I am setting up my first forge. I am at an em pass as to weather to go
with charcoal, which I have some experience with and I know I can anneal
with it, or propane. The major consideration is which lasts longer, $10
worth of charcoal, or $10 worth of propane. I can build my forge either
way, charcoal may be easier to work with and I already have little
blower (free), but propane might be alot cheaper.
I'd go with poopane; it's cleaner, it stays where you set it, you don't
spend a lot of work time futzing with the fire. Charcoal has some
advantages, but they are dependant on what kind of work you're planning. If
your work is primarily Large and bulky, like farm equipment, then charcoal
or coal offers the potential for a conforming fire in an open top setting.
But if your plan is smaller pieces like knives or other mideval weaponry,
then gas will be easier to deal with. There isn't a 'perfect' setup that
will fill every need all the time. Different projects need different
tooling. Fuel is the least of your cost worries, tooling is the big bite,
and it adds right up. I'm currently set up for blades up to three feet, I
have about 30 Large invested in tooling. I'm thinking about spending
another 6 Large on new equipment so I can expand into the custom motorcycle
market. This doesn't include the tooling I will fabricate myself, mainly
sheetmetal forming stuff and fixtures for frames. It all depends on what
you want to make, think long and hard on this before you spend big bux for
<snip some good stuff>
It also largely depends where you are - if you live out in the woods,
charcoal is going to be free, except for labour, and propane
(POOPANE???!!!???? LOL) could be expensive to deliver/collect
If you live in the middle of a city, you may have to go with propane
because of city ordinances banning smokey fires.
On the other hand, my city ordinance allows the burning of charcoal, but
I can't store propane cylinders on my land.
There -is- a source for free charcoal and all you can burn too. ;)
But it's fine 1/8" to 3/16" cubes since it's coconut shell charcoal.
Water softner outfits throw the stuff away and buy it bagged by
the pallet. Ok so "it's too fine" there was some talk here about
"briquette-ing;)" homemade charcoal, why not briquette this stuff?
My question is what's involved in making briquettes?
What's used as a binder?
Some of the charcoal has "KDF" added to it in the shop for certain
installations, KDF contains metals, mostly copper, don't know
whether that will make a difference or not in pattern welded steel
for swords etc. :/
But they know (and can tell) which charcoal has KDF (etc) and which
don't. :) In our area most of the charcoal that's used, don't have
anything added. ;)
They coat gas-welding rod with copper on purpose for "liquid pool
protection". I'll look into what other additives can be used in
water softner charcoal too, so we'll know what's going on there.
BTW, if you didn't know, a water softner is nothing but a "reactive
water filter". The mineral (zeolite) used in the filter attracts
and holds onto certain "impurities;)" in the water. It's not real
efficient size-wise and has to be cleaned periodically with a brine
strong solution. But the mineral will last for well over 10 years.
So the "head" is set so after so many gallons of water go through
the system it automatically cleans itself, but waits until 2AM to
do that. Weird huh? :)
Was that more than you ever wanted to know about water softners? ;)
Are water softners mostly just a desert-thing?
My water is "greater than 25 grains hard".
I never cared about having one but my son set one up out here as an
experimental base. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don't. What
I've noticed is "it's a -lot- better shaving" when it's working! :)
Every time you mention it, I mean to look into it, but forget.
Trouble is, we're on sandstone here, so no softeners needed, not in the
sort of quantities you're on about anyway - I would guess softeners are
only needed in limestone areas
Zeolite is an ionic filter. The brine (high ionic strength) releases
the crud, which is rinsed away. When the brine in turn is rinsed away by
fresh water, the Zeolite is ready to use again. Zeolite catches "minerals"
if they're ionic. You'd want an activated charcoal filter to catch the
"Keep your ass behind you"
vladimir a t mad scientist com
It's actually a synthetic resin these past 50 years or so. Picks up
calcium & magnesium ions from the water, and replaces them with sodium
ions. The brine, which is a really strong solution of sodium (and
chloride) ions forces the reaction to run the other way.
Yeah they call it "resin" alright. :)
(didn't know how to spell it before your post;)
There are different "resins" to choose from how close are they
chemically to the old zeolite tho? (the water softner guys didn't
know the answer when I asked it last year;)
Sorry guys didn't mean to turn this thread into a water sof'ner
thread just wanted to describe the jist of how the dangged things
worked. My college chemistry book describes it in such detail the
"jist" was lost on me until a year or so ago. :)
Alvin in AZ
cement I believe.
You could always try egg white :.))
