Zero dollar forge

Hamilton • Summer 2012

Look at that pipe glow!

T his spring, my friend Arnis and I got to talk­ing about black­smithing. It just came up after notic­ing some sim­i­lar­i­ties between our Face­book posts on man­u­fac­tur­ing, recy­cling and those do-it-your­self projects you hear about but don’t go and rush out to try on your own. This mutual admi­ra­tion for the hand­i­work of some very clever and resource­ful neti­zens, and our com­pat­i­ble inter­ests and skill sets got­nis started on a col­lab­o­ra­tion to build pow­er­ful but beau­ti­ful objects out of a mate­rial that, to this day, has not become obso­lete: metal.

On the con­trary, today we mar­vel at brushed steel and anodized alu­minum as though they are a peek in to the future. Long past are the days when we must all go out and get our hands dirty pound­ing our mate­ri­als in to sub­mis­sion to give us that human advan­tage over all of God’s crea­tures. Tools come deliv­ered by next-day ship­ping with bat­ter­ies pre-charged and all ser­vices acti­vated. But metal is still metal, and in skilled hands, it can be shaped and fin­ished with a mas­tery that exceeds any mass-man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­niques, just as it has been for thou­sands of years.

The forge is a work in pro­gress, and hope­fully some prac­tice with ham­mer and anvil, com­bined with my home­brew elec­tro­plat­ing and anodiz­ing will result in some tools that are not only use­ful, but breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful too.


A propane burn­ing forge


  • 1 dis­carded fire safe
  • dis­carded lengths of steel pipe and cou­plers
  • 3 hex screws
  • var­i­ous dis­carded BBQ gas fit­tings and hoses
  • 1 not so empty, old-style propane tank
  • 1 alu­minum disc, drilled
  • 2 hose clamps
  • 2 bolts, heads removed


About 5 days total includ­ing design, test­ing and tweak­ing .



Test­ing the burner
It sounds like a rocket engine because… it is essen­tially a rocket engine.
First trial at full pres­sure.