://www.centaurforge.com/


Cheap Chinese imitations claim to be useful. I don't

happen to have one. I have a hundred pound English cast

steel anvil among others.


Rail Road Rail can be made into an anvil. See:

Alexander G. Weygers, and Peter Partch: The Complete

Modern Blacksmith; Ten Speed Press, March 1997, Paperback,

304pp., ISBN: 0898158966, $17.95 is a compilation of the

following three foregoing books I've owned since they came out:

The Modern Blacksmith; Paperback, Van Nostrand Reinhold,

        New York, 1974.

The Making of Tools;  Paperback, Prentice Hall /

        October 1973

Recycling, Use and Repair of Tools; Paperback, Van Nostrand

        Reinhold, January 1978.


Aldren Watson's The Village Blacksmith is a good book

to learn from, and gives a good idea of building a whole

forge to work in.


So is Jack Andrew's New Edge of the Anvil. Jack worked at

the Yellin Forge in Philadelphia for many years. This is

in it's second revised edition. (He once asked me to

work there when he saw some of my work on Ann's necklace.

Thank you very much Jack, but I'm a southerner, and you're

surrounded by Yankees. [Shudder])


One of the best books out right now is Plain and Ornamental

Forging by Ernst Schwarzkopf $18.95 through http://www.bn.com/

Paperback, 2nd ed., 281pp. ISBN: 1879335956

Astragal Press, Pub. Date: October 2000

This used to be very rare. Buy one while it's in print.

Seriously beautiful work techniques. I wish I'd been able

to buy one twenty years ago.


Almost everyone has Alex Bealer's The Art of Blacksmithing.

It's been selling for $10 for decades.


When you get more advanced perhaps you'll want:

Richardson's Practical Blacksmith - by a 19th Century

professional blacksmith and horseshoer.


and especially:

Hasluck, Paul N.: Metal Working, A Book of Tools, Materials,

and Processes for the Handyman, with 2.206 illustrations

and working drawings, 760pp., 1907, David McKay, Publisher,

610, South Washington Square, Philadelphia. Reprinted by

Lindsay Publications, P.O. Box 12, Bradley, Illinois 60915-0012,

currently available. ISBN 1559181265, Hardback.

http://www.lindsaybks.com/ Lindsay Publications, Inc.,

P.O.Box 538 Bradley, IL 60915-0538 (fax 815) 935-5447,

(815) 935-5353 phone; lindsay at lindsaybks.com

Chapters include: Foundry Work; Smith's Work; Surfacing Metals;

Polishing Metals - machines and processes; Annealing,

Hardening, and Tempering; Drilling and Boring; Taps,

Screw-plates, and Dies; Soldering, Brazing and Riveting;

Forging Iron and Steel; Working Sheet Metal; Repouss'e Work;

Oriental Decorative Brass work; Finishing, Lacquering and

Colouring Brass; Lathes and Lathework; Spinning Metals on

the Lathe: Tools for Measuring and Testing Metalwork; Building

a 4 1/2" Center Lathe; Gold and Silver Working; Making a

Skeleton Clock; Building a Small Horizontal Steam Engine;

Boiler Making; Building a Petrol Motor; Making Water Motors;

Electroplating; Wire Working; Electric Bell Making; Making a

Microscope and Telescope; Index. The Gold and Silver chapter

includes ancient jewelry including Etruscan and Celtic.

Hasluck was an extremely smart and prolific writer. Nearly

all his many books are good.


That is a start. As I own some 450 metalworking, knife making

and jewellery books I don't think I'll go through my

entire list. It's not all on the computer anyway.


As an aside I have been told that some schools have bins

full of no longer used coal they might be glad to get

rid of if they switched to natural gas. Call and ask.


Since I am writing this in the U.S.A. I am using electrical

terms familiar to us. Your overseas wiring may be different.


Master Magnus Malleus, OL, GDH 2002 R.M. Howe

*No reposting my writings to newsgroups, especially rec.org.sca,

or the SCA-Universitas elist. I view this as violating copyright

restrictions. As long as it's to reenactor or SCA -closed-

subscriber based email lists or individuals I don't mind. It's

meant to help people without aggravating me.* Inclusion, in the

http://www.Florilegium.org/ as always is permitted.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org