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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

by Pete Cecil of Bend, OR

See author Pete Cecil demonstrate basic blacksmithing techniques in our 3 part Farm Drum video series, Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil:
Farm Drum #29: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Building a Fire
Farm Drum #30: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Basic Techniques
Farm Drum #32: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Finishing the Hook

After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Shop-built propane forge.

Gas forges are popular and readily available. A new basic farriers forge starts at around $400 and can be found at farrier supply houses or on-line at Centaur Forge. If you have access to some basic welding and shop equipment you can build your own gas forge out of a 2-1/2 to 5 gallon propane or air tank. I built mine for less than $100.

The convenience of a gas forge is that it provides an instant and constant heat that requires little or no attention after it’s lit. You simply light it and can then concentrate on the forging project at hand. Gas burns cleaner than a coal forge and is readily available. Some of the drawbacks to using gas is that it’s noisier, and it makes the shop hotter in the summer time. Depending on the type of smithing that your doing gas is also generally considered more expensive than coal. The biggest drawback to most gas forges is the limited size of the forge itself. My gas forge has a 4-1/2 inch by 6 inch opening, and is 12 inches deep. It works great for forging smaller items such as horse shoes, knives, barn door latches, etc, but it is impractical to forge larger items such as dinner bells, farm machinery repairs, etc. Another drawback is most gas forges will not heat your work to a forge welding temperature.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Medium-sized farm shop coal forge.

Coal forges are still being manufactured and range from small portable farriers or rivet models to large permanent forges. They start at around $500. Centaur Forge carries a wide selection. Used coal forges are also readily available. A functioning used coal forge will start at $400. It’s possible to fabricate your own brake drum forge for less than $100.

A coal forge takes longer to bring up to a working temperature compared to gas. With that being said, I can usually bring my forge up to a usable heat in under five minutes. It also requires greater skill, constant attention, and more physical effort to maintain an even heat. With practice you’ll be able to adjust the size of the fire for the project at hand and can reduce the amount of fuel that you use. Because coal can bring metal to a forging temperature and beyond, it is possible to accidentally melt your project. If you’re new to blacksmithing it can be frustrating to maintain a coal fire and work on a project simultaneously. Many people enjoy using coal because it’s more traditional. If you plan on forging in public a coal forge will usually attract more interest than a gas forge. They’re also much quieter than a gas forge. Because a coal forge isn’t enclosed like most gas forges it’s easier to position your metal so that only the area your working on is in the fire. Most coal forges can also accommodate larger projects than gas forges.

Depending on where you live finding a source of good quality blacksmithing coal can be problematic. Here in the Pacific Northwest I buy blacksmithing coal from Farrier’s Supplies located in Monroe, Oregon.

A third option that is gaining in popularity is a wood fired forge. The main advantage to this type of forge is that the fuel is renewable and is readily available. I’ve never used one but think they are worth investigating. They generally require a greater volume of fuel when compared to coal. Whitlox Wood Fired Forges are made in Oregon and start at around $300.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

So what’s the best forge for you? It really depends on the finished product, and the skill set your trying to achieve. If your new to blacksmithing and want to jump right in to hammering hot metal, a gas forge definitely has an easier learning curve. If you’re interested in working smaller pieces of metal such as making knives, horse shoes, etc., a gas forge will be a good choice.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in traditional skills, and/or might want to forge larger projects — a coal forge may be right for you. If you happen to catch the blacksmith “bug” you’ll probably end up with both a gas and a coal forge. In my shop, I generally use my gas forge for smaller projects, or if I need to produce a product quickly. I also have two coal forges. One is a World War II era U.S. cavalry forge that is portable and is used for demonstrations and public events, the other is a medium sized shop forge that I use for larger projects. In the future I plan on exploring the possibilities of using a wood fired forge.

