This is a mini forge that I made out of six firebricks. It is usable
to me for the little things that I am trying to do. The nice thing
about it is that it is portable and inexpensive and allows me to work
cleanly. It was also easy and inexpensive to make and the bricks can
be reused. I used Oxy/Acetylene to heat it.
The first test of this forge was restoring a rounded off hexagonal
lathe chuck wrench. It was almost fully round instead of hexagonal. To
fix it, I heated it up, upset the hex part slightly (made it thicker),
and then forged the hex shape again. To make sure that it is the right
size (1/2" hex), I inserted it into a 1/2" socket, where it was found
to fit snugly after a couple of adjustments.
I am sure you know that the propane forges are a source of CO2. If you are
operating this in your attached garage be mindful of this and use good
ventilation and a CO2 detector in the house.
Steve, this is an acetylene forge, which is also no doubt a source of
CO2 as well. I believe that people, by nature, are good CO2 detectors
and I would feel some extreme discomfort and distress way before CO2
concentration becomes lethal. If you meant CO, I hope that a slightly
oxidizing flame should take care of it. In any case, I will try to
find that CO detector I had laying around.
As a second thought, I am not sure if I should quench it. This is a
lathe chuck wrench. If I make it soft, then in case of overtorquing
it, the wrench will be ruined (some $20 loss). If I make it hard, then
in case of overtorquing the chuck will be ruined (some $400 loss or
whatever it is the chuck costs).
I wish more folks would see reason like you.
I wonder how many would be smiths never strike hot metal because they
have 1200 bricks they have to make into a forge first.
Well, thanks. I am not even sure if I need to proceed with making a
propane forge. I do not plan on extensive blacksmithing -- at least
yet -- just on using it when appropriate. For example I made a holder
to hang a welding torch, from a steel bar, properly twisted and bent
to the shape I want. That's useful. The O/A forge is good for this
Making steel flowers and scarecrows, not my cup of tea. We'll see. I
will now go back to my lathe.
You need to CNC your plasma cutter for those. There is a fairly good
market for that type of metal art crap, particularly customized with
house numbers, names, etc. The good this is you also don't need a big
CNC plasma cutter either, a 24" square work area is plenty.
I would quench and then draw it blue or purple, so the square won't
round off or twist and jam in the chuck socket. You shouldn't be able
to overtorque it with hand pressure on a standard-sized tee handle.
That is a shame.
I think the money is there, even still.
I sent a DXF to my pals at Malibu Metals and they sent me a couple
of thin example pieces. They turned out well enough.
I couldn't get them to take additional money
to cut out the full thickness piece however.
Man, if I had a CNC plasma, I sure wouldn't leave money on the table!
I'd imagine an artsy or university town with a crafts fair/Saturday market
kind of deal would be a good place to start with items like that. Probably
pull in some bucks doing custom ones for the more well-heeled artsy-fartsy
I had access to a PlasmaCAM (Fairly inexpensive PC-driven table
arrangement) with my 1/4" plasma cutter. The thicker the metal, the
more heat-effects bugger the work. There are ways to deal with that,
but add to setup and constraints in the image. My buddy was always
after "thicker, faster", and got a big plasma cutter, then found he
couldn't get as fine a detail, and had repeatability issues with thin
stuff for switchplates, etc. And with his 1" cutter, he still decided
that the heaviest he ever intends to cut is 1/2 inch plate. Thicker
than that, he runs into the stuff I hit at 1/8" - you lose live on the
cutter tips, slag and blow-back from intersecting lines and pointy
features can plug the tip, and just generally foul the thing before
finishing cutting out the current setup or piece.
Sometimes the money isn't worth the wear, tear, and effort.
Especially if you try something and find it isn't fun at all.
I figured at one point that it made sense to charge by the drawing.
About 5 cents per inch of cut, plus 10 cents per piercing or start.
At the time, about $1 per square foot of 16 ga steel, and $25/hour for
my shop time. I mostly did craft stuff, and left the slag on, for
'character'. On good days when the humidity worked, when the temp was
in a good range, when the power on the power lines held reasonably
constant, and the steel scrubbed up nicely before I started cutting,
it went well. But that cutter could get miserable, too.
Now the cutting I do is by hand (same cutter), and less decorative
than making something to fit, or cutting the nut off a bolt. Or
cutting 24" steel pipe length ways for cattle feeders. And it is
generally a lot less frustrating. 1/4"x1 1/2" strap for a straight