Blacksmithing is one of our favourite activities to do at Glyndmere. When we first started we bought a farrier forge (horseshoe forge) at an auction sale. We used that a lot but found that it was just too small for some of the bigger projects we wanted. In our SCA medieval group, people are encouraged to challenge themselves. My challenge was to make a blacksmith shop complete with forge, bellows and tools. On a side note, Sibylla and I sell our creations at local markets with
It’s always good to start with some plans. You might not follow them exactly, but at least they are something to go on. The base of this side-draft forge is 72 x 56 inches (182 x 142cm). It has an arched clean-out area and ample space to rest tools. The firepot is beside the flu, the concept is that the smoke will draft sideways up the chimney, and allow you to clearly see what you are working on without obstacles.
With some rough design done the next step was to lay out the plan on the floor with a permanent marker.
It’s hard to find those lines when you start working with mortar and stone, so I built a wooden frame as a guideline.
Stonework arches need a frame that can be removed once the arch is assembled. I build this one out of strapping. Once the stonework is complete you can just remove the ends and pry the strapping out. This forge was not meant to be a work of art- so I was intending to be very liberal with concrete/mortar. The next step was to cut the hole in the arch for the blower pipes.
We did some major renovations to our farmhouse, and a result of that was obtaining some cast iron sewer pipe. This stuff made a perfect blower pipe and cleanout.
An angle grinder was handy for cutting the hole in the vertical cleanout. I used a MIG welder to attach the blower pipe. A slot was cut at the bottom of the vertical firepot/cleanout. Into this, a piece of 14 gauge sheet metal is inserted that is rounded to fit the pipe. To empty the cleanout you just pull the piece out and the ash falls into a bucket under the stone arch. You can see the slot at the end of the pipe in one of the pictures.
With the ‘fancy’ bits done, it was time to start building the stone base. As said earlier I was pretty liberal with the concrete. I used a mix of sandy gravel with lots of important cement. Our place is surrounded by farmland, so there was lots of stone to be found at the edge of the fields.
After more stonework, it was time to make the tool shelf and firepot pan. The firepan is just a sheet of 12 (maybe 10) gauge steel. It is a very shallow pan, only about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. You might think it would need to be made from thicker metal, but this is not the case. All the heat rises up in a forge, so it is pretty hard to melt the pan. I hammered the sides and dome on the anvil and a dishing stump. The pan was then set into concrete for a perfect fit. Of course, this only lasts until you remove the pan and debris messes up the perfect fit. I use Kaowool as a padding/sealer now.
I used flagstone for the tool shelf and started on the chimney. This was a bit thicker because the walls are only 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) thick. The side-draft/flu was also put in place. If done properly, it will suck the smoke up the chimney and allow you to clearly see your firepit without the need for a vent hood.
It took a while to get the chimney up to a six-foot height. The next issue was how wide did I want the roof opening to be? It gets really windy at our farm, so I didn’t want a huge opening at the top of the chimney. I believe the idea is that the wind blows across the top of the chimney, creates suction in the pipe and draws the smoke out. If the chimney is too big, you can get the wind blowing down the cavity and that wouldn’t be good at all. So I decided to tape the chimney down to a 6″ stainless steel pipe.
That kind of taper went beyond my masonry skills, so I build a sheet metal hood and wrapped it in chicken wire. I cemented that all in and made the tape up to the stainless chimney pipe. Somewhere in the process, I took out the arch support.
After the concrete hardened, we started a fire in the pan and tested it out. We were really happy to see the side-draft work exactly the way it should. Now we had a forge where we could clearly see what we were working on and forge long items such as swords etc. It is really nice having a solid tool rest.