The American Blacksmith

Forges, Bellows, and Blowers

The Blacksmith Shop by Francis A. Beckett

The Forge

Buffalo Forge Advertising Card, reverse side Buffalo Forge Advertising Card

    This Buffalo Forge advertising card shows an “old” brick forge and bellows and a “new” style forge and blower. Note the hood at the back of the new forge. This piece is often missing from used metal forges that we see today. See a Canedy Otto advertisement of their forge with a hood.

Stone Forge Forge and Blower Pro-Forge

    We can assume that the first real forge of ancient times was a hole in the ground with a way to draft the fire from below. Of course, the first metalsmiths probably didn’t work in iron (black-metal) but rather copper and its alloy, bronze - and so there developed the bronze age. Later came the iron age - and the blacksmith.
    In order to accomplish their work, the smiths need the metal very hot. Hot metal is much more malleable. Coal and charcoal were the fuels of choice (depending on availability). In order to make the fires hot enough, smiths found that drafting the fire with air (oxygen) from below, the heat could be intensified.
    During the fourth century AD, a single chamber bellows along with the air valve was developed. During the seventeen century, a second chamber was added to the bellows, creating the “Great Bellows.” The bellows was used throughout America’s colonial period and beyond.
    The industrial revolution brought about the blower, an encased fan, which would direct air to the fire in an efficient manner. These blowers were hand cranked but for the larger industrial shops they could be adapted to a plenum (air chamber) and the output controlled by a valve. The drive for these adapted blowers were leather belts, driven by steam engines. In later times, the steam driven belts were replaced by electric motors.
    Today, there are the very portable propane forges which require no blowers and are used in small shops and by farriers. Some come with ports at each end so long bar stock may be inserted into the forge. A more effective way to setup the propane forge is with two propane tanks.
    Oxyacetylene and oxygen-propane torches are also used by modern blacksmiths to heat only a very small areas of metal (like bar stock). Then, with twists and reverse twists, effects like the bar just below can be achieved.

Twisted bar

Bellows and Blowers

Bellows Great Bellows