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Thread: Antique Forge Restoration

  1. #1
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Default Antique Forge Restoration

    I wasn't sure where to put this, General Homesteading? General Chat? Oh well, you Mods can move it to where you see fit.

    Now for a bit of background.

    I've been interested in blacksmithing since I was young, and over the years have kicked around the idea of starting my own business. There is no body around here who does it and the amount of scrap iron and steel leftover from the logging days is amazing. I even took a two week blacksmithing class a number of years ago. In all this I've done very little actual smithing, I've got the books, the magazines, and a very few items I've made myself. In anticipation of "eventually" getting it together I have slowly collected some of the necessary equipment, all for free. I have a large post leg vice, a 15 pound and an 85 pound anvil and lastly an old "portable forge".

    I picked this up from the area in Washington State where my Grandparents live, near the Columbia river. The guy I got it from used to be the curator for Fort Vancouver. He claimed it was brought to the Fort in the late 1890's or early 1900's as a "portable forge", brought in by pack mules. All these years later, the forge was considered in too rough of shape to try and display, so it was slated for the dump. This gentleman rescued it from the trash pile and tucked it away in the corner of his barn. My Grandpa heard of it and put me in contact with him, he was just happy to get it to someone who appreciated it. Of course, I have no documentation so I'm taking him at his word.

    Now its in Alaska (amazing how stuff travels) and has been sitting around for several years now. I'm getting the blacksmithng bug again after purchasing 100 pounds of smithing coke. After a little research on building your own forge I decided; "why build one when I already have one?" I was originally going to scavenge the main parts off of the forge and put an electric blower on it. My love of history is too great however, and I've decided to do my best to restore it as-is ad use it in its original form.

    Here it is.

    IMG_20170211_113940.jpg

    As you can see its pretty rough.

    IMG_20170211_130539.jpg

    After an hour and half a can of PB Blaster, I've got some of the smaller hardware loose and wire brushed, with a coat of WD-40. I'm actually really impressed by the quality of this, all but two of the nuts are square head instead of hex, so I'm inclined to believe its mostly original. The bowl of the forge appears to be cast and is very heavy. The bellows handle looks to be hickory, shaped similar to an axe handle but longer and wider at the end...wagon brake handle maybe?

    Here is the body of the forge, upside down so you can see the blower fan and tuyere. Soaked with PB Blaster.

    IMG_20170211_130412.jpg

    Whats left, are the legs and the rest of the bellows assembly.

    IMG_20170211_130439.jpg

    That's about as far as I am at the moment, I'll keep taking pictures and updating my progress. (I'm letting the PB Blaster soak a bit)
    I'm still trying to decide if I should do an electrolysis bath to remove the rust a wire brush can't, especially on the larger parts.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."


  2. #2
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    You do know that a REAL smithy would be able to bring that rascal back to life, right? Actually, I think it's fantastic. I love to see new life put into old tools. I think you are doing a great thing there.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Awesome. Looking forward to your progress.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Great project......liking the progress so far.

    What would you need to remove rust from...?
    Heat (gonna get hot, right?....and a wire brush.

    Love a warm and fuzzy story....Keep us posted.
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
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    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Part 2

    Okay, so after letting the PB blaster sit for a couple hours I went back to work. It took a bit of torch work, but I was able to loosen the bolts holding the fan housing and separate it from the bowl.
    This also unbolted the ash grate above the air intake.
    IMG_20170211_155209.jpg

    Here is the rotary blower by itself.
    IMG_20170211_155249.jpg

    Again, somehow managed to get all the bolts holding both halves of the blower apart without stripping the nuts or breaking bolts. Why cant I be this successful when I'm working on my truck? The fan is a simple 4 blade design, it was covered in ancient grease which kept a lot of rust off of them.
    IMG_20170211_155816.jpg

    A side by side of the fan housing after I've brushed the inside of one half. A good before/after view.
    IMG_20170211_163253.jpg

    And the outside.
    IMG_20170211_164954.jpg
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  6. #6
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    That does look like the portable forge that our Blacksmith brings to Rondy.....
    Looking good so far.
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  7. #7
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    These are the slotted screws and square nuts that hold the two halves together. Old school still cleans up nice!
    IMG_20170211_172134.jpg

    All put back together. I brushed the inside and out with Ospho, which converts iron oxide into a hard black finish. Its meant as a sort of primer for paint, but I've yet to decide if I will be painting this project. Just an extra step in case I do. I also put a squirt of grease where each end of the fans axle rides.
    IMG_20170211_173313.jpg

    I finally ran into a hitch. What you see is the inside of the pan, these used to be slotted screws. Obviously I wasn't able to get these out with a wrench, so I tapped them out with a punch and hammer.
    IMG_20170211_173552.jpg

    The other side of the rusted screws. This is part of the blower mechanism, the handle attaches to one side and the gears engage in the wheel on the stand. A belt on the wheel to the axle on the fan is what spins the blades. Pretty slick and simple.
    IMG_20170211_173933.jpg

    So here is where I sit for now.
    IMG_20170211_174206.jpg

    All this brushing is time consuming, but I'm happy with the results thus far and I think it's going to look good.

    Should I paint it? I have a couple cans of black wood stove paint that might look good. More to come tomorrow.
    Last edited by alaskabushman; 02-11-2017 at 11:54 PM.
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  8. #8
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Stove paint may hold up to the heat.....
    Really looking good!
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  9. #9
    Senior Member randyt's Avatar
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    that's a awesome project
    so the definition of a criminal is someone who breaks the law and you want me to believe that somehow more laws make less criminals?