Centaur Forge — 1-800-666-9175
Farrier Supplies — 1-541-847-5854 (website coming soon)
Whitlox Wood Fired Forge — 1-503-952-6540

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Spotlight On: How-To & Plans

Work Horse Handbook

Grooming Work Horses

The serviceability of the work horse may be increased or decreased according to the care which is bestowed upon him. If he is groomed in a perfunctory fashion his efficiency as an animal motor is lessened. On the other hand, if he is well groomed he is snappier and fresher in appearance and is constantly up on the bit.

Homemade Cheese Press

Homemade Cheese Press

by:
from issue:

On the Gies farmstead we occasionally wallow in goat milk. From it we make our own butter, yogurt and cheese as well as drink some. This has prompted me to build a little cheese press to help with the extra milk. The press is made from inexpensive 1/2 inch thick plastic cutting boards used for the top and bottom plates and pressure disks, white pvc pipe, and a plastic floor drain cap.

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

Rebuilding the New Idea Manure Spreader

by:
from issue:

To select a Model 8, 10 or 10A for rebuilding, if you have a few to choose from – All New Idea spreaders have the raised words New Idea, Coldwater, Ohio on the bull gear. The No. 8 is being rebuilt in many areas due to the shortage of 10A’s and because they are still very popular. The 10A is the most recent of the spreaders and all three can be rebuilt. The 10 and 10A are the most popular for rebuilding as parts are available for putting these spreaders back into use.

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

A Horse Powered Round Bale Unroller

by:
from issue:

We had experimented with unrolling the bales the year before and had decided to make a device that would let us move them with the horses and then unroll them. I used square tubing to make a simple frame with two arms attached to a cross piece which connected to a tongue. Small diagonal braces made the arrangement rigid and the arms had a right angle piece of square tubing on their ends which allowed a pin to be driven into the middle of the round bale from each side.

Horseshoeing Part 5B

Horseshoeing Part 5B

Hoof nurture comprises all those measures which are employed to keep hoofs healthy, elastic, and serviceable. The object of hoof nurture is to lessen or entirely remove all these injurious consequences of shoeing and stabulation. It comprises, therefore, not only the proper shortening of the hoofs every five to six weeks, but careful attention to cleanliness and moisture. Both are insured by dry straw and daily picking out and washing the hoofs.

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

by:
from issue:

This is the story of a harrow on a budget. I saw plans on the Tillers International website for building an adjustable spike tooth harrow. I modified the plans somewhat to suit the materials I had available and built a functional farm tool for eighteen dollars. The manufactured equivalent would have cost at least $300.

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

by:
from issue:

The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

Barn Door Plans

Barn Door Plans

Good barn doors, ones that will last a lifetime of opening, sliding and swinging in the wind, require careful design and construction. In 1946 the Starline Co., a barn building firm from the midwestern US, compiled a book of barn plans. These two diagrams were in that book and presented excellent information.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

by:
from issue:

After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

Portable A-Frame

Portable A-Frame

by:
from issue:

These portable A-frames can be used for lots of lifting projects. Decades ago, when I was horselogging on the coast I used something similar to this to load my short logger truck. Great homemade tool.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

by:
from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

from issue:

Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing

Setting Up A Walking Plow

Here is a peek into the pages of Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing, written by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller.

Fencing for Horses

Fencing for Horses

by:
from issue:

The first wire we tried was a small gauge steel wire which was not terribly satisfactory with horses. Half the time they wouldn’t see it and would charge on through. And the other half of the time they would remember getting shocked by something they hadn’t seen there and would refuse to come through when we were standing there with gate wide open. We realized that visibility was an important consideration when working with horses.

New Idea Mower

New Idea Mower

from issue:

For proper operation the outer end of the cutter bar should lead the inner end when the machine is not in operation. After long use the cutter bar may lag back and if this happens it can be corrected by making adjustments on the cutter bar eccentric bushing as follows: First making sure that the pin and bolt in the hinge casting “A” Fig. 5 are tight and in good condition.

To Market, To Market, To Buy A Fat Pig

Within so-called alternative agriculture circles there are turf wars abrew

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

by:
from issue:

Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT