Tuesday, December 3


NC Tool Co. Double Burner Forge
NC Tool Co. Double Burner
The forge I started with back in 2011 is an older Double Burner NC Tool Co. model. I picked it up from a local blacksmith in Brasstown, North Carolina after I finished my classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

I believe I paid $250 for it and it's been worth every penny. To buy it new from NC Tool runs $458. That's a pretty good savings, but I was also in the right place and lucky that they had it available.

What's Great About It
  1. It was the right price for someone just starting out. I was on a shoestring budget back then, having spent my first fire season's earnings on a truck and living expenses. 
  2. It's portable. It weighs in at 45 pounds so it's not something you'll be swinging around, but it's easy to put in the back of the truck and take to fairs and trade shows or up to the cabin away from complaining neighbors.
  3. The fuel is relatively inexpensive. It runs off of a 20 lb. propane cylinder. 
  4. Push-button start. If you're not interested in getting your face right down next to a building mass of fuel and lighting it, this is an invaluable feature. Just open the propane cylinder, open the valve next to the burners, wait a minute, and push the red button. 
Why Didn't I Build One
  1. I'm not a welder by trade. I can glue a few things together, but I'm not comfortable at this level.
  2. It's time-consuming. It comes down to what you want to spend your time doing. Would you rather spend a week or two welding, separating, and re-welding your forge or would you rather start moving metal? I'm all for paying the guy who can make the thing that makes it easier for me to do what I'm good at. 
Other Options

If you have the skills and the time, you can absolutely build your own. Decide what fuel type you want to use based on your area (coal can be expensive out West) and go from there. 
  • Popular Mechanics has an article about a coal forge powered with a shop-vac. It utilizes a two-basin sink, a metal frame, and some fire bricks.
  • If you're going with gas, you'll have to make something that's more airtight. This is where welding skills are crucial. Anvilfire does a great job laying it all out here.
  • If you're the bookish type, these are worthwhile reads:
    • The Blacksmith: Ironworker and Farrier - Watson. Chapter 10 is what you want. It's a coal-fired forge how-to with excellent drawings. To do it exactly as he does, it will take a while, but you won't be disappointed with the results. 
    • The classic: Ted Tucker's Practical Projects for the Blacksmith. This one isn't necessarily hard to find, but it's scarce. I picked it up for a steal, but would have paid more for it. You're looking at anywhere from $33 to $387. Think of it as an investment.
  • Other Forge Manufacturers:
    • Forgemaster - A little steeper than NC Tool Co.
    • ChileForge - An awesome variety of barrel forges. These guys also offer some insight on whether to build your own or not.
The bottom line is that it will cost a little bit of money and take either a lot of time or not much at all. 

If you're having trouble reconciling buying a forge and being a do-it-yourself kind of person, I wouldn't say that purchasing a forge means you're not as DIY. You aren't forging your hammer heads and tongs (yet) and you aren't going down the mine to bring out the coal (probably). 

We all use the resources around us to get things done. This is no different. 

Utilize the expertise of others if it will aid you in accomplishing what you want to do. 

Have some thoughts? Leave me a comment.

Cheers folks!

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