A Concise Guide To The Best Blacksmith Forges
Blacksmith forges are straightforward. They have one job: to heat up a piece of steel so that you may work it with your hammer. To do this, they burn an energy dense fuel source such as propane or lump charcoal. Good forges will also have some degree of insulation - usually this insulation is provided by a refractory material such as a specialized fire brick designed for forge-like environments. This insulation allows the forge to get hotter and allows the forge to heat up faster. You will want this efficiency, as waiting around for your forge to get hot gets boring real fast.
You have a lot of options when it comes to forges, but too many new people get overwhelmed by all the options and stagnate into inaction. To overcome this, I will keep it simple.
Making your own forge will be the most economical option. However, most homemade forges suck, and they take an afternoon to build. If you are excited by the prospect of making your own forge, then by all means go for it. If you are on a really tight budget I recommend the now famous JABOD forge - meaning “just a box of dirt”. It’s dirt cheap, but you get what you pay for.
But you don’t need to make your own forge. As I said earlier, most newbies fail by spending too much time reading about blacksmithing, and not enough time tinkering in their shop. Thanks to the internet, you have access to high quality forges made by professionals that have been serving blacksmiths for many years.
Buying a high quality forge will mean you will spend less time waiting around for your stock to heat up, which means you will spend more time actually hammering and learning your craft. This is great news for new smiths!
But again, there are a lot of forges for sale, which one should you get?
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
Best Propane Forge For Blacksmiths
I’ll go over other options later, but I really only recommend one forge to newcomers. That forge is the Hells Forge double burner propane forge.
It heats up in about 10 minutes, which is SIGNIFICANTLY faster than the heat up time for solid fuel forges.
It will get hot enough for forge welding, so you don’t have to worry about max temperature.
It’s easy to set up, and easy to put away. Its small size is nice for people out in the suburbs who may be limited on storage space.
In addition, the forge is made in the USA by a company that has been serving metal workers for over 30 years. They make these forges with a consistent quality as evident by the ratings this forge gets.
How much fuel does it use? It uses about 2.5-3 gallons of propane an hour if you have both burners running. There’s a lot of variability here so your mileage may vary.
So by now you are thinking, that’s a great sales pitch, but what are some of the downsides.? No product is perfect after all. The main downside to this forge is that it is small. The working dimensions of this forge are 19" x 6.75 x 3.5". This is large enough to make it a good forge for knife making, and is also big enough for many of the small decorative works that beginner blacksmiths make when honing their skills. Another possible negative is that you will have to apply a refractory coat to the ceramic blanket before using, this adds to the effort required in the initial forge setup. Finally, some people don’t like that it uses a ceramic blanket, as these blankets are made of carcinogenic materials.
All in all, I don’t think these downsides should stop you from using it. Time is precious, and being able to quickly set up your forge and get it to working temperature is paramount. This forge will help you do that.
In addition, this forge is clean. You don’t have to worry about sketchy smoke stacks rising above your house. The smell is minimal so it won’t disturb your neighbors. Finally, there is almost no soot or debris to clean up - especially when compared to a solid fuel forge.
I honestly think these double burner propane forges are the best forge type for beginner blacksmiths.
But some of you may have your heart set on a solid fuel forge despite all the conveniences of a propane forge. I will cover that next.
Best Solid Fuel Forges for Blacksmiths
When it comes to the best solid fuel forge, I could not find a single kit that would adequately give you everything you need. Which means you will have to buy some parts separately and put them together.
Which isn’t really a big deal, it’s not that hard, but it is more work.
For starters you will need a fire pot. A fire pot is the bucket in which you place your solid fuel. It will have a grate that allows fresh air into the fire pot, and it will also double as an escape pipe for ash that accumulates at the bottom of your fire. I recommend this fire pot
Once you have a fire pot, you will need a blower.A lot of people get into blacksmithing because they are interested in the history of metalworking. As such, they tend to gravitate towards hand crank blowers and old school bellows…
If that’s really what you want, go for it. But I’m telling you now, hand cranking your fire will lose its novelty really fast. An automatic blower is the way to go. I like this one: . It has a 3” opening so it is the same size as the fire pot suggested above. The only problem with a 3” opening is that if you ever need to place a pipe in between your blower and your fire pot, you will have a hell of a time finding 3” steel pipe. Most of my local hardware stores don’t even stock 2” black steel pipe, much less 3”.
Quick aside, avoid any galvanized metals in your build. Galvanized metal gives off toxic fumes when heated to a high temperature, and these fumes will kill you. Don’t use galvanized metal anywhere near the hearth of your forge.
Once you have your firepot and your blower, all that is left is a stand. I don’t know of any great off-the-shelf solutions, but it’s not too hard to make a table/stand for your firepot.
And that’s it as far as a solid fuel forge goes.
Most smith’s I know use either a solid fuel forge, or a propane forge. But there is a third option. That option is to use an electric forge of some type. More on that below…
Best Electric Forge For Blacksmithing
Another option is an electric induction forge. These forges heat up the steel to working temperatures very quickly, allowing you a greater degree of heat control, and don’t require propane or solid fuel. Just plug them in and watch them go.
Most 15kw induction forges will heat a piece of mild steel up to working temperatures in about 90 seconds.More powerful forges can do it in 20 seconds or less. The speed at which it heats up is variable on the material you use, how thick it is, and how powerful your forge is.
They do have some downsides. The working space is usually quite small, so heating up large pieces of steel may be difficult. This is only really an issue if your electric forge is your only forge...you can always pull out your solid fuel or propane forge for larger pieces.
Another thing to watch out for is jewelry. Make sure you are not wearing anything made of metal while working an induction forge. Most forges are designed to concentrate its effects within the coil, but it’s a good idea to play it safe.
Which electric induction forge should someone buy if they are interested in this type of equipment? I must confess, I have no personal experience with induction forges, therefore I do not feel comfortable recommending a product.
Heating up steel to forging temperatures is a surprisingly simple process. You can do it in a campfire if you have an air source and good fuel. But some forges are more efficient to use than others. Which is why I recommended the Hells Forge double burner propane forge. It’s easy to build, easy to set up, and easy to put away. It heats up your stock quickly, and doesn’t make a mess like solid fuel forges do. It’s hard to go wrong.
You could of course build your own forge, and many people do end up doing this. But when I was starting I just wanted to get straight into forging as quickly as possible. This propane forge will help you do that. Don’t fall victim to paralysis by analysis, the best thing you can do is hit the ground running so you get more shop time and increase your skills.