DIY

How to Make a Vulcan Forge

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ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The basis of my forge is a 5-gallon metal pail (such containers are used for the shipment of soap, roofing cement, and various industrial compounds and are normally thrown away as scrap by stores and contractors).

The following directions are for the construction of a
small portable forge . . . a useful tool for the
homesteader and handyman who occasionally needs to heat and
work metal. I made the Vulcan forge version described here in
1972 — mostly from resources I had on hand — at a total
cost of $2.07 for fireclay, plastic, and small hardware.
Any parts you have to buy these days will be somewhat more
expensive than they were at that time . . . but still very
reasonable. If you do use these plans, I hope you’ll feel
free to substitute whatever suitable materials you have
available.

Metal Pail

The basis of my forge is a 5-gallon metal pail (such
containers are used for the shipment of soap, roofing
cement, and various industrial compounds and are normally
thrown away as scrap by stores and contractors). With tin
snips or a saber saw, cut away the upper portion of the
bucket, 5 inches from the bottom, around three-quarters of
the circumference . . . but leave an upstanding curved
panel 12 inches high to serve as a reflector (see Figures 1
and 4). Next trim a 1-inch strip from the original top of
the pail and fasten it — rolled edge up — with
sheet metal screws to the rough edge of the forge, to guard
against damage from tools and work pieces. Then fold back
the outer 1/8 inch of the reflector and hammer the metal
down to form a stiff rim.

Forge Bellows

Cut two pieces of wood into the shapes shown in Figure 2. One
of these — the stationary board — will be attached to the
reflector as shown in Figure 3. Drill two holes 1 inch in
diameter in the board’s upper portion, to serve as air
intake ports. Cover these openings with leather
flaps — on the face of the stationary board which will
be inside the finished bellows — tacked down flat to
act as valves.

Turn the same board over, fit a pipe flange to the lower
half of its outer face, and scribe the outline of the metal
collar on the wood. Within this first circle, mark
another 1inch smaller in diameter — and drill a hole
1/2 inch across and off center inside the inner ring.
Tack a leather flap over the opening to form a check valve,
and mount the flange with screws (over a ring-shaped spacer
of 1/4 inch plywood, to prevent interference with the check
valve flap). Then fasten the stationary board to the
reflector with two 1/4 inch bolts and two 1inch-long pipe
spacers.

Provide the movable board with a handle 10 inch by 1 inch by 1/2 inch,
attach it with wood screws, and connect the halves of the
bellows at their bottom edges with a pair of hinges secured
with screws from the inside. Cover the edges of the boards
with leather or plastic as shown, taking care to both glue
and tack the material to make a tight air seal. Double-lap
the covering at the bottom and glue it firmly to the
bellows’ narrow lower end.

Tool Ring

The tool ring surrounds the pail as shown in Figure 1 and is
used as a handle for the forge, a holder for tongs, a rest
for work pieces, etc. Form a circle 18 inches in diameter
from 1/4 inch rod, bend the ends flat to match the
stationary board attached to the reflector, and fasten them
in place with sheet metal clips (this helps stabilize the
bellows). Affix the ring to the pail with a brace made from
the bad of the original bucket (see Figure 4) . . . and add
any extra supports you feel are necessary.

Tuyere

Drill a hole in the pad in line with the center of the
reflector and directly opposite the lower hole on the
stationary board of the bellows. Cut a piece of pipe long
enough to extend into the center of the container, fit it
with an elbow, and screw this assembly into the flange on
the bellows so that the elbow curves upward. Finally, mix
10 pounds of fireclay and cover the sides and bottom of the
pail to protect the metal from heat . . . but leave the
air outlet exposed.
Let the clay dry, and fire up your
forge!