Build a starter solid fuel forge!
Greetings and welcome to Ravens Roost Forge my name is Tait and in this video I’m going to show you how to build a budget solid fuel forge!
We’re going to use a cheap tabletop charcoal grill for this build, this type of Grill is widely available at least in the US. We’re also going to need some pipe fittings,I would recommend nothing smaller than 1.25″ or 32 mm. Some of these are galvanized but that won’t cause a problem, they won’t get hot enough to create any fumes. Now we’re also going to need something to supply air to our fire. This is a small hand crank blower that’s made for barbecue grills but you could use any small centrifugal blower or even a hair dryer. Ten to 12 inches of half inch rebar is going to be used to form a grate at the base of the fire pot, the fire pot itself is going to be made from natural unscented clay kitty litter. Now this is not going to make the most durable fire pot, it’ll need to be repaired periodically, but it will work fine.
I’ll also be adding in some sand as an aggregate into the kitty litter mixture. You could also use coal slag or crushed up brick and hindsight aggregate is probably not necessary for this, so you can try it without if you like. We’re going to mix and store the kitty litter mixture in a five gallon pail, make sure you get a lid if you’re not going to use it immediately. Okay let’s get started on this build by unpacking the grill and laying out all the parts.
A lot of the parts we’re not actually gonna need, we’ll need the outer shell, the legs and then the little shelf that attaches to the legs underneath. It’s a good idea to keep this packing paper you can use it to light your forge up in the future once everything’s all done.
We’re going to cut a hole in the bottom using a hole saw that’s the same size or slightly bigger than the inner diameter of the pipe fittings that we’re going to use. The bottom of this grill already has a hole in the middle that’s convenient for locating the drill bit. You could open up this hole in the bottom using other means like tin snips or a jigsaw it doesn’t have to be too precise just make sure you have enough sheet metal to mount the flange. Next I centered the flange over the opening and then just marked out where the holes need to be drilled using a white paint marker.
I’m going to support the sheet metal with this piece of wood and then I’m going to use a center punch to mark where these holes need to be drilled. If you don’t have that sheet metal well supported when you try to center punch then you’re just going to bend that delicate sheet metal right up.
Okay so we got our holes nicely marked out.
I think the pipe flange takes a quarter inch bolt, so I’m just going to start with a small bit and then work my way up. You’re less likely to get binding this way,unfortunately twist drills tend to create binding in thin steel no matter what. One of these step bits will virtually eliminate binding.
So now we’ve got our appropriately sized holes for the flange, so we’re just going to deburr those holes and then we’re going to mount that flange. While not strictly necessary for a build like this, one of these manual deburring tools is really useful and they’re not that expensive, so I recommend that you go ahead and get one. Wo I did mention that some of the parts are galvanized you can soak them for a few hours in vinegar in order to remove the galvanizing, but as I said they won’t get hot enough to create fumes. So let’s mount that flange using appropriately sized hardware, you want a bolt, washer, lock washer and nut for each hole in that flange.
So we got that flange mounted, I tightened up the hardware off screen. Let’s go ahead and do a test fit up of the pipe fittings. So we’re going to attach a close fit nipple to the flange and then we’re going to attach a three-way t to the close nipple. When you tighten that down just make sure that the side opening there doesn’t face towards one of the legs you want to make sure it’s going in between the legs. Then we’re going to add another close nipple to the bottom and then we’re going to cap it off. The close nipple and the cap will form an area where ash can collect while the forge is actually working.
Lastly I’ll attach the six inch nipple, this is the air Inlet we’re going to attach the blower to this one. If the grill and fittings are the same size as the one that I have, then the fittings shouldn’t interfere with the legs when we actually mount them up. So just demonstrating how that blower is going to fit on there.
This shelf here stabilizes the legs and without it the grill is just too flimsy, it’s still a little flimsy even with this shelf, but it works. But that definitely means that we’re gonna need this shelf. So we want to cut a hole in it to allow the pipe fittings to fit through it and then we can go ahead and put everything together. You want to try to measure it out and make sure that the hole is as dead center to this as you possibly can get it. And there’s no great way really to drill this hole if you’re using a hole saw just stabilize it with your thighs and then go slow and be careful.
Okay so we’ve got that opening in there let’s put everything together.
You want to put the concave side of this little disc facing down, put it up against the flange when you actually mount it. I think that’s opposite of the way that it’s shown in the instructions, but for our purposes it’ll be more stable this way. The legs come with a screw a washer and a lock washer in order to hold everything together and you want to just snug everything up. But you don’t want to crank it down really tight otherwise you’re just going to bend that sheet metal.
Okay so let’s remount the rest of the pipe fittings and get everything snugged up and lined up how you like.
The fittings I have just fit without making it rock if your grill is a different model or if your fittings are a different length. Then you may need to make some modifications so that the bottom pieces of the fittings don’t sit down too low and make the whole unit rock.
Okay here’s how everything looks all together you can see that those fittings just barely fit, they’re actually touching against the concrete but it’s still pretty stable.
I’m just gonna scuff up around the bolts and all with a little bit of Scotch Brite and then I’m going to add some high heat spray paint after I clean it up with a little denatured alcohol. That high heat spray paint is just going to reduce the likelihood of corrosion on all those bolts and fittings and whatnot.
Now that the outer chassis of the forge is kind of completed let’s go ahead and mix up the kitty litter mixture that we’re going to use to form the fire pot.
I didn’t actually measure out the amount of kitty litter I filled the bucket about a fifth of the way up so roughly a gallon or like four liters. You really just need to mix up enough to complete the build and this should be more than enough.
You want to add in water and mix it up thoroughly until it starts to bind together and maintain its shape when you compress it.
I started mixing in the water using a steel bar but that wasn’t really doing a great job, so I just got in there with my hands and that worked really well. I would recommend maybe using a little bit thicker gloves though because my hands were a little beat up when the whole thing was said and done.
Just make sure that everything’s mixed up thoroughly,don’t worry about clumps and lumps and everything that are in there. A lot of the kitty litter is actually crushed up baked clay so that’s not actually going to really dissolve with the water, it’s going to remain lumpy. See how it’s clumped up like that and it’s holding that shape that’s what we want. Next I’m adding some sand as an aggregate, in theory this should strengthen the material. And when it’s heated up at the temperatures that a forge runs at then it should bind the granules together a little better but in hindsight this is probably not necessary and I’d probably try to build without the aggregate.
After everything was thoroughly mixed I sealed that pail up and set it off to the side. Then I took the rebar and cut that up into three four inch pieces to make a grate for the bottom of the fire pot.
Next I just took a little time to figure out how I wanted to lay out those pieces when I actually do make the grate. When the fire pod is actually built the grate’s going to be on a layer of clay, so it’s not going to be laid out exactly like that. The next thing to do is just to start building up that fire pot. Inside that grill chassis you can see that it’s kind of dirty in there. And that’s because I actually already built a fire pot in there using this kitty litter method to make sure that it would work and it worked just fine. So this is a second go around with a little bit more experience.
You want to put about half an inch or three quarters of an inch thick layer of clay at the bottom and then form sort of a funnel shape around the opening to spread the air out as it comes through.
Now that there is a base layer of clay I’m going to add the grate using the half inch rebar. You can see that I’m just lining them up how I want them, what I was going for was roughly about a quarter inch gap in between each bar and a little bit of a gap around the edge as well.
Once everything’s in place the way you want it just add more clay over the ends of those bars and then really pack it in there to make sure that those bars don’t come loose. The clay mixture will crack and shrink with use but if you embed the bars in there good enough then they won’t go anywhere.
After I put the grate in then I just kept adding more clay until I had a nice flat uniform layer along the bottom.
Periodically as I was building the fire pot I just took a disposable chopstick and went around the edges and just made sure that the opening was maintained.
Here I’m building up a lip with the clay around the edge there, I’m trying to maintain that funnel shape.
I happen to have a whole bunch of broken up fire brick that I used to just fill up the gap surrounding the lip there just to take up space. You probably don’t have a whole bunch of broken up fire brick in order to do that. So the easiest thing would probably be to just take a bunch of dry kitty litter and then fill up that space and then add the wet mixture over the top.
If you have to use dry kitty litter to take up space for this part then it’s going to be a lot harder because it doesn’t lock together the way those pieces of crushed fire brick do. So you may need to just wet it down a little bit in order to get it to pack together better.
Adding another layer of crushed fire brick and then we’re gonna do one more layer of kitty litter clay on top of that.
Once you have that last layer of clay on there you just kind of want to tidy everything up. Notice that I didn’t bring the clay all the way to the top, I left a little lip because you want to be able to hold the charcoal in there without everything all spilling over the edge. This next step is probably not strictly necessary, but what I did here was just take a spray bottle with some water and just wet down the surface and then smooth everything out.
And then here’s what the final product looks like.
All that’s really left on this build is just to mount the blower. I just use aluminum tape in order to hold the blower and the fitting together and to take up any air gap.
I use the aluminum tape because it’s strong and it really has good adhesive, so it’s going to hold it in place, but you could probably get it with duct tape or something like that. This part’s not going to get hot enough that you have to worry about it burning.
You can see here that the blower still kind of spins and is loos. That’s because the stainless steel tube at the end of the blower is not actually attached to that plastic it just kind of fits over like a sleeve. So what I’m doing here is just taking some electrical tape and then taping over where the steel tube and the plastic part come together so that they stay in place.
Everything is now pretty dry, to make sure that any residual moisture is baked out I’m just gonna light a regular fire in here using some wood chips and sticks from my fire pit.
It’s never a bad idea to keep some wood curls and chips around to start fires with. I collected these when I was carving some tool handles with my draw knife.
Okay so I’m just gonna get this fire going and just let it burn for a while without adding any extra air or anything like that just to bake out any remaining moisture out of that clay.
Once that fire has been burning nicely for a good 15 or 20 minutes then you know that there’s no remaining moisture in that clay and you can start adding extra air to bring the heat up. So you can see that there’s just some charcoal and some embers left over and I wanted to see if this is actually going to work to heat up steel. So let’s put some piece of scrap steel in there and then crank it up.
So it looks like I’m cranking pretty fast here but recall that the footage is sped up throughout this entire video. This is about 150% here so it’s actually not that fast that you have to crank in order to make this work. Of course using this little barbecue crank style blower was just a proof of concept you could make it much easier on yourself by just getting a small electric blower or a hair dryer. It just took me a couple of minutes of cranking to get to this nice orange heat so it looks like this forge is gonna work! I hope you learned something and found this video entertaining, if you did don’t forget to like and subscribe!