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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: Livestock

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.

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Horseshoeing Part 1B

Since the horse is useful to man only by reason of his movements, his foot deserves the most careful attention. The horse-shoer should be familiar with all its parts. Fig. 3 shows the osseous framework of the foot, consisting of the lower end of the cannon bone, the long pastern, the two sesamoid bones, the short pastern, and the pedal bone.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Haltering Foals - Training Workhorses Training Teamsters

Haltering Foals

Lynn Miller’s highly regarded book, “Training Workhorses Training Teamsters,” is back in print! And that’s not even the most exciting news: The Second Edition is in FULL COLOR! Today’s article, “Haltering Foals,” is an excerpt from Chapter 8, “Imprinting and Training New Born Foals.”

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

The Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative was founded in 2016 by a group of dairymen who want to be outspoken advocates of the Ayrshire breed. Ayrshires are one of the most cost-effective breeds for dairy farmers, as the breed is known for efficiently producing large quantities of high-quality milk, primarily on a forage diet. These vigorous and hardy cows can be found grazing in the sun, rain, and cold while other breeds often seek shelter.

Chicken

How To Cure Chicken Roup: Then and Now

How To Cure The Common (Chicken) Cold

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Fjordworks Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

By waking up so fully to the tasks at hand we are empowered to be more present, more available, and thus able to offer a compassionate and skillful response to the needs of our horses even as we ask them to accomplish heavy work on the farm. It is not up to the horses to trust us; it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of their trust. What the horses can offer to us are new avenues to freedom and resilience, sustainability and hope.

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

by:
from issue:

For centuries, the skills of training steers for work and the craft of building yokes and related equipment was passed down from generation to generation. It was common for a young boy or girl to be responsible for the care and training of a team from calves to the age of working capability. Many farms trained a team each year, either for sale or for future replacement in their own draft program.

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

by:
from issue:

Yogurt making is the perfect introduction into the world of cultured dairy products and cheese-making. You are handling milk properly, becoming proficient at sanitizing pots and utensils, and learning the principles of culturing milk. Doing these things regularly, perfecting your methods, sets you up for cheese-making very well. Cheese-making involves the addition of a few more steps beyond the culturing.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

by:
from issue:

We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

Horseshoeing Part 1C

Horseshoeing Part 1C

The horn capsule or hoof is nothing more than a very thick epidermis that protects the horse’s foot, just as a well fitting shoe protects the human foot. The hoof of a sound foot is so firmly united with the underlying pododerm that only an extraordinary force can separate them. The hoof is divided into three principal parts, which are solidly united in the healthy foot – namely, the wall, the sole, and the frog.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

How Big Should a Draft Horse Be

How Big Should A Draft Horse Be?

from issue:

As evidenced by our letters and the frequent comments of contributors to this magazine, the question of size in draft horses is a hot issue. I suppose we’d all like to think that it’s a contemporary subject, one which did not trouble people back when horses were the norm. The BREEDER’S GAZETTE gathered the opinions of the most respected Draft horsemen of the 1910’s on the subject of how big a draft horse should be and we’ve reprinted them here. As you can see the subject has provided controversy for a long time and I’m sure it will continue.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

Ask A Teamster Driving

Ask A Teamster: Driving

I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.

Camel Power in Georgia

Camel Power in Georgia

by:
from issue:

Last spring we got the bright idea to plow some corn with one of the camels, so we went to the shed and drug out the “Planet Jr. one camel cultivating plow”. My 86 year old Grandfather said “Son, don’t worry about thinning that corn, those camels are going to do a fine job of it, for you!” We plowed corn and I have some video to prove it, and as soon as I quit running over the corn and learned how to “drive the plow” we didn’t lose any more corn!

The Mule Part 1

The Mule – Part 1

by:
from issue:

There is no more useful or willing animal than the Mule. And perhaps there is no other animal so much abused, or so little cared for. Popular opinion of his nature has not been favorable; and he has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been the great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully. If he could tell man what he most needed it would be kind treatment.

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