Some of the most common rusted, weather beaten items we throw in a garage sale today… will become precious commodities when the SHTF. Think about it. What kinds of tools are we going to depend on when the flag goes up on civilization?
- Gardening tools
- Camping tools
That list barely scratches the surface. However, I’d rather tell people to focus less on storing up gear and supplies – and more on gaining knowledge and capabilities on creating them after civilization has collapsed.
This is why I absolutely love the idea of being able to forge your own tools with your own backyard blacksmithing setup, simply because the hardware store will probably be looted by that point – and bartering for such items could cost far too much. Not to mention, you’ll also have an invaluable craft that could keep you on the profitable end of the bartering business.
So, here’s a quick guide on how you can set up your own forge… for less than $40.
Build a Forge
Setting up an inexpensive, makeshift forge is actually quite simple and only depends on a single concept: a constant flow of air to feed your coals. While there is certainly a ton of ways you could accomplish this, I’ve found the best to be what they call a “brake drum forge”.
To build a brake drum forge, you’ll first need to find a truck break drum. You can usually find these in a junkyard for about $10 – most of the time, they’ll just give you one for free. Next, you’ll want to find 2-inch black iron piping.Here’s what you’ll need:
- Flange – large enough for the mouth to rest inside the brake drum
- 3-pieces of straight 1.5-foot threaded pipe coupler
DO NOT buy galvanized piping for this project. If galvanized is heated to the degree you need to work metal, then the highly lethal toxic fumes emitted could land you in the ER.
All you need is to fit the flange on to the break drum, thread one coupler on to the flange, thread the T-joint and then the other two couplers to that.
In order to secure the flange to your break drum, you might need to drill some additional holes in the flange. Then simply throw some non-galvanized bolts on there and you’re solid.
Now, you should have a straight black iron pipe shaft running down from your coal pot – brake drum – and one running perpendicular via your T-connector. This is where you fit your blower mechanism. You can opt for a hand-cranked one down the road, but if you want to get it going right now… feel free to just duct tape a hair dryer to it.
Last, at the very bottom is where you thread on the cap. This is basically just to catch any debris that falls through the pipe, and it allows you to open it up to clean it out later on.
Now, throw that puppy on to some cinderblocks and you’re ready to go.
I should note that one problem I had before was finding a ‘screen’ to keep my coals from falling down the pipe. To fix this, I drilled a bunch of ¼-inch holes into a sheet of steel and cut it to fit.
These instructions may have been a bit confusing, so if you’re a visual learner, check out these videos on YouTube.
How to Run Your Break Drum Forge
There are a few ways you can run a break drum forge, but I simply like good old-fashioned blacksmithing coal. You can easily buy this stuff on eBay for cheap, but it’s also possible to call around and find a local seller.
Also, you can make charcoal, but this is something you can learn later – since there is a bit of an art to it. I wouldn’t really recommend purchasing grilling charcoal, simply because I’ve found that it just doesn’t get hot enough to do the job.
You will also need a few extras:
- Anvil – I used an old piece of railroad track
- Heat resistant gloves
- Safety glasses
- A metal bucket of water
At this point, you’ve pretty much got a working backyard blacksmithing setup. The most important thing I can stress now is to please keep safety as your top priority. Nothing will halt your prepping projects in a jiffy like a 3rd-degree burn from a hot red piece of hi-carbon steel.
Learn, Practice, Perfect, Douse, Rinse… Repeat.
This post is by no means sufficient, exhaustive or conclusive on the blacksmithing basics. In fact, I even missed a great deal of detail on the nuances of how you can setup your forge, but my point on this is quite simple:
Setting up your own forge is entirely possible, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and it’s relatively easy to learn. In fact, much of blacksmithing is learned through trial and error. However, never underestimate the power of the great YouTube University for things like these.
Once you start getting good at blacksmithing, you’ll be able to forge anything from nails to tomahawks, and while you might not be able to create sophisticated items, such as a mosquito trap or a self-powered suit that flies and shoots lasers (wouldn’t that be awesome), you will never have to worry about running out of spoons, forks or losing your bushcraft knife.
All I want to do is provide the idea that success can be achieved, and now all you have to do is get that project between the hammer and the anvil.