$30 MICRO FORGE
Make your own nails and other small iron
parts. By Len Cullum
I am a woodworker by trade and spend my days
building Japanese-style architectural elements and
structures. Because of my chosen niche, I occasionally need a piece of hardware that’s impossible
to find in this country. Sometimes I ask friends in
Japan to track it down. But other times, if the piece
isn’t too complicated, I’lI make it myself.
Photography by Len Cullum
Recently, I needed to make 500 old-style Japanese
nails. In the past I would simply fire up a propane
plumber’s torch, hold each piece over it until it was
glowing, and then hammer away. That was fine when
a dozen nails were all I needed, but this time I knew
I needed a more efficient way to heat all those nails,
so I built a micro forge.
1. Drill the brick.
Firebricks are really soft and easy to cut. So soft, in
fact, that you can dig into them with a fingernail, but
they are still rated to 2,300°F. Ordinary wood/metal
drill bits go through them like butter.
The nails I was making were 2½" long, and I wanted
to keep the forge chamber as compact as possible,
so I used the brick’s biggest face ( 4½"× 9") as the
front, which allows for the shallowest chamber.
Make a mark on the front face, 2¼" in from one
end, and centered 2¼" from either side (Figure A,
Wear a dust mask. Set the drill press to its lowest
speed (mine was 250rpm) and drill a hole 21" wide
and 2" deep, centered on your mark. Drill slowly —
you don’t want this stuff flying all over the place
(Figure B). With a slow speed, most of the dust
should stay in the hole until you dump it out.
Locate and drill the ¾" flame hole, which comes
in from the side. I chose to locate it at the top of the
forge chamber (Figure C) so that the curved sides