I have had a growing interest in blacksmithing for most of my life. My great grandfather, his father, and his father before him were the town blacksmiths in Oneida Kentucky and "working" and "learning" in the family blakcsmith shop has always been a central focus of my visits to my grandfathers house.
Traditional coal fired blacksmithing is a dying art here in the United States at a time when it in fact may be one of the most important traits to know and understand, when things get bad, and trust me they will, the ability to make use of found metal and form useful implements should be high on our list of priorities and should be considered and important trade which can be used to create barter currencies.
I am set to inherit my family forge as well as tools on my next visit to my grandfathers, at that time I will build a proper "shop" so to speak, utilizing lumber from an old barn my other grandfather had here on this property (noticiing a trend here), as I plan to take excellent care of what I inherit, particularly since to me this tools represent the passing on of gnosis and of useful traits.
Until then however I plan to continue to expand my knowledge of blacksmithing using found and or cheap materials that anyone can put together.
Here I have created a brake drum forge utilizing a car break drum, some fire brick, cinder blocks, and some 2 inch black pipe as well as a couple of pieces of t-rail (scavenged from the railroad that runs accross the farm) for use as anvils and pipe benders and a discarded vice (found amongst my grandfathers tools which have remained unused since his death several years ago) bolted to a piece of cut walnut tree from our front yard. I have assembled a small but varried collection of tools, including many types of tongs, and hammers from his disgarded tools as well. I had to replace many handles in the hammers utilizing old farm implement handles and even made a short handled 8 pound sledge from a discarded sledge head I found.
Wrought iron is easy to come by here on the farm as there is a railroad running accross the front of the farm and an abundance of spikes, plates, discarded tools, and more from the decades of replacing tracks. Of course living in the country provides many farm "dump" sites where there is much in the way of metal due to discarded farm equipment and general farm trash which I can sift through to find suitable and workable material to work with.
I took some pictures to give you some idea of how to set up your own forge. It's pretty simple, all you really need is a brake drum and some 2 inch black pipe and a floor flange. I couldn't find black pipe in the 2 inch size that was needed and using galvanized isn't smart, particularly in a confined space, as you can get what is known as fume flue from the galvanized zink coating on the pipe. Here is a where a bit of chemistry comes in handy; just soak the pipe in some white vinegar for 24 to 48 hours to remove the zink. Essentially you want the floor flange connected to the brake drum if at all possible and a piece of 1/4 metal to cover the bottom of the drum (the bolt holes), but since I don't own a drill press or the equipment necessary to accomplish such a feat, it was just as well to place the flange inside the bracke drum with the "nipple" hanging out the bottom and then placing a piece of grill mesh over top of the hole (to keep the coals from fallign through) and then placing some carraige bolts with wide heads through the mesh and holes and bolting them down, which holds the flange in place. You then create a T from your pipe. The nipple pointing towards you is where you place your air source, in my case a simple squirrel cage fan (not pictured), scavenged from the first greenhouse I bought and took down (I replaced it with a new one when I put the greenhouse back up) and you want one nipple pointing down with an end cap to catch the ash that you will produce.
Anthrocite coal is easy to procure locally from the Swiss amish community where I can buy it for 5.50 a 40 lb bag and I was able to procure a 50 gallon drum of coke for free from one of dads friends as well. You can of course also use charcoal or wood, but both are far less efficient fuel forces. I plan on taking many more pictures once I actually start working with my new forge. I'm waiting on a good rain as we are in a heavy drought which has kept us from having anything in the way of late crops and has put my county in a county wide burn ban.