Which Forge

May 21, 2012
Hello everyone.

I have decided it is finally time I buy a forge and an anvil and start hammering out blades. I have been using stock removal for a year or so to see if this is a lasting hoppy or just something that would fade. Turns out, I love it! I have a budget of around $350 to spend on a forge and I have come across two options.

The first is from Mathewson and it is their knifesmith forge.

The second is from a gentleman in Texas.

The biggest difference I see is that the one from texas uses two burners and is a bit bigger. I do not want to make my own at this time, and believe me I have looked into it.

Please give me any advice on the matter.
I have more ime for a fuller reply:
The first one is a simple tube forge ... open ends and a single burner.The chamber size is small. The fact that the refractory wool is uncoated is a big NO for me. You will have to stack up and rearrange firebricks ( not supplied) to make any sort of efficiency. It will be poor for HT.

#2 is also pretty simple ... basically a propane tank forge. I must say that it isn't very pretty.
It has a refractory coating over the wool, which will make it last longer and be safer to use. That is the only reason I said it was better.

I would strongly recommend you look at the Atlas Forges. They are great forges and affordable. Charles has done a lot of R&D on them and is constantly improving them.
Id definitely argue against the first. Ive seen them in person at events as the maker is local to me. They actually were set up next to my tailgate a few years back during one of Lischs swap meets and they fired one up. Was this close to telling them to stop as i didn't feel like breathing in exposed Kaowool fibers......
Do you think that the mini forge from atlas would be better than the two I posted? I was a bit worries the mini would be too small to grow in to.
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The mini is a good forge for new smiths and will do most any normal size knife. It is a bit tricky to do HT in it, but with some practice on some extra 1084 or 5160 bar stock, you will get it down.
The Graham is a great forge. It is worth the extra cost by many times.

The mini is very portable, and the Graham will move about without great difficulty. I suggest putting whichever you get on a $35 HF welding cart. Your tongs and hammers will store on the shelves below, and when moving in and out or tucking away in the corner, the propane tank will sit on the back tank shelf ( obviously, take it off when using the forge).
Agree with Stacy's notes above.
I have the Graham prototype on a similar cart. I don't use it for heat treat, but with a muffle pipe of some sort I suspect you could get good control. My advice would be to skip the mini forge - it can be outgrown quickly, and you're likely to use more fuel for the same tasks.
I also had some success with forge welding small pieces, so it will last you through the learning phases of your smithing.
Be advised - mine is a soft firebrick inner surface. If you choose to use borax flux, it will eat through the firebrick pretty fast.
It is a bit small, and it runs hot. Holding 1450F in it is not easy. You have to keep the blade moving and run it in and out as you watch the color. Check with a magnet to determine when it reaches 1414F, and then heat a little hotter. You can't do a soak in a Mini, so 1084, 1075, and 5160 are the steels best suited.
Unless the price difference is just beyond your reach, the Graham is the one you want. It will last for all forging, including swords, and does HT pretty well. If you get the mini, it will work well for your learning stages, and when you need/want a bigger forge, the mini is still useful for demos and small tasks.

Another benefit of the Graham is you can weld damascus in it ( when you get to that stage).

Another neat thing with the Graham is you can switch the burner easily for tasks that require more or less heat. For HT, switch the burner for Charles' 30K one. For general work, use the 00K, and for welding, use the 150K.
I would buy the Graham based on what you have told me but Chales has said he won't have any til the end of the year .
I knew he was backed up, but I thought it was only a couple months. Success at business is a double edged sword.

Get the mini, and have Charles put you on the list for the Graham. Tell your sweetie that you have your christmas present picked out.

Another really great forge is the NC Tool Co. Whisper lowboy or Whisper knifemaker. These are more expensive, but are profesional forges made to run every day for ... well, almost forever. My Lowboy has sat in an open smithy (shed roof, no sides) for 20 years and is going strong. I gave Ron Fraziers Whisper knifemaker to Steve, and it's probably 30 years old. Runs perfect.
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