  10. #10
    Senior Member Pennsylvania Mike's Avatar
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    Great project. Hold on to that little forge, they don't make it like that anymore. Heat proof stove paint would make it look great.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Winter's Avatar
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    Woohoo, what a great find and restoration. Those squirrel cage blowers are so cool. My understanding is they save your fuel because you only crank on it when you aren't hammering.

    You in the SE? I'm in Ketchikan.
    I had a compass, but without a map, it's just a cool toy to show you where oceans and ice are.

  12. #12
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winter View Post
    You in the SE? I'm in Ketchikan.
    Yep, P.O.W.
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  13. #13
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Part 3

    I left off with the blower cam removed from the forge pan.

    Today I'm feeling the effect of being on my feet for hours, but pressed on.
    IMG_20170212_131200.jpg

    The pan was next. This thing is cast iron and weighs probably 40 pounds. The inside is heavily pitted but I'm not too concerned with that as its still very sound. There were some raised bumps around the edge of the center hole that was preventing the ash grate from laying flat on the bottom. I busted out the angle grinder and cleaned that up.
    IMG_20170212_132628.jpg
    IMG_20170212_133532.jpg

    This is the back of the forge before...
    IMG_20170212_133623.jpg

    And after, with the blower sitting on it to check for fit. Also gives a good contrast how the Ospho changes the color of the metal.
    IMG_20170212_135546.jpg
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  14. #14
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    All that's left is the stand, and I was in for a surprise!

    After about an 40 minutes of trying to get bolts undone without breaking them I finally got all 4 legs apart. Some more time spent getting the main drive gear off of its shaft. I crack this sucker open for the first time in decades (at least) and what do I find?
    IMG_20170212_151839.jpg

    This is what makes the fan blades spin. As you pump the handle on the forge, the cam drives this wheel, which has a belt around it, which in turn spins the fan blades. Whats cool about this design is how similar it looks to a chainsaw pull cord assembly. When you pump the handle, the three dogs swing out by inertia and engage the gears, spinning the wheel. On the recovery of the dogs fall back to center disengaging the gears, allowing for you to pump the handle again starting the whole cycle over. Very simple, yet effective.

    After this my camera battery died, so I have no more pictures for now.
    Basically I got the wheel all cleaned and greased up, put back together and all 4 legs brushed and clean. I applied a coat of Ospho to everything. There was a sort of "horn" tack welded to the off-side of the forge to the legs. I'm not sure what its purpose was but I didn't like it. It looked added on and affected the compactness of the forge. I got the angle grinder again and cut it off and smoothed out the welds.

    As far as I know I'm ready to put it all back together again, I'm hoping to get a fire built in it by tomorrow.

    My only hitch for now is what to use as a drive belt. Originally it had an old leather belt on it but it was so cracked and brittle that it fell off a couple years ago. I don't have any leather long enough at the moment, but I do have some old canvas that might work temporarily. I'll figure something out!
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  15. #15
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Most excellent. You've done a great job!

  16. #16
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    This oroject has been fun to watch.....looking forward to your first "finished product"....
    Geezer Squad....Charter Member #1
    Evoking the 50 year old rule...
    First 50 years...worried about the small stuff...second 50 years....Not so much
    Member Wahoo Killer knives club....#27

  17. #17
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Part 4

    Whoo, busy week. Got called into work and had a list of honey-do's to take care of. Finally got back to this project.

    I always hate putting things back together after a bit of time has passed, it always seems to take longer than it should. I managed to get it all back together without any issues.

    Here I am just getting the main pieces bolted back on.
    IMG_20170212_202016.jpg

    Here I deviated from the original a bit. The main drive wheel was off-center from the spindle on the fan, so I added 5 galvanized washers to the shaft in order to bump over the main wheel. Now the two are pretty well aligned. Putting all the legs and metal straps, mounting the drive wheel the correct height to engage the gears properly was a bit of a 3-handed affair, but after some trial and error it all went together.
    IMG_20170212_205902.jpg

    Here is a close up of the alignment from the drive wheel and fan spindle. You can see how much I had to shift it over with the washers.
    IMG_20170212_211936.jpg

    The original drive belt was leather, but I decided to use a piece of nylon webbing I had on hand. If you have a belt ready-made when you put the forge back together then a non-stitched belt would work. Since I didn't do that I simply threaded it through and stitched it. My freehand sewing skills leave a bit to be desired. Oh well, as long as its functional.
    IMG_20170212_213340.jpg

    A shot of how its all coming together.
    IMG_20170212_213926.jpg
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  18. #18
    Senior Member alaskabushman's Avatar
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    Finally, the finished product

    IMG_20170221_161743.jpg

    And FIRE!!!
    IMG_20170221_161302.jpg

    Well this has been fun, but one things for sure, I still think I'm gonna have to build a propane forge at some point. Pumping that handle is work!

    If anyone has questions feel free to PM me! I gotta make something now to justify the amount of time I spent on this...
    There ain't too many problems you can't fix with $500 or a 30-06.

    Him-"Whats the best knife for survival?"
    Me-"the one that's in your pocket."
    Him-"I don't have one in my pocket."
    Me-"Exactly."

  19. #19
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    That was a great project. Glad to see the old gal back to work!!

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Awesome! My only concern would be how hot the pan gets that is close proximity to the nylon belt. Could it cause the belt to melt or is that not a concern?
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