I wonder if PVA would work - I can get tonnes (literally) of
that - carton manufacturers (conflakes packets etc) use it by the
1000's of gallons a week, and there is a lot of waste - which (certainly
in UK) they pay to dispose of.
PVA is a short term or generic term.
It is often used in 55 gallon (xxx liters) as a wood preservative.
It absorbs the (alcohol part) water and deposits the PV . It makes green wood
usable after weeks in the tank.
Rifle stocks are often done this way.
The plastic part will be a carbon source and may be smelly.
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net
Wow. I completely forgot about this thread. When I started it I thought
I would give it a couple of days and check back.
I'll answer a couple of questions first.
I plan on making everything from some of the basic tools (tongs, maybe a
hardy or two) to longswords. I will do simple knives for the kitchen and
fun knives (khukuris) for the back yard. I do plan on forge welding so
brickettes or any fuel that will interfere with welding (such as lazzari
charcoal) is out of the question.
I already have two blowers (air, not gas) for a charcoal forge. One is
the air pump from a nautilus mattress and the other is an electric leaf
blower. Both of them were free so if I decide to go propane I haven't
wasted any money on them.
I don't have the resources to make charcoal right now but I could
probably manage to get them in the future. I am checking laws and
requirements for open burning permits in my area. If we build an addon
to our shed I might be able to include a smoke stack or chimney and get
around the permits and burning seasons.
The equipment I have is an anvil (hay-budden 133# with a 3/4"(?) steel
plate face), a 3# square faced hammer that needs to be cleaned up and
one face will be slightly rounded, a 1# ball peen hammer, a fullering
hardy, and an angle grinder. Besides tongs what more tools to I need?
Well that is unless I want to play around with my smithing "mentor"
does. He is just an amature blade smith but he has his hands in room
temperature nitrogen gas hardening, induction hardening, and custom
I know that the best (in the long run) option is to get both and use
each for what it does best, but for now I just want to get one of them
built. For what I want to do which involves heating different sizes of
areas I think I will just do charcoal for the time being. Maybe once I
can afford to build a second forge I will make a propane one.
Okay, here's a few thing to thimk on... You get better welds in the folding
phase if you keep the work as close to a cube as possible. It's a volume to
surface area thing, the heat doesn't get away as fast. You can always
stretch it out later at forging temp. For welding, you want a small deep
fire, so there's lots of fuel below the work, hot gas rises. The biggest
mistake I've seen in beginning forges was lack of depth in the box. People
get these old Cavalry farrier forges and wonder why they can't get good
fusion, and their fire looks like it's made to cook hamburgers on. Two feet
caross and three inches deep won't concentrate the heat.
Since you already have a blower, go with charcoal. Look in the Yalu Pages
for a big rig repair shop, and see if you can scrounge a back axle brake
drum. These are made from high strength heat resisting alloy steel, usually
about fifteen inches across at the rim, and already have a big hole in the
'bottom' with holes for a flange mount around it. Line this with an inch of
refractory concrete all the way to the rim, then build a stacked firebrick
chimney on top of that. There's your firepot, typical service life 20 to 30
years with care. You'll need an air duct that reaches up into the pot, I
reccomend a piece of big water pipe with a perforated screw-on cap, so you
can change it out when it erodes. You have to drill your own perforations,
something like 1/4" holes on 3/8" centers, leaving a 1/8" web between
holes. Tee the air feed off this and add a short run of pipe with a cap for
an ash catcher. The ash catcher should be vertical below the duct, T on it's
side. Bhob I wish I had graphics. Mount this on a stand at convinient
height and go to town.
I get about 4-6 hours of forging time from a 20# propane tank (BBQ
size). This includes running two burners at 5-10psi with some short
periods of cranking it up to forge weld. So that works out to about $2
to $3/hour in fuel. Figure that you will want to get at least a couple
of tanks so that when you run out you don't have to close down and go
to get a refill. The tanks are around $30-$40 filled.
Unfortunately propane isn't cheaper in volume like a lot of other
welding gasses, so having 3-20# will cost as much to refill as 1-60#.
(Although the 60# won't freeze up on you as much).
I believe that propane is a lot more convienient in general (cleaner,
quick to start up, doesn't need to be tended to,etc), but I have a lot
more experience w/ propane then coal.
Unless you are making your own charcoal, I would expect it to cost a
fair bit more than propane. From what I hear, it burns up fairly fast.
Coal is generally viewed as the least expensive of the three. Once I got
my propane forge put together, I had it sitting on top of my coal forge
for about 5 years--I never went back to the coal. Propane is pretty
nice, except in the summer. It does heat up the shop a fair bit more
Jacob Hawes wrote:
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