Yesterday, we took inventory of the situation two years after the balloon went up after the fall, and we realized that things could be pretty challenging. However, with charcoal and a forge, the problems we mentioned wouldn’t be such a dilemma. Yesterday, I shared several options for how to make charcoal. Today, I will share how to make a forge and more tips for smithing. So, let’s get started.
Boy you are ambitious to look at a masonry forge! That’s okay. Depending on your particular situation, this might be easier and or better for you. A masonry forge cannot be moved, so it needs to be built in a barn or a purpose built smithy. Whatever kind of charcoal forge you build, the thing will have the same four parts– the stand, the pan, the blower, and the pipes.
First, you need a blower pipe. I use black pipe (as in un-galvanized) if possible. This is the same stuff you will find in the wall behind the kitchen sink. Using a one and a half inch or two inch sized pipe is fine. You will need a tee, two caps, a nipple, and two runs about ten or twelve inches long and whatever you need to adapt to your blower. If you are building now, before the fall, twenty dollars at Ace Hardware gets you a two-speed bathroom blower and the aluminum hose. To build, size the base to fit your needs or the availability of materials, but leave access to your blower pipe. I recommend a three-sided box.
Cover the top with four-inch thick planks and top with overlapping layers of brick. Next, drill quarter-inch holes in the end cap, attach a run of pipe next to the pipe tee with a nipple coming out of the side and a short piece out of the bottom with another cap or plug. Drill a hole for the blower pipe in the middle of the top of the forge and install the pipe. Remember the cap with drilled holes goes on top! Attach the blower to the nipple coming out of the side of the tee. Fill the spaces between the bricks with fine sand so as not to burn the planks. Do not use mortar; it will explode!
Okay, use extra bricks to regulate the size of your fire area, and fill with charcoal and burn. Place the work in the fire until it reaches a bright yellow heat and place on the anvil. Oh yeah; you don’t have one! Put out that fire and skip to the anvil portion.
Brake Drum Forge
I have two brake drum forges. The one that I use the most is off of a three quarter ton pickup I was given for free by my local wrecking yard because it was worn past safe use. My second forge is made from a drum off an Autocar log truck that was rusting away in the deep woods in the Washington Cascades after it rolled down the side of a hill. They pulled the trailers and the motor and back axles and left the cab, drums, and wheels. Go figure.
Anyway, take your drum and cut two four-inch wide slots out of the sides, 180 degrees apart, so a long piece of work can be laid in the fire.
My stand for the small forge is made of bed rail welded into a three-legged stand that is bolted to the studs with slices of three-inch pipe welded on, so I have rings to hang hammers and tongs plus a coffee can full of borax for fusion welding, as in Damascus Steel. You might want to make yours with four legs. Why not? I did, but you know what? It never sat flat and level! Never! It was as annoying as an ex-wife, so just do it right the first time and give it three legs. Install the blower pipe and blower just like above. Charge the forge and make a knife from a busted wrench!
Oh no! We still have to build an anvil! Don’t worry, we will get there!
My truck brake drum is a lot bigger, so I had to get creative, as in let it sit in my shop for a year or so until finally I took a fifty gallon drum and bolted five pieces of two-inch by ¼-inch angle iron length wise, full length. Next, I cut a door into the side and mounted the drum to the bottom. In order to do this, I had to make four spacers to clear the center hub. It was no big job, just four, five-inch pieces of ¾-inch pipe with a nut welded to one end and the other end ground to a taper, slid over the studs and welded on.
Then they were flipped over and placed on the drum bottom, marked, drilled, and bolted down. I installed the blower pipe and blower just like always, but I was getting nowhere with the slots on the side, so I went to town and paid fifty bucks to a steel shop that did it before I finished paying for it. They did a nice job, too with either hydro cut or plasma cut.
Convert a BBQ
Converting a BBQ is another option. So by now you can see how it might be done. Look at your donor closely; thin steel will burn through, and aluminum will melt. Yes, I know they were charcoal fired, but they were not being blasted with air. There is a local swordsmith that split a hot water tank, hinged the top, and lined it with kaowool and the bottom with fire brick and fire clay. It worked good for him. If you have never seen a pattern welded sword, put it on your bucket list.
Now we get down to it– the making of the anvil! Today, as in centuries past, a blacksmith loves his anvil more or as much as his wife. That is, if you spend 12 to 15 hours a day beating the thing with a 2-, 4-, or 8-pound hammer, you want an anvil that will return as much bounce as possible, so you don’t have to lift so much! In the past, an anvil had a soft iron base, a hard face, soft face, or cutting face, horn, pritchel hole, hardy hole, edge, and heel. You can run down to Harbor Freight and buy a boat anchor cleverly disguised as an anvil, but this is another teachable moment. Listen for the dog, and don’t buy one.
If you’re reading this, I know you own a computer. Read the reviews. Please, do not buy Harbor Freight’s; instead get the real ones. Don’t get me wrong, they do have some good products, but they also have some cheap junk. If you want a real tool, go to barn sales. If you are lucky, you might get a fixer upper for a few hundred. Otherwise, you will be into it at around a grand.
Fear not! There is another way. What you really need is a good piece of steel. This is not, I repeat, it’s not railroad track. That’s too soft. So how do you tell? Just take a good hammer and hit it, hard. It needs to be good, as in reasonable hardness. Look and see how much of a mark it made. If it’s a big old crescent ding, walk on. If you find something that you can’t mark much, see if you can make it work for you. My anvil is a 4½-inch wide piece of busted leaf spring, ½-inch thick, that I found along the freeway.
I have it mounted to a railroad tie sunk four feet into the ground. I also have a vice with 6-inch jaws mounted to a piece of pipe welded to a truck wheel. Sand bags are tossed into the wheel for weight. On my knife bench I have a 6-inch square block of scrap I pulled out of one of our recycler’s piles. I was there selling scrap for three cents a pound. They sold it to me for 80 cents a pound! The funny thing was, he didn’t look like a politician at all!
As I said, this is not rocket science. Anyone can do it. After all, people have been doing it for 3500 years or more. Furthermore, there is now so much refined steel and iron let alone copper, brass, lead, and aluminum that it will be hundreds of years before we have to mine ore and smelt metal. You can wait until after TEOTWAWKI to get started or do it now and lay in a few supplies.
For a synopsis look at the history of smithing.
Next month, I’ll write about more uses for charcoal.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been part two of a two part entry for Round 74 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,095 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances, and
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value).
Round 74 ends on January 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.