The Various Types of Blacksmith Forges
Whether you’re a new blacksmith looking for your first forge or an experienced blacksmith looking to add a new forge to the shop, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of your desired forge before investing. Blacksmithing equipment is not cheap, so take advantage of this opportunity to educate yourself on the various types of blacksmithing forges before you shop.
The Three Major Forge Types
Modern blacksmithing forges are classified into three types: solid fuel, gas, and induction. Each type of forge has its own set of uses, advantages, fuel sources, and requirements. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the three types of forges, their differences, and which one you might want to use in your own blacksmithing shop.
Coal Solid Fuel Forges
When most people think of blacksmithing, they envision a solid fuel forge. This forge requires a consistent burning material, such as charcoal, coal, wood, or coke (a hard carbon fuel). The solid fuel forge is a more traditional type of forge. This makes it one of the most reliable forges available, as it has withstood the test of time in the industry.
Benefits of Coal Forges
The variety of fuel options available on the solid fuel forge is one of its best features. Coal is a popular choice because it burns slowly and efficiently, making it ideal for longer projects. However, some blacksmiths prefer charcoal or wood because they burn faster. Coal burns the hottest of all solid fuels, so if you want to work with metals with high melting points, a coal solid fuel forge is ideal.
Forge (propane or gas)
The propane forge is a modern take on the traditional blacksmith’s forge. Many people in the blacksmithing community believe that a propane or gas forge is the best choice for newcomers to the craft. This is due to its overall user-friendliness. A propane tank is all that is required to fuel a gas forge, as opposed to a pile of coal or charcoal for a solid fuel forge. However, blacksmiths advise having an extra propane tank or two on hand whenever you begin a new project, as gas forges consume fuel more quickly than traditional methods. If you intend to build your own forge from the ground up, you will also require some additional equipment and tools for constructing a propane burner. Otherwise, these forges are extremely user-friendly and offer numerous advantages.
Benefits of Gas Forges
The advantages of using this forge are derived from its fuel source. Propane and gas are extremely clean burning materials, so you won’t be left with a burnt, ashy mess after your forging session. And, while you will need to stock up on propane tanks before your burn, these tanks are readily available at almost any hardware store. Even lighting a propane forge is simple for beginners: simply open the gas valve and place the burner in your foundry.
Propane also provides a steady stream of fuel and heat, leaving the chamber evenly heated so you don’t have to concentrate your efforts in one area. Overall, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned blacksmith, using a gas forge has numerous advantages.
Great For Knife Making
Gas forges are excellent for bladesmithing and knife making in general. They are relatively inexpensive, and reduce the chances of burning your work to a sparkling mess of molten metal!
In fact, some great knives can be made with jut:
- A gas forge
- Some sort of anvil (even an old converted railway rail)
- A good quality knife grinder – The best knife grinders are usually 2 x 72 belt grinders (or a high powered 1 x 30 at a push!). Note: 2 x 72 grinders are. harder to find in the UK than the USA< but they are available.
- Some basic hand tools (files, hammer, tongues)
The induction forge is the least well known of the various types of blacksmith forges, but it has a place in the lineup. In fact, it is used alongside the gas forge in many modern foundries. The induction forge, like the gas forge, uses electricity to heat and melt metals and alloys, and it burns very cleanly. The induction forge also doesn’t require much cleaning. Because it is electrically powered, it is simple to control and contain.
Induction forges are experts in billet heating, bar end heating, deformation, and a variety of other processes. Cast iron, steel, copper, alluminum, and even some precious metals are among the materials that blacksmiths commonly melt in the induction forge.
Benefits of Induction Forges
The induction forge’s ability to heat up quickly is one of its most impressive features. It has the ability to generate heat to the point where material components reach desired temperatures very quickly. This forge is also very energy efficient, producing a controlled and consistent heat. The temperature produced, like that of the propane forge, is very evenly distributed throughout the entire chamber. These forges are also excellent for both novice and experienced blacksmiths, though they can be costly investments. As a result, solid fuel or gas options may be preferable for hobbyist blacksmiths.
The Most Appropriate Forge for the Job
Each of these forges has its own distinct set of characteristics, functions, and jobs. Most common working materials and alloys can be melted in any of the forges listed above, but some forges burn hotter than others. For example, if you want to work with metals with extremely high melting points, you should use a coal or solid fuel forge. These forges have the highest temperature, around 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and are followed by propane, charcoal, and wood. Before you commit, think about the metals you want to work with and which forge would be best for them. The most important thing, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, is that your forge matches your goals as a blacksmith. Some blacksmiths will even build their own forges from the ground up to meet the specific needs of their shop.
For knife making, oftentimes a decent gas forge is the best all-round option.